This is also the only cookbook I've come across that tells you how to sit while you're eating -- what Kochilas calls ''the meze pose.'' Body language is important, she explains, because ''at a traditional meze meal, you don't sit facing the table, but rather facing the world and abutting the table with one side of your body. Why? According to my friend Zouraris, because it's not supposed to be a proper meal. The focus is on the social, on the conversation, on the exchange of opinions.'' I figure I've got all summer to practice. — Dwight Garner
Mezethes (plural of meze, which means middle) are little Mediterranean dishes designed to complement a beverage, tease the tastebuds and encourage diners to linger around a table for good conversation, says Kochilas (The Glorious Foods of Greece), and "[v]ariety, playfulness, and surprise" are key to their preparation. Her nicely illustrated cookbook offers 80 meze recipes to pair with ouzo or Greek wines, and shows American home cooks how a varied gathering of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese flavors-olives, anchovies, cured beef, cheese, good bread-can make for a perfect brunch or buffet spread (though, Kochilas is careful to note, a "meze spread is not meant to be a meal, but a nosh"). Her chapters cover culinary themes such as Dips, Spreads and Relishes, Small Egg Dishes, Finger Foods and Fried Treats, and A Sea's Bounty of Mezethes; dishes range from Fluffy Fish-Roe Dip with Ground Almonds (a variant of the classic taramosalata), to Three-Cheese Phyllo Triangles with Onions and Yogurt, to Marinated Panfried Shrimp in the Shell, to Grilled Greek Meat Patties with Chopped Tomatoes, Spicy Yogurt, and Lemon. (Don't let the long names fool you-these dishes are never difficult to prepare.) These piquant, lively foods are "a savory flirtation," and an array of them on a table is a delightful thing. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Explains Kochilas, who lives in Athens, the Greek "meze culture" refers to a specific way of eating and, more important, socializing-a drink of ouzo, for example, accompanied by just a few tidbits to nibble on during a long afternoon's conversation-and the "small plates" served are meant more as a tease than as a first course or even a snack. That said, however, the dishes easily translate to appetizers or a whole meal put together from several or more of these savory bites. The author of many big books on Greek food, including The Food and Wine of Greece, Kochilas avoids readily found "absolute classics," such as tzatziki, instead offering more contemporary interpretations of traditional dishes, lesser-known regional specialties, and others of her own creation: Bread Salad with Watermelon, Feta, and Onion, for example, or Shrimp in a Skillet with Creamy Tomato-Ouzo Sauce. A good companion to Joanne Weir's broader From Tapas to Meze, this is recommended for most collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.