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


Stretching from the shores of Turkey to the Ionian Sea east of Italy, the Greek islands have been the crossroads of the Mediterranean since the time of Homer. Over the centuries, Phoenicians, Athenians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, and Italians have ruled the islands, putting their distinctive stamp on the food.
Aglaia Kremezi, a frequent contributor to GOURMET and an international authority on Greek food, spent the past eight years collecting the ...

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Stretching from the shores of Turkey to the Ionian Sea east of Italy, the Greek islands have been the crossroads of the Mediterranean since the time of Homer. Over the centuries, Phoenicians, Athenians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, and Italians have ruled the islands, putting their distinctive stamp on the food.
Aglaia Kremezi, a frequent contributor to GOURMET and an international authority on Greek food, spent the past eight years collecting the fresh, uncomplicated recipes of the local women, as well as of fishermen, bakers, and farmers. Like all Mediterranean food, these dishes are light and healthful, simple but never plain, and make extensive use of seasonal produce, fresh herbs, and fish. Passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, most have never before been written down. All translate easily to the American home kitchen: Tomato Patties from Santorini; Spaghetti with Lobster from Kithira; Braised Lamb with Artichokes from Chios; Greens and Potato Stew from Crete; Spinach, Leek, and Fennel Pie from Skopelos; Rolled Baklava from Kos.
Illustrated throughout with color photographs of the islanders preparing their specialties and filled with stories of island history and customs, THE FOODS OF THE GREEK ISLANDS is for all cooks and travelers who want to experience this diverse and deeply rooted cuisine firsthand.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
When Americans think of Greek food, we usually think of the ubiquitous Greek salad or stuffed grape leaves or, if from the Northeast, of street vendors selling gyros or diners offering pita sandwiches stuffed with grilled chicken, feta cheese, and a tangy yogurt sauce. For quite some time, Greek cuisine has been lumped into the general Mediterranean category, with little emphasis on its diversity. The esteemed food writer and international authority on Greek food Aglaia Kremezi has made it her business to set us straight with her book The Foods of the Greek Islands: Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean.

Those of us who remember our classics know that Greece has been the center of the Mediterranean for centuries. The fact that the islands about which the author writes are located between Italy and Turkey serves to heighten her interest in the influences of these cuisines on her own. Many of the recipes in the book have been handed down from her family, who originated in the islands of the Cyclades. The rest have been gathered over the past eight years as Kremezi traveled throughout the islands, eating, tasting, talking, and observing. Many of these recipes have never before been printed, making The Foods of the Greek Islands a unique treasury of food and lore.

Kremezi feels that Greek cuisine has yet to be truly discovered in America. "It is simple, straightforward cooking based on fresh ingredients which are easily translated to the American kitchen. Seasonal vegetables, leafy greens, grains, olives, olive oil, beans, local cheeses, fish (fresh and cured), occasionally meat, and fresh herbs and seasonings like fennel, dill, thyme, and garlic are the ingredients for everyday cooking on the Greek isles. "The sharing of food whenever a whole family or a bunch of friends gather around the table is typical of the traditional Greek way of life. The meal begins with alcoholic drinks and a communal course of meze, little plates containing various kinds of cold and hot foods: green and black olives; feta and other local cheeses drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano; raw, cured or simply cooked seafood and fish; pickled vegetables and spreads; garlicky dips; intensely-flavored rice-and-herb-filled grape leaves; and vegetable and or meat stews." Now, don't you think that the Greek way sounds far better than our American cocktail party fare? What a way to celebrate good times and friendship.

Not only does Kremezi give us undiscovered recipes; The Foods of the Greek Islands also tells a story through tales of the local cooks and the history of the islands, all enhanced by the author's amazing photographs of islanders preparing their meals. Rather than just a cookbook, it is an anthropological study of a cuisine that might have been lost to history. Combined with the author's first book, The Foods of Greece, The Foods of the Greek Islands will serve as a valuable compendium for cooks interested in learning the cuisine of this rich culture. (Judith Choate)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Julia Child Award-winning author of The Foods of Greece returns with an equally engaging, personal take on the foods of Greece's many islands--each very different from the others--stretching from Turkey to the Ionian Sea. Like Marcella Hazan, Kremezi has an informed and authentic voice that is gentle enough for beginners, and though her anecdotes and folklore add an inviting context and charm to this cookbook, it's the enticing recipes themselves that make it so winning. Lemons and legumes feature prominently in Greek-island cooking, as does seafood. Among the array of "uncomplicated" yet "sophisticated" dishes Kremezi features are Terrine of Fish with Leeks, Orange and Lemon and Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Herbs, Walnuts and Pomegranates. One might expect Baked Chickpea and Lamb Stew from Greece, but Pork with Cabbage made with tomatoes, red wine, and cinnamon clearly reflects a multicultural influence. An entire chapter on savory pies could almost stand alone with such tempting offerings as Finger-Sized Fried Green Pies, and another on breads includes Savory Cheese and Mint Muffins. Desserts that make excellent use of fresh fruit include Baked Apples with Dried Figs and Almonds in Sweet Wine Syrup and Cherry Spoon-Sweet Preserves. Kremezi consulted on the menu for New York's premier Greek restaurant, Molyvos, and a dozen or so of the restaurant's recipes are included in this standout volume. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kremezi (The Mediterranean Pantry) has been riding the wave of popularity for all types of low-fat and grain- and vegetable-based Mediterranean cookery. In this new book, she explores the cookery of the many islands surrounding mainland Greece. From well-known Corfu and Crete to tiny enclaves such as Kea and Karpathos, she explains the cultural and historical idiosyncrasies that make each island's cuisine different. The text is excellent, making this as much a book for readers as for cooks. The recipes are various and exciting in their new ideas and combinations of ingredients (Baked Meatballs with Walnuts, Almonds, and Prunes; Octopus Stew with Macaroni), but many interested cooks may have a problem finding ingredients. A list of sources is helpful, but its listings are less than comprehensive. There is an appendix of basic preparations and a glossary of ingredients, but in a book as dependent on geography as this is, the absence of a map is an oversight; for most larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]--Tom Cooper, Richmond Heights Memorial Lib., MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Richard Corliss
Kremezi's book is not quite a cruise through the Greek islands, but with its tempting photos and recipes, it's the next best thing.
From the Publisher
“As much a travel book as any tourist guide . . . not just because of its lush pictures, but because it’s a real working guide to preparing the traditional dishes found all over Greece.”


“In addition to a generous sampling of unusual dishes, Kremezi presents a detailed background on regional cuisine . . . The recipes are not overly complicated, and offer new ideas for familiar ingredients.”

USA Today

“Gorgeous, authoritative.”

Atlantic Monthly

“Full of treats and remarkably appetizing . . . There is splendid stuff here, particularly for vegetarians.”

The Times of London

"Kremezi brings historical perspective to each recipe." People Magazine

"[The Foods of the Greek Islands] is the genuine reads like a love letter to her native land...with it's tempting photos and recipes it's the next best thing to a cruise through the greek islands." Time Magazine

"The Julia Child Award-winning author returns with an equally engaging, personal take on the foods of Greece's many islands." Publishers Weekly, Starred

Aglaia Kremezi's new cookbook brings the flavors of the Mediterranean to tables everywhere.—Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven Boston Globe

"An astonishing collection . . . by the doyenne of Greek food writers." - Food & Wine

"I had to restrain myself from scrawling 'must try' beside yet another recipes in Aglaia Kremezi's FOODS OF THE GREEK ISLANDS. In this book, her fourth, Kremezi could do for people who assume that Greek food involves little beyond moussaka and egg-lemon glop what Marcella Hazan did for people who thought Italian food was all veal marsala and lasagna. The author has combined her reportorial skills, scholarly interests and superb instincts as a cook who knows both American and Greek kitchens to produce recipes that are simple, direct yet exciting." New York Times Book Review Notable Book

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544465022
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/17/2015
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 517,335

Meet the Author

A journalist and photographer, AGLAIA KREMEZI lives on the Greek island of Kea, where she teaches cooking to travelers. She is a contributing writer for Saveur, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine , and others. She is the author of Vegetarian Mediterranean Feasts . Her best-selling The Foods of Greece won the Julia Child Award.

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Read an Excerpt


The foods you will find in this book are the ones I like to cook every day or on special occasions, traditional and contemporary dishes that I love to eat. I collected many of them on summer vacations and special trips, others were given to me by great island cooks, and quite a few were handed down to me from my family, originally from the islands of the Cyclades.

I learned to cook from my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. Even before going to school, I remember shelling peas in the large kitchen of my grandfather's old house, which had a wood-burning cooking stove with a large hood over it. I was too short to reach the sink and had to stand on a stool in order to rinse and trim the wild greens or wash the dishes. I would help my aunt roll bitter orange peels and thread them like a necklace when she made her rolled bitter-orange preserves. My mother taught me how to prepare the artichokes that overran our garden. My younger sister and I always helped shape the Christmas honey cookies. We learned how to remove the stones from cherries using a hairpin-there were no special instruments for that then-and we looked on as my mother scaled and gutted all the many kinds of fish my father brought from the port of Piraeus, where he worked.

Watching my grandfather slaughter a hen with a small ax was traumatic, and we would cover our eyes as the hen flapped, headless, around the yard. But the dark-fleshed, chewy meat we cooked in stews or soups was so much more flavorful than that of the pallid, sickly looking chicken we eat today.

Both my mother's and father's families trace their roots to the islands: Myfather comes from Andros, my mother from Kea. I grew up on the outskirts of Athens, beside a large garden next to my mother's family's house. Nikitas Patiniotis, my grandfather from Kea, was a handsome and remarkable man. Calm, loving and compassionate, he often went as far as to buy the worst, almost rotten vegetables from the greengrocer who passed each day with his mule. This made my grandmother furious.

"He is a poor man, Anna, and if we don't buy them, who will?" I remember him saying to her apologetically. My grandfather taught me all about the different wild greens -how and when to collect them. He spoke to me about all the plants of the garden, relating the story of the fragrant bay, once a beautiful woman. He identified the various insects for me, explaining how they lived and what they ate, insisting that there are no bad and good creatures but that each fulfills a purpose.

When I was fourteen, we left our house in the country and went to live in a flat in the center of Athens. Ever since, I have longed to return to the country. Now that we have purchased a house on the island of Kea, I feel I have come full circle.

Traveling from island to island, reading old books and kitchen ledgers, researching history and customs and building friendships with island cooks have made me proud of my origins. This book is not an encyclopedia of Greek island cooking but a very personal selection from thousands of recipes that I have collected over the years.

Besides relying on personal preference, I have chosen dishes that can be successfully cooked away from the islands and outside Greece. Some islands are better represented than others, and I have undoubtedly missed some foods worth recording. Each village on each island has many different versions of the same dish, often using diverse ingredients; and Greece has about 170 inhabited islands in all. It would be impossible to claim that I know all there is to know about the island foods. My search continues.

-Aglaia Kremezi

Kotopoulo Youvetsi
Baked Chicken with Orzo

Makes 6 servings

1/3 cup olive oil
1 41/2-pound free-range chicken or capon, cut into 6 pieces, or 6 turkey drumsticks
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups grated ripe tomatoes (see page 27) or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
2 cups Chicken Stock (page 267), plus more if needed
1 pound orzo or elbow macaroni, cooked in plenty of boiling salted water for 2 minutes and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup coarsely grated hard myzithra, kefalotyri, pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken or turkey in batches until golden brown on all sides. Set aside.

Add the onion to the pot and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, cinnamon stick, oregano, pepper or pepper flakes and tomatoes. Sprinkle the chicken or turkey with salt and return to the Dutch oven. Add about 1/2 cup stock, or enough to come about two-thirds of the way up the chicken or turkey. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 11/2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Transfer the chicken or turkey to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring the remaining 11/2 cups stock to a simmer. Add the stock to the cooking liquid, stir in the pasta and bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, adding more stock if the pasta begins to dry out. Place the chicken or turkey on top of the pasta and bake for another 10 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the parsley and cheese.

This Chicken Dish is a common Sunday one-pot meal of the islands. In her wonderful taverna in Avgonima, Chios, Kalliopi Delios cooks homemade macaroni in the chicken-tomato stock. Orzo, elbow macaroni, ziti and penne rigate are good alternatives. This recipe is based on Kalliopi's.

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Table of Contents


Foreword xi Introduction 1

Meze More than Just Appetizers 16

Savory Pitas and Pies 48

Fish and Seafood Scarce but Excellent 72

Succulent Meat Lamb, Pork, Veal and Chicken 92

Beans, Rice, Bulgur and Pasta 146

Seasonal Salads, Vegetables and Potatoes 176

The Powerful Mysteries of Bread 206

Island Desserts Honey, Fruits, Nuts and Fresh Cheese 236

Basic Preparations 265 The Ingredients of the Greek Islands 273 Sources for Greek Products 285 Index 288

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