Glorious, bright Mediterranean cuisine by Vefa

Vefa Alexiadou’s numerous activities attest to her passion for the culinary arts: A familiar face through her regular appearances on a popular morning television show, Alexiadou is also proud to present her franchise of kitchenware and culinary accouterments, Vefa’s House, which currently numbers 20 stores in Greece. The core part of her business, however, remains her increasingly popular series of cookbooks, which recently grew by another new volume. «Sunny Mediterranean Cuisine – Vegetarian and Seafood recipes» (published in both Greek and English by Vefa Alexiadou Editions) is a wholesome, comprehensive collection of recipes reflecting the rich, natural resources of the historic Mediterranean basin. Divided into various chapters, such as fat-free dishes, vegetables, shellfish, fish, pulses, breads and doughs, as well as soy dishes, the cookbook covers a vast array of recipe ideas, while providing useful, background information. Accordingly, in this appetizing regional culinary panorama, variety reigns, offering Sifnos-style chickpeas, braised carp from Kastoria, savory marinated fish from Corfu and Lefkada-style cod mix with shrimp Creole, and seafood flambe with couscous and Arab pocket bread. Furthermore, the author offers a number of basic recipes, ranging from phyllo dough to olive paste (also known as poor man’s caviar) and taramosalata (fish roe dip) as well as a useful glossary of Mediterranean ingredients, dishes and other terms. By going against the recent tide of style-over-substance cookbooks, Alexiadou’s success lies in the way the beautiful presentation of her platters builds within the reader a serious appetite for her dishes, some of which are more familiar than others, while adding her own touch as a cook (the book’s inviting photos by George Drakopoulos are also an asset). The English translation of «Sunny Mediterranean Cuisine» was provided by food historian Linda Makris, who has also written the edition’s foreword. In this telling and amusing introduction, Makris refers to the elementary raw materials which characterize the region’s culinary wealth: olive oil, the grapevine and light, all of which ultimately comprise the popular Mediterranean diet. However, there is more to these recipes than just purchasing the natural produce; Makris argues that the regional diet must go hand in hand with people’s lifestyle, while knowledge ought to be passed from one generation to the next. About the author Originally from Volos, Alexiadou graduated from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki with a degree in chemistry. She also traveled extensively abroad, taking courses in diverse areas of the culinary arts, such as food and table styling, nutrition and dietetics. In 1980, Alexiadou fulfilled a lifelong dream by publishing the first in a series of user-friendly cookbooks, «Invitation to Dinner.» Three more followed in the «Invitation» series. She then followed with a two-volume «Greek Cuisine» and «Greek Pastries and Desserts,» published in both Greek and English in a successful attempt to revitalize interest in traditional Greek food. So far, she has published 11 books and co-authored a series of recipe booklets, «20 Best Recipes for…, » editions which won the 1998 Diplome d’Honneur at the Perigeux World Cookbook Fair as the most successful commercial cookbook series. At the same time, Alexiadou travels extensively, lecturing and visiting, and is active in international book fairs. She has, for many years, been a regular participant at the Frankfurt International Book Fair. One of Alexiadou’s upcoming projects includes a tribute to Greek culinary tradition in view of the 2004 Olympics – «The Taste and Beauty of Greece» promises to be a deluxe edition of the country’s all-time favorites. Capturing the essence of Mediterranean cooking, Marseille-born bouillabaisse remains a traditional southern platter. In «Sunny Mediterranean Cuisine,» Alexiadou adds her own twist with the added ingredient of lobster. Bouillabaisse Preparation time, 50 minutes Cooking time, 40 minutes 1kg assorted fresh fish 1 lobster 6 crayfish 12 mussels or 6 scallops 1/2 cup olive oil 2 medium onions, sliced 3 cloves garlic 1 leek, white part only, chopped 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped 1 bay leaf 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 3 saffron stamens salt and cayenne 1 cup dry white wine (Serves 6-8) Scale and gut the fish and rinse well to remove all traces of blood. Prepare the seafood (without deboning or shelling) for cooking and rinse well. Cut the fish and lobster into large pieces. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions and garlic until clear. Add the leek and continue sauteeing until it has softened. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, saffron, salt, cayenne, 8 cups of water and wine. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the fish and shellfish and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the fish from the soup and debone. Remove the shellfish from soup with slotted spoon and remove the shells. Serve the soup in deep plates or wide bowls. On top of each serving, float a piece of bread rubbed with garlic and toasted. Serve the fish and shellfish separately or divide the pieces among the bowls of soup.

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