Cooking the Greek way - whole lamb and all

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March 31, 2004|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Whether or not you like Rosemary Barron's new cookbook, Flavors of Greece (Interlink Books, 2004, $27.95), will depend on what you're looking for in a cookbook.

Do you want to read how folks in faraway places cook their native foods? Or do you want a book that gives you recipes you can make for dinner?

Those who want a practical cooking manual would be better off skipping this book - unless they happen to have a barbecue pit in the back yard large enough to roast a whole lamb or an unglazed clay pot to cook potatoes and beets.

Barron, who founded a cooking school in Greece, lectures on Greek cuisine and is a member of the Slow Food movement that promotes regional culinary traditions, provides 250 recipes representing many different regions of Greece. Because these dishes are authentic, even historic, many are not easily adapted to the modern American kitchen.

Looking for a hard-to-find Greek recipe? It's probably here. You'll find Pheasant Over a Fire like that served in a tiny tavern in Crete. There's Spit-Roasted Chicken reminiscent of the kind Odysseus enjoyed on his journey home from the Trojan War. And there's sea bass dusted with chickpea powder like that served in Greek open-air restaurants by the sea.

Flavors of Greece is arranged in 12 chapters that include recipes for appetizers, soups, light meals, fish and seafood, chicken and game, meats, vegetables, pilafs and pastas, bread, desserts and sauces. A few color photographs are interspersed among the pages, and each recipe comes with a brief introduction describing the dish, who makes it in Greece and suggested accompaniments.

To be fair, not all of the dishes are difficult, and Barron gives advice on readily available substitutions for ingredients that may be hard to find.

Everything I needed to make the Traditional Tomato Salad and the Baked Cheese and Spinach pies was in my local grocery. I didn't have a barbecue pit in the back yard to roast a lamb, but the appetizers were tasty side dishes to a leg of lamb I roasted in the oven.

Traditional Tomato Salad

Serves 4

6 large ripe tomatoes, skinned if desired

coarse-grained sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

6 scallions, trimmed, with the best green parts left intact and thinly sliced

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

12 kalamata olives, drained

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons dried rigani (Greek oregano), briefly pounded in a small mortar, or 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional

Core the tomatoes, cut into wedges and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sugar. Loosely cover, and set aside for 1 hour. To serve, sprinkle the scallions, parsley, olives and feta over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the rigani, olive oil and lemon juice, if using, over the salad. Serve at once.

Per serving: 343 calories; 7 grams protein; 29 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 16 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 22 milligrams cholesterol; 486 milligrams sodium

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