Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis

"Chef of the Year."(November 2007 Esquire)
"Best New Chef." (April 2008 Food and Wine)
"Chef of the Year." (October 2008 Bon Appetit)
"New York City goes Greek...but no-one does it as luminously as Michael Psilakis."
(August 2007 Gourmet)"

When you hear praise like that for a rising star in the food world, you just know his first cookbook is going to be a standout! I was looking forward with anticipation to getting my copy of How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis, self trained chef and owner of a growing empire of Mediterranean restaurants.

I've long dreams of visiting Greece and the Greek Isles but my fantasy's always went misty whenever I had to eat. I'll admit my experienced with Greek food has been rather limited to overly dressed salads with feta, olives, and beets in them. Not exactly traditional fare I'm sure, and nothing like the sophisticated Horiatiki Salata with sweet onion, paper-thin fennel, fire-roasted red bell peppers, and fresh herbs that Psilakis serves up.

Reading his cookbook introduced me to authentic Greek cuisine; just as I suspected it's heavy on the seafood. Even though I don't personally care for that, I still really enjoyed his introductions to the recipes:

"Here, the texture of the octopus is faced with the crispness of the apple and the fat of the salami. Then, this tartly acidic vinaigrette makes for an amazing juxtaposition on the palate. Salt, acid, sweet, fat. It's an evolution that happens in your mouth and then telegraphs it's message straight to the brain."

Maybe it's the teacher in me, but learning more about the how and why of cooking has always fascinated me. Gems like that and other tips and insight are sprinkled through out the book. They along with the personal narratives that open each of the ten chapters really let the reader share in the love and passion with which Psilakis cooks.

The 150 easy to prepare, satisfying to share, healthy, and varied recipes in How to Roast a Lamb still provide plenty of choices. The soups like Beef & Rice Meatballs in Egg Lemon Soup sound like they'd be particularily satisfying after a long day. I like how the books is broken into thematic related chapters such as Open Water, The Hunting Trip, and my two favorite chapters Psilakis Birthday Dinners and Kefi-Time to Dance. Stunning color photography of many recipes are throughout the book and make you ready to start planning your own family style Greek meals.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Hachette Book Group, Inc. for providing the reviewer's copy.

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