Author's diverse background makes for exciting cuisine

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Readers of this column already know that I love any cookbook written by Tessa Kiros. With a Greek-Cypriot father, a Finnish mother and a Russian great-great grandmother, London-born Tessa Kiros was born into a family with diverse culinary backgrounds. When Kiros was four years old, she moved with her family to South Africa and when she was 18, began traveling to learn about the cuisines and cultures of other places such as Australia, Greece and Mexico. Kiros' experiences come to life through her cookbooks' recipes and through the numerous reminiscences about the people and places she cares for. All of Kiros' cookbooks, "Twelve," "Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes," "Apples for Jam," "Piri Piri Starfish," Venezia: Food and Dreams" and the soon to be released "Food from Many Greek Kitchens" contains the brilliant photography of Manos Chatzikonstantis. The photographs are as inspiring as they are beautiful and it's easy to get lost in them again, and again and again. If you embark on any of Kiros' recipes, do purchase the freshest ingredients possible, especially as it relates to the produce. With many foods coming into season, check your neighborhood farm stand first. It's fun giving local food a foreign flare and Kiros' recipes can get you started, fast.

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Photo  By Manos Chatzikonstantis.
Photo By Manos Chatzikonstantis.
"This is the way my friend Annette makes her beet salad. I love the colors here. And its freshness, even though it looks mayonnaisy, it's a surprise to remember that it s actually much lighter than it looks." - Tessa Kiros, "Food From Many Greek Kitchens."

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com

Beets with Yogurt and Pistachios

With permission, from "Food from Many Greek Kitchens," by Tessa Kiros/Andrews McMeel Publishing (www.andrewsmcmeel.com); photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis. ("Food from Many Greek Kitchens" is scheduled for release on June 14).

"This is wonderful with fresh, roasted beets, or you can also use canned beets, in which case it will only take a second to put together. If you are using fresh ones and they have leaves, you can boil those too for a few minutes and dress them with olive oil to serve. If using fresh, cut the leaves well above the bulb so that they don't bleed." -- Tessa Kiros

1 pound (7 ounces) beets (about 4 beets) leaves trimmed, or 1(1 pound-2 ounce) can of beets

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 1/3 cups Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the (fresh) beets well, being careful not to pierce their skins. Wrap each fresh beet individually in aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour, until tender when tested with a sharp knife. Whip the oil lightly in a bowl with the lemon juice and garlic. Wearing kitchen gloves, peel the beets. Trim away the root and cut them into nice chunks. If you are using canned beets, rinse if necessary, trim away any tough end bits and cut into chunks. Put in a bowl. Add the lemon oil, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add the yogurt and mix gently. Scatter the pistachio nuts on top and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Asparagus & Scampi Risotto

From "Venezia: Food & Dreams," by Tessa Kiros/Andrews McMeel Publishing (www.andrewsmcmeel.com), 2009; photographs by Manos Chatzikonstantis.

12 to 16 scampi (red-claw, langoustines, or large shrimps)

Brodo (stock)

1 large carrot

1/2 onion

1 bay leaf

A few peppercorns

13 ounces (about 19) asparagus spears

1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 tablespoon cognac

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

To make the brodo, peel and clean the scampi and cut each one in half down the middle. Set the meat aside for the moment, but rinse the heads and shells, and put them in a pot with 6 cups of water, the carrot, onion, bay leaf, peppercorn and some salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and keep the broth hot. Discard the woody ends from the asparagus and cut off the tips. Put the tips aside and chop the stems. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan and saut the onion until well softened. Add the chopped asparagus and saut briefly.

Add the rice, turning it through so that it is well coated with oil. Add the white wine and let it bubble up until much of it has evaporated. Add 2 cups of broth, stir well and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until almost of it has been absorbed. Add another 2 cups of broth, stir, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. (Add another 1/2 cup of broth if you want a creamier risotto.)

When the risotto is almost ready, heat the remaining oil in a small skillet, add the scampi and asparagus tips, and cook over high heat for 2 minutes, turning the scampi over when they have a pale golden crust underneath. Add the cognac, stand back and ignite the skillet. Add a little salt and toss it all together, then take off the heat. Stir the butter and Parmesan into the risotto, then tip the scampi and asparagus tips into the risotto. Add salt if needed, quickly toss it all through and serve immediately with ground black pepper.

Serves 4

Sipi's Strawberry Cake

With permission, from "Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes," by Tessa Kiros/Andrews McMeel Publishing (www.andresmcmeel.com), 2009; photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis.

"The Finns are crazy about strawberries and my mother's kitchen is always full of them. This is the cake my mother still makes for a celebration. It is so lovely; really pure and pretty, just like the Finns." - Tessa Kiros

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

3/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

3/4 cup warm milk

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 pounds (5 cups) whole strawberries

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

3 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8- 1/2 -inch springform pan or Bundt pan. Put the flour and sugar in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the baking powder. Mix in the butter and then stir in the milk. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat in well. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, incorporating the rest of the baking powder when the eggs have started fluffing up. Fold the whites into the cake mixture. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is deep golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a bit before turning out onto a rack. When cool, slice the cake in half horizontally and put the bottom half on a large serving plate. Clean the strawberries and hull them (leave a few unhulled, if you prefer to see them that way on top of the cake). Dice about half the strawberries and sprinkle with a little lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the icing sugar. Whip the cream into stiff peaks with the remaining confectioners' sugar. Mix the diced strawberries with about a third of the whipped cream and spoon over the bottom of the cake. Put the other half of the cake on top and thickly spoon the remaining cream over the top and side, then decorate with the rest of the strawberries. This is best eaten immediately. Any leftovers will keep for a day in the refrigerator. Serves 8 to 10.



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