Culinaria Greece: A Celebration of Food and Tradition, edited by Marianthi Milona, showcases the regional cuisine of Greece with dozens of recipes and over 1,300 color photos. It is not only a cookbook, but also includes background information on the history and how specific ingredients have left their mark on Greek cuisine and culture. The most recent edition was released on August 15, 2015. I will also be sharing her recipe for Rodankhas de Kalavassa Amarilla (Pumpkin Tarts) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from H.F. Ullmann Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Marianthi Milona was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is a writer and journalist. She studied German and English Literature in Germany at the University of Cologne. You can find her work in a variety of books, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television.
Chapters are divided based on region: Athens, Attica and Central Greece, The Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Epirus, Thessaly, Sporades, Chalkidiki, Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Thrace, North Aegean Islands, The Cyclades, Dodecanese, Crete, and Cyprus. For those unfamiliar with Greece, the first page of the book has a map highlighting the different regions.
Each chapter includes the specialties from that area plus cultural tidbits. Backgrounds of local items such as Metaxa brandy, Kritharaki (orzo pasta), Metsovon (semisoft smoked cheese), Ouzo, Cretan mountain tea, the oldest recorded Greek soup (Trakhanas), Greek wine and wineries, Greek country sausage, Mezedes (appetizers), and so much more are described in detail. Traditions surrounding mealtimes, specific holidays (Easter, Christmas, New Years), and eating habits are explained. There are also sections on the Olympics and Greek Gods and Goddesses.
I personally loved learning what each area is known for. Thessaloniki is the liveliest city in Greece with a history of a strong Jewish culture. Epirus is home to “Dodoni,” the largest milk processing company in the country. Chalkidiki is known for its honey production, fisherman, and Monastery life. The Dodecanese Islands have had a significant Turkish influence in its cuisine. Cyprus became an independent sovereign republic in 1960. The northern 2/5ths of the island has been occupied by Turkey since 1974. Thessaly has the largest apple growing area with 27,500 tons each year.
While you will find well-known dishes such as Pastitsio (Ground Meat and Macaroni Bake), Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves), Avgolemono (Egg and Lemon Sauce- 2 types), Rizogalo (Rice Pudding), and Galaktoboureko (Milk Cake), there are also plenty of recipes I had never heard of before including Bobota Glikia (Sweet Corn Cakes), Kotopoulo me Rigani (Chicken with Oregano), Kouneli Tiravgoulo (Rabbit with Egg and Cheese Sauce), and Youvetsi me Lakhanika (Baked Orzo with Vegetables). Recipe names are provided in English and Greek (Latin alphabet). Measurements are in US Customary and Metric.
The gorgeous photographs were taken by Werner Stapelfeldt. Across the pages, you will find pictures in a variety of sizes ranging from scenery, people, restaurants, and more. Heinz Troll added the food photography for many of the recipes, generally of the finished dish.
This book is a great choice for those wanting to learn more about the history of Greek cuisine along with trying some new and delicious recipes. Seafood lovers will enjoy the large amounts of fish, eel, mussels, shrimp, crayfish, squid, and octopus dishes. There is also a nice assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, vegetables, meat based dishes, sides, and desserts. I do wish there was a more organized index or list to look up specific recipes. Most of the ingredients are easy to find for the average home cook. Some products that may require a trip to the specialty Eastern European market include ouzo, kefalotiri cheese, and kadefi dough, The recipes range in difficulty from easy to more advanced.
Rodankhas de Kalavassa Amarilla (Pumpkin Tarts)
With today being Thanksgiving, I wanted to share the recipe for Rodankhas de Kalavassa Amarilla (Pumpkin Tarts). These Pumpkin Tarts come from Thessaloniki, a city known for its Jewish population. Until the Holocaust, the Jewish community made up over half of the city with 56,000 people. Following World War II, only 2,000 returned. Their cuisine had a marked impact on Thessaloniki. These Pumpkin Tarts are made with a flour olive oil based crust (no butter!) and a cinnamon spiced walnut pumpkin filling. I arranged a few walnut pieces on the top for decoration. The tarts are baked until the crust is golden brown.
Slowly add the flour to the water and olive oil until you get a soft dough. I only needed around 3 cups, though 4 may be needed. If you use 1/2 pound pumpkin puree, then you won’t need to dice and simmer the pumpkin until tender.
I also made Soutzoukakia (Ground Meat Rolls in Tomato Sauce), Kapamas (Meatballs in Egg and Lemon Sauce), Koulouria (Sesame Rings), and Spanakorizo (Rice with Spinach).
Soutzoukakia are elongated rolls of ground pork seasoned with bread crumbs, garlic, and cumin. They are lightly pan-fried before simmering in tomato sauce. Chad turned them into a sandwich by arranging a couple between two slices of bread. This dish was relatively easy, but full of flavor.
Kapamas are beef meatballs held together with breadcrumbs, eggs, onion, parsley, and oregano. After sautéing in olive oil, then simmering in water, they are served hot in an egg and lemon sauce. We served them with rice. This one was my personal favorite.
Koulouria are made by coating rings of dough in sesame rings and baked until the outside is crisp encasing the soft interior. Proofing the yeast takes 24 hours to prepare, but overall isn’t complicated. Make sure the rings have plenty of space in the center. Mine puffed quite a bit during baking, but were still quite delicious.
Spanakorizo is a rice dish cooked with a large amount of finely chopped spinach. It is lightly seasoned with onion, dill, and lemon. This dish came together quickly and paired well as a side for the Kapamas (Meatballs in Egg and Lemon Sauce). At first, I was a bit concerned by the sheer amount of spinach, but it ended up being perfect. To save time, you can even use finely chopped frozen spinach.
Rodankhas de Kalavassa Amarilla (Pumpkin Tarts) Recipe
Excerpt from Culinaria Greece
Rodankhas de Kalavassa Amarilla (Pumpkin Tarts)
For the pastry:
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 3-4 cups (~500 g) all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
- 1/2 pound (250 g) pumpkin flesh diced
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 1 cup (250 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (100 g) ground walnuts plus halved walnuts for topping
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Olive oil
- Bring the water and oil to a boil, remove from the heat, and work in the flour until you have a stiff dough. Season with salt and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
- Divided the pastry into 2-3 portions, cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Then, roll the pastry out thinly and cut out circles 6 inches/15 cm in diameter. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C).
- Cook the pumpkin flesh in the water. Add a little more water and mash the pumpkin with a fork. Stir in the sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and a little olive oil and simmer slowly for a short while (over medium heat until slgihtly thickened).
- Line small tartlet pans with the pastry rounds, place some filling in the center and sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Serve warm.