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Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis... A Memoir & a Cookbook for Memoir Mondays!

A Memoir and a Cookbook all rolled up in one!

Sit down to eat with Michael Psilakis & his Family! You won't be sorry!

A rising star in the food world, Michael Psilakis is co-owner of a growing empire of modern Mediterranean restaurants, and one of the most exciting young chefs in America today. In How to Roast a Lamb, the self-taught chef offers recipes from his restaurants and his home in this, his much-anticipated first cookbook.

Ten chapters provide colorful and heartfelt personal essays that lead into thematically related recipes. Gorgeous color photography accompanies many of the recipes throughout. Psilakis's cooking utilizes the fresh, naturally healthful ingredients of the Mediterranean augmented by techniques that define New American cuisine. Home cooks who have gravitated toward Italian cookbooks for the simple, user-friendly dishes, satisfying flavors, and comfortable, family-oriented meals, will welcome Psilakis's approach to Greek food, which is similarly healthful, affordable, and satisfying to share any night of the week.

How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis is GORGEOUS! It's a big wonderful oversize cookbook with beautiful colorful photos, a large selection of recipes that are well detailed for even a beginning cook, and interspersed among the recipes are anecdotes, suggestions & tips, with a wonderful story of his family at the beginning of each "chapter". And it's a memoir, a book filled with stories of Michael Psilakis' family and how his recipes are related! A cookbook is a bit unusual to characterize as a memoir, but I enjoyed reading the stories in between the recipes so much! As Michael writes in the beginning of the book,

"This cookbook is at once a collection of recipes and a collection of reminiscences. They illuminate the years that would stand as the building blocks for my growth from boy to man and ultimately to chef... Without this foundation, I would be unable to experience the bliss of standing behind a stove and creating dishes that express my emotions in much the same way as a poet, painter, or musician might."

And Michael Psilakis is hot... what I mean is he's a new and upcoming chef that is all over the internet and was even invited to cook at the White House. Here's a LINK to a video of Michael making a simple garden Grecian Salad at his restaurant Anthos.

And now onto my Greek experience...

As I opened How to Roast a Lamb and started reading I didn't feel intimidated, but invited. Michael says a little something about the recipe before giving you the ingredients and the "how to's". I have never cooked Greek food before, but I love to cook and am up for trying new foods. I am far from a professional cook, so I like recipes that aren't necessarily easy, but I need good directions. All this I found in Michael Psilakis' cookbook How to Roast a Lamb. Michael's childhood is a big part of his cooking. The family stories drift into the recipes as we turn the pages and not only read about the wonderful food, but the close Psilakis family. The recipes are arranged by his stories, so that you are reading through the cookbook to discover tasty recipes. The back of the book is arranged more conventionally, so you can easily look for a chicken recipe, soup recipe, etc. The beginning of the book describes some of the common ingredients in Greek cooking , such as Greek oregano, which has a "very different flavor from the usual oregano", or whenever yogurt is called for in a recipe it is for Greek yogurt, which is a thick yogurt. And then we are introduced to Michael's family. Wonderful family photographs pepper the pages as we read along and are welcomed into the Psilakis kitchen. And while I learned about Michael Psilakis family I also learned about Greek cooking...

"When my father was a boy growing up in Crete, hunting wasn't about sport. It was the difference between meat on the table and going without."

That quote made me realize about the variety of foods in Greek cooking... you hunted what was available... and so in How to Roast a Lamb there are recipes for chicken, and pork, and Tuna, but also Quail, Rabbit and Pheasant.

To try out the recipes, I chose Souvlaki: Chicken Shish Kebab (Kotopoulo Souvlaki) with Ladolemono sauce, and a side of Spinach Rice (Spanakorizo)...

*First I learned how to Brine the Chicken... very easy, just cut up the chicken, make the brine, which is 4 ingredients, and put it all together overnight in the refrigerator.

*Next day I rinsed off the Brine from the chicken and made an incredibly wonderful smelling marinade with fresh herbs, garlic and shallots. I laced the brine free chicken pieces onto skewers and rested it in the marinade. The chicken needed to be in the marinade a minimum of 4 hours, but I did it for the full 12 hours (overnight)...

Next afternoon, I took the chicken out of the marinade, let it get to room temp before grilling. (my DH's job). In the meantime I made a long grain rice in one pot and the spinach with garlic, shallots and seasonings in a large skillet... Within 20 minutes, I combined the rice and spinach, I made the Ladolemono sauce, which is like a salad dressing, and when the grilling was done I poured the sauce over the chicken before serving with the spinach rice. The results were incredibly delish! It was easy and it made the whole kitchen smell great! Now I took a couple of days to brine and marinade the chicken, but really this could have been done overnight and 4 hours the next morning. Brining the chicken the night before, taking it out in the morning, rinsing it off and putting in the marinade before going to work and grilling it that night would have been just as good. I had the luxury of a few days off and worked it around my schedule. This would also make a great meal for the book club... (it is National Reading Group Month!)

If you love to cook, if you'd like to give Greek cooking a try, and you love a good story, give How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis a try! You won't be disappointed! It's a wonderful memoir along with wonderful easy recipes! Beef stew, rabbit stew, stuffed peppers, Eggplant dishes, Egg-Lemon soup, Shrimp dishes, sauces, spreads and a whole book full of other wonderful dishes to explore! Would you like to take a peek at the inside of the book? Here's a LINK to Hachette Book Groups site where you can read an excerpt, and learn more about the author Michael Psilakis.

Have you made any Greek food? Or what kind of Greek foods do you like? Share your favorites here! I'm learning there's more to Greek food that Feta Cheese & Baklava!

I want to Thank Anna of Hachette Book Group for sending me the review copy! Thank you Anna! (My husband thanks you too!) It was a wonderful (and delicious!) treat!


mrsshukra said...

I haven't tried cooking Greek food but I love lamb gyros!

Suzanne Yester said...

I love Gyros too! My Greek cuisine was limited to wonderful Greek salads and gyros... of course Baklava! This is a great cookbook though and now I can actually say I've cooked Greek! I look forward to some other great dishes in here too! My Brother loves the Egg Lemon soup, now I can make it!

Heidi V said...

This would be a great present for my friend, she loves Gyros, and the fine pastries my Father in Law makes.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Heidi!
This is one of those wonderful "gift" cookbooks! The size of a coffee table book.... No pastries in the book though....

Harvee said...

I love Greek food. This book sounds like a gem.

Cath said...

I am very intrigued by the memoir aspect of this book. And the picture on the cover (swoon!)

Unknown said...

nice article - this looks great. I plan on making some of these recipes for the food & cooking website that I run, I would love for you to check it out.

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