a layered dish of lamb, eggplants, and potatoes topped
with a bechamel sauce, is photographed in the
Post-Dispatch studio Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
the recipe for moussaka has 25 ingredients. No, I never run
recipes that long, because who has the time? — To be
honest, when I decided to write about the food of Greece I
wasn’t even thinking of including a recipe for moussaka,
because it is too obvious a choice. Most everyone who wants
to make moussaka already has a recipe for it. — But then I
saw that the recipe came from Molyvos, a restaurant in New
York City. And suddenly I could not wait to try it.
food is one of the world’s great cuisines, and no wonder.
The civilization has been around for thousands of years, and
for all of that time they have been perfecting ways to cook
with the wonderful, fresh ingredients they have on hand:
fish, lamb, olives, lemons, cinnamon, garlic, honey, goat
cheese, yogurt and oregano.
wine, too. Don’t forget, the ancient Greeks had a god of
the great and memorable Greek meals I have had in my life,
the best and most memorable was at Molyvos. The restaurant
is smack-dab in the middle of midtown Manhattan, and we
found it the last time we were in the city. We had a plane
to catch, so we had an early dinner that was more of a very
ordered the grilled octopus. It was tender, surprisingly
tender for octopus, and delicately sweet, with just the
right amount of char to add a faint counterbalance of
bitterness and a light crunch. Dionysus would have approved.
my culinary tour of Greece, the birthplace of democracy, I
determined to make the Molyvos recipe for moussaka — even
though it has 25 ingredients. But it could be worse. I could
have gone for the grilled octopus.
is essentially a layered casserole, with slices of potato on
the bottom topped with slices of eggplant. This being a
restaurant recipe, the potatoes and eggplant are both fried
before layered. You could save calories by baking them
(though that would take time) or sautéing them (though that
would save fewer calories), but if this is the first time
you make the recipe, try frying them. You won’t regret it.
next layer is ground lamb spiced with cinnamon, ginger and
allspice cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce. Think of it as
a sloppy joe, only exponentially better and considerably
top layer, and this is where restaurant cooking really comes
into play, is a ridiculously rich bechamel sauce. Bechamel
is a thick white sauce made from butter, flour and milk, but
this version dials up the amplitude by adding egg yolks and
result is pure ambrosia, to use a Greek term. It’s
easier dish, and very nearly as good, is Shrimp With Feta
and Tomato, or garides saganaki. At first, this seems like a
typical dish of shrimp in a tomato sauce — and you can
never go wrong with shrimp in a tomato sauce — but it has
two distinctions that make it better than the others.
first distinction is the onions. Rather than using yellow or
white onions to deepen the taste of the tomato sauce, this
recipe uses green onions. Their taste is sharper but also
milder, which gives the sauce a bright flavor without
second distinction is the feta cheese, which lends a nice
briny counterpoint to the earthier tomato sauce. Softened
slightly, the cheese also studs the sauce with occasional
bits of chewy texture.
made a true Greek salad, which is to say the way they make
it in Greece, not America. In Greece, the traditional salad
called horiatiki does not have lettuce. At all.
practically the law: In Greece, what we think of as a Greek
salad consists only of tomatoes, onions, cucumber, parsley,
olives and feta cheese, topped with oil, red wine vinegar
and dried oregano, plus salt and pepper. Sliced green pepper
all together — at the last minute, please — and it is an
incredibly fresh dish, bursting with well-balanced flavors
and wholly satisfying.
dessert, I thought that because I had already made moussaka,
I may as well make baklava. In for a drachma, in for a euro,
as they say.
moussaka, baklava takes some time to make (though not as
much). Like moussaka, the result is worth it.
of course, is the irresistible dessert made of layers upon
layers of thin and crispy phyllo dough, stuffed with lightly
sweetened (and cinnamoned) chopped nuts and doused in a
sweet syrup. In Greece, the syrup uses honey; other
Mediterranean countries with their own versions use just
sugar or sugar flavored with rose water.
the key ingredient of baklava is butter. Each fragile,
individual sheet of phyllo must be brushed with melted
butter, which is why it takes a while to make. If you have
never worked with phyllo before, it can be a little tricky,
because the thin dough tends to tear.
there is one simple trick to solve that problem: Use a
pastry brush with soft bristles. A silicone brush will just
leave you with an ugly, tangled mess.
is a perfect dessert to share with others, but don’t
forget to save a few pieces for yourself. Some things are
just worth it.
cup dried currants
(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
tablespoons olive oil, divided
pound ground lamb
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon ground allspice
and black pepper, to taste
cloves garlic, finely chopped
medium yellow onions, finely chopped
bell pepper, stemmed, cored and finely chopped
cups canola oil
pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
large russet potato, about 1 pound, cut crosswise into
tablespoons unsalted butter
cup all-purpose flour
ground nutmeg, to taste
cup plain Greek yogurt
currants into a small bowl and cover with boiling water; let
soften for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Purée the
tomatoes in a blender and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 6-quart pot over
medium-high heat. Add the lamb, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger,
allspice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring to
break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer
lamb to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard
any liquid left in the pot.
Return the pot to the heat and add the remaining 3
tablespoons of olive oil along with the garlic, onions and
bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about
10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally,
until almost evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the reserved
tomatoes, currants and lamb, and bring to a boil. Reduce the
heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30
minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry, turning
occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer slices
to paper towels. Working in batches, add the potatoes and
cook until tender, about 5 minutes, and transfer to paper
Make a béchamel sauce: Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan
over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly,
until pale and smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly,
add the milk in a steady stream until incorporated; add the
bay leaf and cook, whisking often, until reduced to 2 cups,
about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and
discard the bay leaf. Let sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a
small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg yolks and
whisk into the sauce until smooth.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the reserved potato slices
in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish (or two 11/2-quart
baking dishes) and season with salt and pepper. Put the
eggplant slices on top, season with salt and pepper, and
then cover with the meat sauce. Pour the béchamel over the
top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber
spatula. Sprinkle parmesan evenly over the top and bake
until browned and bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for at
least 20 minutes before serving.
serving: 657 calories; 48 g fat; 16 g saturated fat; 144 mg
cholesterol; 22 g protein; 63 g carbohydrate; 14 g sugar; 5
g fiber; 394 mg sodium; 298 mg calcium
by Jim Botsacos of Molyvos restaurant, via Saveur
WITH FETA AND TOMATO
6 to 8 servings
medium raw shrimp
tablespoons olive oil
ounces green onions, including some of the green part,
garlic cloves, chopped
(14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
tablespoons chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, divided
and black pepper
ounces feta, crumbled
This is an appetizer, small portions meant to be shared
among several people.
Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Heat
the oil in a wide nonstick pan that has a lid and sauté the
onion on medium-low heat until softened. Add the garlic and
cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the
tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and salt and pepper
to taste. Put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
the shrimp to the pan and turn to cover all of them with
sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Scatter in the
feta, put the lid back on and cook until the feta just
softens, about 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice.
Serve with a good grind of pepper and the remaining 2
tablespoons of parsley scattered on top, and some lovely
serving (based on 6): 206 calories; 13 g fat; 2 g saturated
fat; 126 mg cholesterol; 17 g protein; 7 g carbohydrate; 4 g
sugar; 2 g fiber; 267 mg sodium; 114 mg calcium
"Food From Many Greek Kitchens," by Tessa Kiros
tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley, plus more for
medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
medium white onion, thinly sliced
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
tablespoon red wine vinegar
teaspoon dried oregano, plus more for garnish
and pepper, to taste
ounces feta, cut into thick slabs
Combine parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a bowl.
a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar and oregano;
season with salt and pepper and pour over cucumber mixture.
Toss. Transfer salad to a serving bowl and top with feta and
olives. Garnish with more parsley and oregano; season with
serving: 545 calories; 48 g fat; 17 g saturated fat; 76 mg
cholesterol; 15 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 10 g sugar; 4
g fiber; 1,445 mg sodium; 485 mg calcium
About 30 servings
plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
of 1/2 small lemon
strip of lemon peel
2 or 3
small cinnamon sticks
almonds, chopped fine but with some texture
walnuts, chopped fine but with some texture
teaspoons ground cinnamon
sheets phyllo pastry (one roll of frozen phyllo)
tablespoons (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted to golden
30 whole cloves, for decorating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
make the syrup, put 2 cups of the sugar, honey, lemon juice,
lemon peel and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan with 1 cup
water and bring to a boil, stirring. Lower the heat to
simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, then take off the heat and cool.
the almonds, walnuts, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar
and ground cinnamon together in a bowl. Have the phyllo
sheets ready, covered by a dish cloth to prevent them from
drying out. Brush the base of an 81/2-by-12-inch baking dish
1 sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface and brush with
butter (use a pastry brush with soft bristles). Cover with
another sheet, brush it with butter and continue in this way
until you have a neat stack of 10 sheets. Place these on the
bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread half the nut
mixture over the phyllo, patting it down firmly and leveling
Cover with 2 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each one.
Scatter the rest of the nuts over evenly and press down
gently. Now lay down the last 10 sheets of phyllo, buttering
each one, and finishing with the last layer buttered on top.
Using a small sharp knife, cut diamonds on the diagonal of
about 21/2-by-21/2 inches. Cut all the way through the
layers of phyllo. Flick just a little cold water over the
top to prevent the layers from curling up. Stud the center
of each diamond with a clove.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until gently golden on top.
Gently pour half the syrup all over the baklava. Wait for it
to be absorbed, then pour over the rest. Leave to cool
totally before serving (remember to tell guests to remove
the clove before eating). Will keep, unrefrigerated, for at
least a week, covered with a dish cloth or foil to deter
flies and bees.
serving: 180 calories; 9 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 11 mg
cholesterol; 2 g protein; 24 g carbohydrate; 16 g sugar; 1 g
fiber; 68 mg sodium; 19 mg calcium
"Food From Many Greek Kitchens," by Tessa Kiros