Greek cooking has been called the mother of all Mediterranean cuisine. In Deipnosophistae (“Wise Men at Dinner”), the ancient Greek writer Athenaeus compiled more than 1,000 recipes and gastronomic techniques for preparing fish, meat, and vegetables. The ageless simplicity of Greek cuisine has enabled it to survive century after century in a way that seems to transcend its origins.
Vefa’s Kitchen (Phaidon), by cookery writer Vefa Alexiadou, is an internationally best-selling successor to Athenaeus’ compendium. Alexiadou has gathered hundreds of traditional recipes originating all over Greece, from fish dishes prepared along the island coasts to breads baked in rural mountain villages.
In Greece, he notes, the classic way of cooking poultry is in a pot atop the stove. It is often served with trahana, a couscous-like pasta.
Recipe of the week
Kotopoulo Me Trahana
(Chicken With Trahana)
½ cup olive oil
1 chicken, about 3¼ lb, cut into serving pieces
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup tomato juice
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4–5 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Salt and pepper
8 oz sweet trahana or ready-made trahana
Heat oil in large, heavy pan. Add chicken; cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 8–10 minutes, until lightly browned all over. Add onions and garlic; cook for 2 minutes more, until softened. Add tomato juice, tomato, allspice berries, cinnamon stick (if using), 1 cup hot water; season with salt and pepper. Cover; simmer for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken pieces to platter with slotted spoon; keep warm. Measure cooking liquid; make up to 2 cups with water, then pour into pan; bring to boil. Stir in trahana; cover; simmer 5–8 minutes, or until trahana has softened and absorbed all liquid. Return chicken pieces to pan; heat gently. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Note: Ready-made trahana is precooked. If using, stir it into the sauce; bring to boil; cover; turn off the heat. It will be ready to serve in 10 minutes. If using homemade trahana, be careful not to overcook it or it will turn to mush.
3¼ cups milk
1 tbsp salt
8¾ cups (3¼ lb) semolina, or half semolina and half bulgur wheat
Bring milk to boil in pan, stirring constantly. Add salt; reduce heat; gradually add semolina or semolina and bulgur wheat mixture, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, 10–15 minutes, until very thick. Remove from heat; cover with thick cotton towel; let cool. Break dough into small, rough pieces; put them on thick cotton cloth in single layer. Let stand in dark, well-ventilated place for about 2 hours, until dry and crumbly. Rub pieces through coarse strainer, then spread out on thick cotton cloth; leave in cool place 4–5 days, until completely dry. Store in cotton bag hanging in cool place or in refrigerator. Makes 3¼ pounds. Preparation time 5½ days (including cooling and drying).