Beans and greens are too humble to offer to people willing to pay good money, caterers to tourists assume, and nowadays they're also too time-consuming to find and prepare. As for Greek chefs working in American restaurants, they're almost too good at adapting their native palate to more fashionable Mediterranean dishes.
Now Aglaia Kremezi has come to the rescue of those unlucky enough not to have a Greek grandmother. Her new "Foods of the
Kremezi is an experienced journalist and tireless researcher. I'm fortunate to count her as a friend, one who has led me and colleagues to the markets of
That's because Kremezi has generally avoided calling for hard-to-find ingredients and has stuck to basic techniques. Her simple food is uniquely satisfying: lentil soup with pasta and mint, with the unexpected appearance of crushed red pepper and Kalamata or another sweet vinegar. Baked chicken with orzo is seasoned with cinnamon stick and dried oregano, the herb that even when used alone is enough to identify a dish as Greek. Veal stew with quinces gives adventurous cooks a chance to indulge in a favorite (and rare) ingredient—quinces, which turn a beautiful ruby when cooked. There are plenty of stewed greens, of course, since they kept families alive for millennia and as recently as the postwar period.
Our nomination for immortality goes to roasted potatoes with garlic, lemon, and oregano, little cubed potatoes baked until tender and baked some more, until they are dark and crisp.