10/29/14

Aglaia Kremezi's Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Back in June I wrote about a culinary cooking vacation I took last year with my friend Cecilia. We flew to GREECE to attend a culinary program on the island of Kea: Kea Artisanal. It was a wonderful experience: we learned a lot, drank quite a bit of Greek wine, made our own olive oil and met wonderful people.

Well, guess who's in town!? One of the owners of the Kea Artisanal: Aglaia Kremezi. Aglaia is on a book tour in the US promoting her newly published Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts cookbook. I received a preview copy of the book and also had a chance to have a Q&A with Aglaia over lunch.

The cookbook is for anyone interested in Greek cuisine, specifically vegetarian dishes. There are plenty of simple recipes for beginner cooks as well as recipes that might take a few hours for advanced cooks. For my first trial of the book, I decided to go with something easy.


Grilled Feta, Tomato, and Pepper with Olive Oil and Oregano (Bouyourdi) {Copied with permission from the publisher}

Bouyourdi hardly needs a recipe. One or two slices of good tomato, a lavish slice of feta cheese and pieces of bell and hot pepper are doused with olive oil, generously sprinkled with oregano, and grilled in a very hot oven. Bouyourdi is brought to the table directly from the oven, often in individual clay pots, and enjoyed with plenty of fresh crusty bread to sop up the scrumptious oil. Although served as a meze in Greece, it can also be a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish for the whole family.

Serves 4

1 large vine-ripened tomato
4 slices feta cheese (about 2/3 pound / 300 g total)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or a few pinches Maras pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) good olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek oregano, or more to taste
Thick slices of fresh, crusty bread

Preheat the oven to 430F (220°C).

Spread a double layer of paper towels on a large dish. Core the tomato carefully, slice horizontally into 5 to 6 pieces, and spread them on the paper to drain.

Oil a shallow 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm) baking dish, or four individual ramekins, and spread the tomato slices at the bottom, reserving 4 nice slices for the top. Sprinkle with some jalapeño and bell pepper slices. Arrange the feta pieces on top, place one tomato slice on each piece of cheese, and finally place 2 or 3 bell pepper rings on the tomato. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and the remaining jalapeño, and transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the feta turns a light-golden color and the oil is sizzling. Serve immediately with warm bread.
Grilled Feta, Tomato, and Pepper with Olive Oil and Oregano (Bouyourdi)
Bouyourdi hardly needs a recipe. One or two slices of good tomato, a lavish slice of feta cheese and pieces of bell and hot pepper are doused with olive oil, generously sprinkled with oregano, and grilled in a very hot oven. Bouyourdi is brought to the table directly from the oven, often in individual clay pots, and enjoyed with plenty of fresh crusty bread to sop up the scrumptious oil. Although served as a meze in Greece, it can also be a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish for the whole family.
GLUTEN-FREE
Serves 4
1 large vine-ripened tomato
4 slices feta cheese (about 2/3 pound / 300 g total)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or a few pinches Mara? pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) good olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek oregano, or more to taste
Thick slices of fresh, crusty bread
Preheat the oven to 430?F (220°C).
Spread a double layer of paper towels on a large dish. Core the tomato carefully, slice horizontally into 5 to 6 pieces, and spread them on the paper to drain.
Oil a shallow 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm) baking dish, or four individual ramekins, and spread the tomato slices at the bottom, reserving 4 nice slices for the top. Sprinkle with some jalapeño and bell pepper slices. Arrange the feta pieces on top, place one tomato slice on each piece of cheese, and finally place 2 or 3 bell pepper rings on the tomato. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and the remaining jalapeño, and transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the feta turns a light-golden color and the oil is sizzling. Serve immediately with warm bread.
- See more at: http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/reading-around/aglaia-kremezis-mediterranean-vegetarian-feasts#sthash.E6sYkX6g.dpuf
Grilled Feta, Tomato, and Pepper with Olive Oil and Oregano (Bouyourdi)
Bouyourdi hardly needs a recipe. One or two slices of good tomato, a lavish slice of feta cheese and pieces of bell and hot pepper are doused with olive oil, generously sprinkled with oregano, and grilled in a very hot oven. Bouyourdi is brought to the table directly from the oven, often in individual clay pots, and enjoyed with plenty of fresh crusty bread to sop up the scrumptious oil. Although served as a meze in Greece, it can also be a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish for the whole family.
GLUTEN-FREE
Serves 4
1 large vine-ripened tomato
4 slices feta cheese (about 2/3 pound / 300 g total)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or a few pinches Mara? pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) good olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek oregano, or more to taste
Thick slices of fresh, crusty bread
Preheat the oven to 430?F (220°C).
Spread a double layer of paper towels on a large dish. Core the tomato carefully, slice horizontally into 5 to 6 pieces, and spread them on the paper to drain.
Oil a shallow 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm) baking dish, or four individual ramekins, and spread the tomato slices at the bottom, reserving 4 nice slices for the top. Sprinkle with some jalapeño and bell pepper slices. Arrange the feta pieces on top, place one tomato slice on each piece of cheese, and finally place 2 or 3 bell pepper rings on the tomato. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and the remaining jalapeño, and transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the feta turns a light-golden color and the oil is sizzling. Serve immediately with warm bread.
- See more at: http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/reading-around/aglaia-kremezis-mediterranean-vegetarian-feasts#sthash.E6sYkX6g.dpuf
 



Sorry for the instagram photos: the ones from my camera did not turn out. This was such a delicious brunch dish. I loved the warm feta with roasted tomatoes and crusty bread. I used poblano peppers because that's what I had on hand, and they were SUPER SPICY. If you are not a huge fan of heat, go with regular peppers.

This dish would be great served over polenta. Or with a poached egg on top.

Note that the mini pots are the ones I brought back from Kea :)

Q&A with Aglaia

Which smells/scents bring back memories of cooking as a little girl? Aglaia said she remembers the smells of Sunday cooking when her mom would prepare veal cooked in lemon. She also remembers helping her mom to peel artichokes and sweet peas. When she peeled artichokes, her fingers would turn black and her mom taught her to rub her fingers with lemons to get rid of the color.

Who inspired/taught you to cook? Aglaia helped in the kitchen from an early age starting with washing the dishes. She learned to cook from her mom and grandmother. Although Aglaia's sister grew up in the same environment surrounded by people who loved to cook, Aglaia is the one who ended up with that same love of cooking, while her sister doesn't like to cook.

What's the biggest misconception about Greek cuisine? Greek cuisine in the US is very different from Greek cuisine in Greece. It's heavier and uses a lot of Crisco and margarine: something you would never find in a true Greek household. Also, some of the dishes that are popular in the US restaurants, gyro for example, are not typically served in restaurants in Greece.

What are some of the things you must have while in the US? Not surprisingly, Aglaia likes to eat at Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants while in the US...something she doesn't get while in Greece.

What are you working on next? Aglaia is going to be publishing monthly essays in a Greek magazine and is working on a collection of seafood and bread recipes. Can't wait to see those!

If you live in DC, come by Zaytinya tonight from 6-8 for a book signing and to meet Aglaia.

 

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