Having started the past six months having never heard of Tessa Kiros, it's a surprise to find that she is my favorite I Heart Cooking Clubs featured chef so far. Sure, I look forward to the next chef, Rick Bayless. But it's a sad thing to say goodbye to Tessa.
While I liked Twelve by Tessa Kiros and tried a few recipes from Apples for Jam, it's Food From Many Greek Kitchens that has been the star of the past 6 months. This has become one of my favorite cookbooks--I'm crazy about it! It has a prominent spot on the shelf right above my kitchen prep area. A fantastic book. Beautiful pictures of Greece, lovely personal stories from the author, and (most importantly) wonderful, exciting food. If you have even the smallest desire to test out some Greek recipes, Food From Many Greek Kitchens would be an excellent pick.
For the last round with Tessa Kiros (although I'm going to continue cooking her recipes), I decided to go wild and do something completely insane. Cook eggplant. Eggplant, the bane of my childhood. The bitter, mushy-mush that had to be eaten before I could even look at dessert. The Husband feels even more ill will towards eggplant than I do. We've decided it's pretty good grilled, but that's about as far as we go.
Enter weird child. Who first tried eggplant simply because it grows in grandpa's garden. Who asks my mom to send leftover eggplant dressing home with him. Who convinced me to plant eggplant this year. Figured I'd suck it up (or choke it down as the case may be) and make Kiros' Papoutsakia, or "Small Shoes" (stuffed eggplant) for him.
Truth: this takes a while to prepare and has multiple steps and cooling off periods. I started to wonder if it would be worth the trouble. But The Boy loved it--thought it was great. The Husband and I also liked it and were pretty darn surprised by this dish.
There have been so many winning recipes during our time with Tessa Kiros. I tried 28 recipes (not all were posted due to time and either missing or poor quality images). I can't limit myself to a Top 5. How 'bout a Top 8?
Kebabs: Even though they look a little questionable when they come off the grill, that didn't stop all of us from hurting ourselves on this. We liked them with hummus and feta inside Tessa'a homemade pita.
Pita: Simply the best pita recipe I've ever tried. For realz.
Along with the pita above, would be The Husband's favorite over the past 6 months: Baked Feta. When I make this for him...putty, yall.
Patates Tiganites with Alatopiperigano (French Fries with Salt, Pepper, and Oregano): I loved the cooking method for these fries, which made them extra crispy. The Alatopiperigano added something interesting.
Chicken alla Pizzaiola: This one starts with an excellent homemade garlicky tomato sauce that is useful in so many dishes. With the sauce made ahead of time, Kiros' Pizza Chicken (as The Boy called it) was a great week-night meal. Simple ingredients that deliver big flavor.
Penne alla Senese (Penne w/ Sausage, Walnuts, and Cream): Bacon, brandy, Italian sausage, and pecans. A great Fall dish. But memorable enough to want to eat year-round. I still think about this dish.
Garides Saganaki (Shrimp w/ Tomato & Feta): Spectacular sauce that is slightly creamy from the feta. This was easy/quick enough for a weeknight. Also good tossed with pasta.
Revithada (Baked Chickpeas): Creamy with some sweetness from the slow-baked onions and a shot of lemon at the end...very simple, but very good.
Oh what the heck! You've read this far. You deserve dessert.
Apple Cake w/ Toffee Topping: What happens when apple pie, apple cobbler, and apple cake get cozy in the oven? This bit of bliss...
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Papoutsakia, or "Small Shoes" (stuffed eggplant)
from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros
4 long eggplants, all similar in size and shape
about 1/2 c olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c red wine
2 14-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 c chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper
for the bechamel:
3 Tbsp butter
7 Tbsp flour
10.5 oz warm milk
1 large pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp shredded kefalotiri (I used fresh mozzarella)
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and the cut surfaces sprinkle with salt. Leave them upside down in a colander for about half an hour to drain. Drizzle some olive oil into a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add half of the eggplant. Fry until deeply golden and soft on both sides. Remove and fry the remaining eggplants. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving about a 1/4" border. Chop the flesh and set aside. Wipe out the skillet. Add 3 Tbsp olive oil and saute the onion until golden. add the beef and cook until browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Next, add the wine and let it simmer a minute or two. Add 1 can of tomatoes and the parsley. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until thickened. Add the chopped eggplant and simmer for another 10-12 minutes until most of the liquid is gone.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make the bechamel by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the milk, removing all lumps. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. whisk until thick.
Empty the remaining can of tomatoes to the bottom of a large baking dish. Place the eggplant halves over the tomatoes, cut side up, and sprinkle with salt. Divide the beef mixture evenly among the eggplant halves. Spoon the bechamel evenly over the eggplants, top each with cheese, and pour about 1/2 cup water around them. Bake about 30 minutes, until golden on top.
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