World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Travel

When a Home is not a Home

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This photo is how I am choosing to remember the most beautiful building in the world.  Because the truth of the matter is that today I behaved badly as a tourist.  I don’t stay within the lines.  I don’t like being led. I am not a good sheep in a flock.  There that wasn’t so bad.  I also see that this is as true on the road as it is back home.

I officially hit that wall that travelers hit when on the road for more than two weeks. The point where you can’t take the stares, the not being understood, the language barrier…you like that you are out in the world but at the same time you’ve been gone long enough to miss those creature comforts that you take for granted.  I will never get comfortable with people standing over you as you eat. You start to miss electricity, running hot water and your cell phone. You can no longer tolerate the smells of body, diesel and animals.  You are continually confronted with the issues of poverty and are saddened when you see that naked child running down the road, or the 9 year old selling the postcard book instead of being in school (he needs to work.)  India is an land of complex realities.  Happiness and sadness. The best of humanity. The worst of humanity.  It’s all a cliche and then it’s not.

It hasn’t been all temples, spice and chai delights.  Today nearly sent me over the edge.  And really I knew it was going to happen.  I’ve been traveling solo for a few days now and as much as you know it is going to happen it just sneaks up on you. As Mr. Singh (he laughs cutely when I shout "Singh is King" which is a just released-here Bollywood blockbuster…) entered the state of Uttar Pradesh.  It’s a rural state and main road plies heavily to the tourist trade.  (Ed. note: I’m not near Lucknow and today’s monsoon.)

All tourist vehicles coming into the state are required to stop and submit paperwork.  Mr. Singh left me behind in the car and wham-o I had 3 souvenir sellers, one snake charmer and six monkeys on the car.  I’m here to tell you monkeys flat against your car window with their private parts at eye level are very difficult to ignore.  But I pretended to bury myself in my book as I flicked them away using the wrist movement I have seen locals use.  It magically worked.

Then the tour at the Taj Mahal by guide, Mr. Sanjeev.  I didn’t like that you are stripped of everything except what you can carry.  I WANTED my crutch tour book. I wanted my water bottle and socks. And call me a dumb American but in all the ads and mentions I’ve seen related to this building it is referred to as a home, and one man’s testament to his one true soul mate. (I’ll buy that.). But today I learned it’s essentially a grave site.  Gosh golly, I’m in marketing so I know that doesn’t sell but why didn’t I know that?  Mr. Sanjeeve kept on looking at all my pictures and then asking for the camera.  "You are not capturing the beauty. This is the most magnificent building you will be being at in your life.  Please. The camera to me.  This after I asked him why there are no signs in India to help people out. He replied, "ma’am this is India, it is our duty to serve you."   As we approached the main gate I was stared at, pointed at and asked by many to have their picture taken with me.  I thought this was cute at first.  Now I’m starting to feel like the Siamese Twins at the circus. Don’t worry, I’m being a good ambassador for America.

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Anyway, I’ll stop the whining. I’m a lucky girl.  I walked around the Taj Mahal today. There’s me at the "Princess Diana bench" with my handy scarf.  This is Mr. Sanjeev’s idea of what a good posed photo is.  My feet shouldn’t be on the ground as my husband should think me "relaxed" and in "good hands."  Tomorrow it’s Mr. Sampson.  And I am NOT going to one more government showroom.  I am going to the bazaar in Jaipur.  I’ll be "being better" tomorrow.  I just miss my life, my bed and wine but it’s all around the corner. I’m going back to my room and eating a Kit Kat.  I think I’m ready for Mumbai. Hmmm…maybe not.

Becky, another fellow Kerala tour traveler has posted some thoughts about her experience. 

Image by Trey Ratcliff  Stuck in Customs. For more more remarkable, breathtaking images used under Creative Commons with credits.

Om Shanti Om!

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Yes. Yes. Over here. My oh my. I have been absent haven’t I? Well from here, not from life nor kitchen.  Two months have rolled on by.  Needless to say I am becoming consistently absent.   How do people do this whole thing while holding down a full time job?  Is anyone else managing a team? a line of business? holding down a bit of a social calendar?! Enough whining!

More or less what’s passed since I was last here is that that issue #2 of Traveler has been released.  We affectionately call this issue Hula Baby! Isn’t that just the most adorable photo? Before I get those comments  that seem to follow when people see this cover is that issue #3 will not feature a back side.  Over 32-pages Hawaii, Costa Rica, a Kenyan safari and volunteering while on vacation are all vividly illustrated.  Each issue–3 and 4 are closing or in development as I write–keeps getting better and better.  Although the process has gotten easier each issue is an endeavor.  I really like the work  as it is rewarding and challenging in equal weight. 

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So all this marketing of travel has pushed me to make a decision about my summer vacation.  So being of sound culinary mind and desire I have decided to journey to Kerala for a culinary tour. India.  Lash Pash eh?!  My interest in the culture of India started a few years ago with the discovery of Bollywood at the annual SF Asian Film Festival.  This  moved into a natural and growing interest and exploration of the food of India.  I love Bollywood.  There I’ve said it. At this year’s festival the Bollywood film Om Shanti Om directed by Farah Khan and starring Shahrukh Khan was shown. If you haven’t experienced Bollywood you are missing something special.  I spent 9 plus hours watching three films on one day during this year’s festival.  The third film of the day began at 8:45 pm and at 12:30 am, on a Sunday, the sidewalk outside the Castro was alive with laughing and impromtu dancing.  This film is lash pash (fantastic).  Drama, comedy, singing, dancing—it has everything. 

Now it’s a masala of blogs, cookbooks, travel guides and podcasts related to the language, food, music  and movies as I prepare for the trip in August.  Three weeks in Southern India. Visiting a coconut farm, a tea plantation, home cooking lessons, a spice auction and somewhere along the way I hope to end up on a beach somewhere. But now there’s so much to learn, to taste, to understand.  So over the next few months as Iaccelerate and build my fundamentals I will share those posts with you.  There’s quite a few good books that I’m mid-way through including Curry – A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors and Eating India that are not only excellent primers on Indian cuisine but also of a crash course in political history.  If anyone has tips, suggestions related to understanding the food of Southern India or places not to be missed please–do let me know.

West Restaurant – Vancouver

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Amuse Bouche

First Course

Ravioli of Ricotta & Goats Cheese, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Main Course

Wild Spring Salmon Mouginoise with Dungeness Crab and Leeks Parsley Pomme Puree

Dessert

Dark Chocolate Torte with Creme Caramel Ice Cream Rum Marinated Bananas and Sesame Florentine

Petit Fours

West has received accolades from Food & Wine ("one of the world’s hottest restaurants");  UK Sunday Independent ("ten of the best, worldwide") and a Mobile Four Star Award (look we don’t have Michelin ratings!).

The chef, David Hawksworth trained under Marco Pierre White.  The latter, if you’ve read Heat, had the young Mario Batali under his wing. He also apprenticed in the multi-leveled kitchens of Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxford.  He’s young, well-trained and he knows how to pull it all together without being overly fussy. 

If you find yourself in the Vancouver neighborhood of South Granville you would be wise to make an early reservation at Ouest (West) as it is one of the best values to be found in Vancouver.  Until 6pm the fixed price meal is just $45.  And nothing is scrimped–not the service, the quality–just one memorable dining experience.

Insect Eating Around the World

In true spirit of cultural eating habits around the world I present, Insect Snacks Around the World.   Ambrosial cooked locusts, sweet honeypot ants, mouth-watering witchety grub (type of moth larva), and of course hachi-no-ko.   Via Gadling.

Stage 20 – Paris Bound

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(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Another great morning of racing. My heart was breaking for Michael Rasmussen who had the worst day due to two crashes and having to switch out bikes four times. Today’s final top 10 represents the strength of US cycling: (aside from Armstrong) CSC’s Bobby Julich, Phonak’s Floyd Landis, Discovery’s George Hincapie and not to be overlooked is GST’s Levi Leipheimer. I love the image above. Lance the family man. The girlfriend is yapping, the kids are excited and Dad is listening to his IPOD. See, he is normal! A remarkable day–I’m getting all choked up–and I’m not sure why! Time now to get out on the bike. Tomorrow we roll in to Paris!

St-Etienne to St-Etienne Distance: 55km/34mi

Rhonealpes

The Rhone-Alps region lies nestled beneath the impressive flanks of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak at 15,771 feet, and a protector to the region’s borders with Switzerland and Italy. Today’s time trial, which is a loop, is held in St-Etienne, which is more of an industrial town focused on electronics and industrial engineering. It is located about 45 miles from what could arguably called the gastronomic capital of France and third largest city, Lyon. Where you’d find more of a range of dining options.

After all it was here that the three-Michelin starred chef Pierre Gagnaire went bankrupt due to "questionable financial advice, a multimillion-franc debt incurred to upgrade and expand his modest St-Etienne restaurant into a showplace worthy of three stars (it already had two, awarded in 1986). The gastronomically desolate location certainly didn’t help.

Forez is a region where gastronomy holds a significant place: fishing, hunting, and breeding are the base of a fine and tasty cuisine. Poultry, crayfish and trout enter in the preparation of many dishes.

The quality of butcher’s meat in St-Etienne is exceptional. Forez cold cuts or salaison also include (ham, meat pie and sausage. Local food specialties, such as a barabans salad prepared with dandelions and diced bacon fat; La râpée, grated raw potatoes mixed with whole eggs, cream, salt, and pepper that are then fried in oil or butter and a potato stew flavored with thyme and bay leaves called barboton. It’s here where the matefaim (hunger stopper), a thick and fried pancake is offered.  Traditionally made of rye flour and lightly salted water today it is made with wheat flour, milk, egg and sugar–an oversized crepe!

Lyon, as you might imagine offers a wider choice. as it is home to several world renowned grands chefs including Paul Bocuse, Pierre Orsi, Jean-Paul Lacome. In additional well known professional cooking schools like the Institut Vatel and Paul Bocuse School of Culinary Arts are based here. Local specialties include Andouillette de Lyon (sausage made out of pork chitterlings and marinated with white wine), Quenelles (light dumpling made of fish), and Rosette de Lyon (dry sausage made from leg of pork). Lyon is also known for regional cheeses, such as Saint Marcellin, and locally made chocolates and candies, called Coussins de Lyon (marzipan sweets shaped and decorated like cushions).

Warm Salad of Ratte Potatoes with Richeranches Truffles (Jean-Paul Lacombe)

Stage 16 – Let them Eat Gateau!

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Reuters

Mourenx (Midi-Pyrénées)

to Pau  ((Aquitaine) Distance 180.5km/112.2mi

Today’s race finished in Pau in the region of Aquitaine. Aquitaine is home to nearly 5% of France’s population (2002) and stretches out over five counties: the Dordogne (also know as Périgord), is well-known for walnuts, walnut oil, truffles and foie gras; the Gironde and its prestigious wines, the Landes, and seemingly endless sandy beaches, the Lot-et-Garonne ; the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, (where we end up today) with majestic mountains and a culture heavily influenced by the Basques.

World-famous wines from the region’s capital Bordeaux include Graves, St Emilion and Médoc that mature into sought out names such as Margaux, Rothschild and Petrus. According to Nicks Nose Knows, “The Bordeaux AOC area is the largest in France…the average annual yield is…equivalent to 650 million bottles.”

Armagnac, a brandy, was the first distilled spirit in France. It’s similar to Cognac, in that it bars the name of the production region. The difference between the two is in the type of grape used, the soil, the climate, the method of distillation and the use of black oak wooden maturation casks. In addition Armagnac is distilled once (twice for Cognac) which yields a lower alcohol content. Armagnacs are also aged longer than Cognacs, typically 12-20 years, but can be aged up to 30 years.

As this is the land of geese and ducks, butter is considered a poor substitute in cooking preparations. Any cooking effort beginning with fat–a fried egg, sauteed peppers and onions or peppered duck breast in a creamy Armagnac sauce begins here. Autumn yields cepes and truffles. Another Basque regional specialty is ttoro, a peppery fish stew, which had it’s beginnings with the fishermens’ wives not wanting any of the unsold catch going to waste. This explains the long and varied fish called for in the recipe!

The following Gateau Basque is very simple. It is more of a coffee cake than a dessert-type cake. It is dense–scone like in fact. In my research I saw a few variations on this theme. One of them involving a involving an almond crème pâtissière.  A French website stated, "Il en existe presque autant de variétés que de villages, de pâtissiers ou de restaurateurs."  (i.e. there are a lot of variations!) The same website explained (if I have it right) that the reason that the former version has become more popular as the traditional Ixtassou black cherries are becoming hard to find. Sour cherry preserves are the filling for this cake.  However, since I had some challenges (my local gourmet pantry was closed for painting) I’ve substituted strawberry preserves from Four Star Provisions for a close to actual version.

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Stage 15- Espelette d’ Hincapie

Piperade

Lézat-sur-LèzeSaint-Lary Soulan

Distance: 205.5km/127mi

Well done George! Since 1999 no team member of Lance’s has one a stage (besides the man himself). If anyone has earned that honor it’s George Hincapie. And he has done it on the most grueling of days.  Now the fact that I was near tears in this victory says something.  Perhaps I’m always rooting for the unsung hero. Absolutely brilliant ride today boys!

The Basque region covers three regions of France and four of Spain. Emphasis is not on sauces put on fresh, local ingredients paritcularly fish, beans and pasture animals. Traditionally Hautes-Pyrénées produces such specialties as black pig, fatty ducks, Pyrenees lambs, ewe, goat or mixed cheese, but also superior fario and rainbow trouts. Local tarbais beans pair well with lamb, sheep, preserves and garbure (a sort of chowder). With the Barousse cheese, Etorki and goat cheese often served with cherry jam. These people don’t mess around–food is taken very seriously. Historically the food is simple country dishes.

The 1970s saw the rise of La Nueva Cocina Vasca (New Basque Cuisine) and its founding father, Juan Mari Arzak. According to Susan Herrmann Loomis, "New Basque cuisine retains the focus on simplicity and seasonality, but is lighter, with a French influence and exotic additions such as truffles or pineapple. Many chefs infuse their recipes with humor, playing with textures (vodka in gelatin form), sensations (fizzy dried fruit), and traditions (smoked sea salt)." 

A defining ingredient is the region’s chile pepper which arrived in French Basque country as far back as the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the area became famous for these beautiful red peppers. It’s not an aggressive heat so it’s a great replacement for black pepper.

As recently as 1999, AOC was granted to Espelette peppers and products, giving it the same protection as more famous names, such as Champagne sparkling wine.  There are only 10 villages that can use this seal. Dave DeWitt, of Fiery Foods provides a history:

"In the 17th century, chocolate became very popular in Europe both in candies and in drinks. Chocolatiers in Bayonne, perhaps influenced by tales of Montezuma’s favorite drink, combined Espelette powder and chocolate. A century later, hams from the Basque area were covered with Espelette pepper to redden the ham before curing. The powder was also used in the making of Bayonne hams and some pates, sausages, blood sausages, rolls, and pies. From this point on, Basque cooks began using the Espelette pepper in place of black pepper in seafood dishes.

About the same heat scale as hot paprika, the Espelette pepper is regarded by the French as a four on the scale of one to ten. In fact, hot paprika powder can be substituted, as can New Mexico red chile powder."

I picked up Espelette in ground form at the farmer’s market from Tierra Vegetables just north of San Francisco. But the AOC variety can be purchased online

One use is in the making of piperade.  As a breakfast dish it is more like a scrambled Spanish omelet.  Piperades also come in the form of the following recipe sans the eggs and avec chicken. There’s also a Basque piperade sauce that is typically served with grilled meats.

Read more about Basque food via Departures magazine.

Piperade

(4 servings)

1 tsp olive oil

3/4 c red bell pepper strips

3/4 c green bell pepper strips

1 minced garlic clove

3/4 – 1 c. Black Forest ham, chopped (or precooked bacon)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp piment d’Espelette (use less if desired)

14 and 1/2 oz diced tomatoes — with juice

4 lg eggs, lightly beaten

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add salt, piment d’Espelette, and tomatoes; cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 7 minutes or until bell peppers are tender.

Whisk together eggs, with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and ham. Pour into skillet with peppers. Reduce heat to medium low. As the eggs begin to set gently move spatula through skillet so that large, soft curds form. Cook until eggs thicken and there is no liquid from the egg remaining.

Stage 11 & 12 – Hills & More Hills

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Stage 11: Courchevel to Briancon; 173km/107mi
Stage 12: Briancon to Digne-les-Bains; 187km/116mi

The biggest news from today’s race is that Manuel  ‘Triki" Beltran fell on a hill climb suffering a concussion. One of the strongest climbers on the team he has dropped from the race. Did we all see that handsome Frenchman who shared the podium with polka dot jersey winner Rasmussen. That’s Morrocan-born and 14-year pro (now retired) former best climber Richard Virenque. He won the TdF KoM seven times! Hmm, right and there was that doping scandal, but isn’t he just yummy?

A cooking holiday in Provence is on many food lovers lists.  There’s no better way to experience local culture than to taste it. Provencal cuisine uses the best of natural products delectable olive oil, twenty aromates (fragrances) (fresh or dried herbs and spices), sixteen types of fruits de mer, forty-six species of fish known to the region’s shores and wines such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and fresh goat cheeses from the surrounding mountains.

Offering a backdrop of biking, wine cave touring, along with a salt tasting in St. Rémy, a visit to an escargot farm, and lessons in blending pistou, this 7-day trip from Bike Riders Tours surrounds you in food, sights and comfort. Cost (2005):  $3,680 pp

Epiculinary offers a four day trip where on the second day you are biking to your cooking lesson where you may prepare a tomato, olive and onion tart pissaladiere, chicken sautéed in olive oil, rosemary and red wine, tapenade with sun-dried tomatoes; polenta with butter and sage; and perhaps a tart of Muscat grapes.  They will then cart you and your bike back to your villa.  The trip can be put together for a minimum of two people.  Cost (2005):  $1,695.

For those of you who prefer a less active vacation, Patricia Wells, journalist, cookbook author and instructor opens her 18th-century Provence home for hands-on cooking along with trips to vineyards, markets, shops and local restaurants. Cost (2005):  $4,000 pp/lodging not included. (She is Patricia Wells after all!)

Chef and restaurateur Carole Peck and her French-born husband Bernard Jarrier open their home with their Culinary Provence tour. The week-long holiday includes cooking lessons, visits with local chefs, trips to new and favorite restaurants, wine tastings and a workshop at the Institute of Olive Oil. Cost (2005):  $3,200 pp

Les Liaisons Délicieuses week long ‘Celebration of Seasonal Delicacies in Provence" offers a heady mix of eating, cooking, drinking and eating again.  There’s even an opportunity to "promenade in the Garlaban Mountains to collect “herbes de Provence.” Cost (2005): $3,990

Image:  Jennifer Garant (magnet available at AllPosters.com)

Glykismata-Greek Desserts

dionysus

As I look back on my marathon of Greek culinary exploration I realize that there are no sweets present. Every culture has something sweet to indulge or celebrate the holidays or special occasions.

When I think of Greek desserts I think of that flaky treat baklava. I’ll be writing more about that in the next few days. I’m determined to take on the first time challenge of homemade Greek pastry using this baking component.

Clarified butter is frequently used in Greek baking as this imparts a rich, nutty flavor. Olive oil is often used with savory pastries or used as it is here in the following recipe where it is featured in this delicious olive cookie. This baked treat originates from the island of Lefkada, where they are known as ladokoulouro.

Often a lemon-honey syrup is used to dress many Greek desserts after baking. In classical mythology, the golden syrup was said to be food for the gods; adding lemon juice to the honey prevents it from crystallizing.

Fruit, such as oranges or figs, sometimes served with yogurt is often served at the end of a Greek meal. More elaborate desserts are an afternoon treat or a gesture of hospitality.

The most illuminating tidbit I learned was that Greek havlas, a semolina and almond cake, differs from that in Middle Eastern countries where it is a confection from sesame seeds and honey.

The Complete Book of Greek Cooking has been a great discovery during this Greek culinary odyssey here at World on a Plate. This book assembled by the members of the Recipe Club of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York is charming and full of explanations on culinary and cultural traditions. Favorites such as creamy rizogalo (rice pudding), karithopita (Kefalonian walnut cake), galaktoboureko(custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell) are featured.

If you want immediate virtual gratification there’s a number of recipes provided over at Greek Boston , the Boston Greek online community forum.

Photo credit of Dionysus: http://www.kirtland.edu

Recipe for OLIVE OIL COOKIES WITH ANISE AND SESAME SEEDS

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Bringing Greece to the Table

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Watching the Olympics over the weekend got me to thinking, naturally, about Greek food. What came as a surprise was that noticeably absent from my cookbook library is a tome featuring this cuisine. So I took to the virtual library to learn some more about signature cookbook authors of a Hellenic nature.

The doyenne of Greek cookbook writing is Diane Kochilas. Born in raised in New York City and now residing in Greece she has written four books on her native cuisine: The Food and Wine of Greece , Greek Vegetarian, The Glorious Foods of Greece: Traditional Recipes from Islands, Cities, and Villagesand Meze: Small Plates to Savor and Share. Her restaurant reviews appear in Greece’s largest newspaper the Athens-based, TA NEA where the reviews are both anticipated and feared. Someday I would like to learn firsthand from the writer-chef by participating in her one-week “Glorious Greek Kitchen” cooking school program. The sybaritic week includes hiking, cheese-tasting, wine and olive oil tastings and cooking lessons. In the September issue of Food & Wine there’s a great feature article about the school, 8 recipes, Greek wine profiles–great for afternoon coffee break daydreaming. (I hope the link works; I’m a subscriber so I don’t know if my cookies allowed the link.)

Another top goddess of the kitchen is Aglaia Kremezi, who won a Julia Child award in 1994 for best “First Book” with The Foods of Greece, The Foods of the Greek Islands, The Mediterranean Pantryand Mediterranean Hot. This last book intrigues me as I have been known to enjoy a spicy dish. Throughout the Mediterranean spicy means the use of one or more of the following spices–capers, chilies, cilantro, cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, or hot pepper. The UK-based Food Illustrated provides a bit more insight into this chef-author in a 2001 interview that took place in Aglaia Kremezi’s Athen’s apartment with a view of the Acropolis. Another vacation option exists with Ms. Kremezi on the island of Kea where she now lives
The culinary week also includes hands-on classes, artisanal honey tastings, learning how to make homemade phyllo and plenty of hiking and a picnic on the beach.

In the hot off the press category, The Olive and the Caper, by Susanna Hoffman, an anthropologist and author of nine books, has written a 700-plus-page book that is dubbed “a sensuous adventure of luscious recipes, itinerant travel, and historical anecdotes.” In 1971, she was part of a group of friends who opened Chez Panisse. It’s quite a hefty book. There are 150 recipes plus dozens of essays about the origins of Greek food, village life, history, language and custom.

And last up but yet another award-winning food writer, Clifford Wright, and his collection entitled Little Foods of the Mediterranean, features 500 recipes including an introduction to the way people eat in the Mediterranean region and an awe-inspiring collection of all sorts of appetizers, snacks, and little foods served across the region, from Spanish tapas bars and Italian cafés to Tunisian and Moroccan open markets and Greek and Turkish meze tables. Mr. Wright is my kind of writer. He seeks out recipes and endeavors to understand the historical roots of foods we eat today. He won a 2002 James Beard award for A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean a comprehensive history of Mediterranean cusines from A.D. 500 to 1650. He’s currently in production on a 13-part PBS an eye-opening tour of the Mediterranean and tells surprising historical stories of a now famous cuisine. He also writes for Saveur and other food publications.

But now I’m getting into collections that are shifting ever so slightly toward the all encompassing dishes of the Mediterranean region. It’s clear to me there’s a world of food from Greece that goes beyond the always present Greek Salad.

Garides Saganaki
Shrimp Baked in Tomato Sauce with Feta

excerpted from
The Foods of the Greek Islands Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean

By Aglaia Kremezi

Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2-1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp,
peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/2 cup finely diced tomato,
drained in a colander for 5 minutes
Salt
2/3 cup coarsely grated hard feta cheese (see note below)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the pepper or pepper flakes and the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and sauté for 2 minutes, or until they start to become firm. Add the tomato and salt to taste and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the sauce begins to thicken.

Transfer to a baking dish or four individual gratin dishes.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Note:
If you leave feta cheese uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, it will dry a bit and can then be easily grated.