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FOOD & TRAVEL

‘Hot and Spicy’ Chef Kremezi Visits New York

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Delicate mussels fried in ouzo batter, grilled shrimp dipped in hot sauce and a paella-like dish with chunks of white cheese were among the recipes chef Jim Botsacos whipped up for a July 27 celebration of Aglaia Kremezi’s new cookbook, “Mediterranean: Hot and Spicy”, at the Molyvos restaurant.
At the event, Molyvos chef/partner Botsacos, in his crisp kitchen whites, and author Kremezi, sporting a bright green silk wrap, chatted like old friends, which they are. Journalists, publishing professionals and other foodies made frequent returns to the buffet.
Botsacos recalled the lessons the knowledgeable food writer gave him in her own kitchen before award-winning Molyvos opened 12 years ago. He says of Kremezi: “She has exposed me to all types of Greek food throughout the different regions of Greece, which has greatly influenced my food and my cooking at Molyvos.”
Kremezi is a food writer, journalist, food teacher and photographer based on the island of Kea. In Greece, she is known for her long-running column in Eleftherotypia newspaper’s “E” magazine and for writing cookbooks for over 15 years. She’s carved out a place in North American kitchens too, with English-language cookbooks like The Foods of Greece (winner of a 1994 Julia Child Cookbook Award) and The Foods of the Greek Islands.
Due to Kremezi’s abundant curiosity about and references to food from around the world, it’s no surprise that her new book goes beyond Greek food to embrace the broader region. Mediterranean: Hot and Spicy features recipes from southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The author drew from her travel experiences and recipe trials in writing the book. In an email correspondence from Kea after returning from New York, Kremezi explains: “I also read and researched old and often ancient texts – Greek and Latin – where I came upon descriptions of dishes that are still cooked in the area.”
Are the recipes traditional or “nouveau” in style? “Neither,” Kremezi says, explaining: “They are just my take (the dishes I cook in my home) based on the authentic recipes of the region that I have collected over the years.”
Freedom is a key ingredient in Kremezi’s cooking, according to chef Botsacos. He says: “One of the reasons I enjoy working with her is that she is very open minded, allowing the creativity to blossom. You are not handcuffed to do the food exactly how it was experienced [in the past], which allows you to improve upon a dish and put your own creative spin on something you may have experienced.”
But what is it that unites Mediterranean cuisine, according to Kremezi? “The ingredients,” the no-nonsense author believes. She elaborates: “Mediterranean cooking is ingredient-based (not based on technique, like the French).” Sections of the book focus on the region’s unique spices and sauces.
Greek cuisine, unsurprisingly, has a strong presence in the cookbook. Kremezi explains, “There are Greek recipes in all the chapters, inevitably, as I learned to cook from my mother.”
However, Kremezi underlines that national borders are not absolute when it comes to food. “Just bear in mind,” she says, “that there is not one, but several (regional) Italian cuisines, and the same applies to Greek cooking. I am sure Americans will feel closer to the cuisine of northern Italy (that uses butter, cream etc.) than that of the south that is based in olive oil. We Greeks are certainly closer to the cooking of the Italian south.”
Kremezi’s U.S. tour also included a cooking demonstration at Loaves and Fishes in Bridgehampton, NY and book signings at five locations of the Central Market food shops in Texas.
Mediterranean: Hot and Spicy (Broadway, 240 pages) is available in bookstores and at Amazon.com. On the Web visit: www.aglaiakremezi.com.

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