Greek Vegetable Cooking
Mediterranean Small Plates
"This is the traditional way people eat in Greece, lots of vegetables," says Aglaia Kremezi, chef instructor and author of seven cookbooks, including Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts. On a recent visit to the Cooking Light Kitchen, she sautéed a panful of artichokes, emerald-green favas, and sunset-colored baby carrots. These same vegetables grow in abundance in Kremezi's home garden on the Greek island of Kea. Greece has known for ages what Americans are now beginning to understand: Produce-forward food is as exciting to cook as it is satisfying and healthy to eat. Unlike some world cuisines, Greek vegetable cooking doesn't rely on a particular technique or set of spices. The key is to use the best, most flavorful in-season produce. Kremezi advises hitting up your local farmers' market, produce co-op, or gourmet grocer for the good stuff. Casually arranged on large platters, these dishes are made for sharing at big gatherings for a meze, or small-plates, party. This is exactly how Kremezi entertains guests and students in her outdoor kitchen.
Braised Artichokes, Favas, and Carrots in Creamy Lemon Sauce with Fennel
This is a kind of springtime Greek ratatouille. We love the artichokes in this dish—they add their unique flavor and somehow make everything taste just a little sweeter. The olive oil emulsifies with the braising liquid to create a silky sauce that deliciously coats the bright spring veggies. Thin lemon slices, charred and caramelized in a cast-iron pan, make a nice garnish.
Santorini Split Pea Spread with Caper Relish
For convenience, Kremezi calls for widely available yellow split peas, which are also commonly used in this Santorini-style dish. Both the pea puree and the relish can be made up to 3 days ahead and chilled in the refrigerator. You can substitute small brined capers, rinsed and drained, for salt-packed; if you do, you may want to omit or reduce the amount of red wine vinegar you use in the dish. This serves 8 as a main course or 16 as a small-plates meze dish.
Spinach, Herb, and Cheese Phyllo Rolls
This kind of dish is traditional street food in Greece. The key is to think of it like a sandwich, an Eastern Mediterranean sandwich: There is an ideal balance between the crust and the filling. Freeze leftover rolls up to 6 months. To reheat, cover loosely with foil and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes.
Beets, Snow Peas, and New Potatoes with Garlic-Parsley Skordalia
Yogurt-Cheese Tarts with Mint
Briny feta and rich Gorgonzola flavor these herby, creamy tarts.
Kritharoto (Orzo Pasta) with Peas, Lemon, and Feta
Chervil is a much-loved herb in Greece, where it's called myronia. If unavailable, substitute 7 tablespoons fresh parsley plus 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon. You can also sub 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper for Maras. Serves 6 as a main course or 12 as a meze.