A lot of that is quite tasty, as Kremezi highlights in her new release, “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts” ($35, Stewart, Tabori & Chang).
Not all of the recipes are low-calorie — note the copious amounts of olive oil used — but they’re proof that veggies, beans and spices are more versatile than many people realize.
“This is the way I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother,” Kremezi says. Similar preparation techniques are common across the region, which is why she also sprinkles in dishes from Turkey, Lebanon and the Balkans.
No matter what you’re cooking, what matters most is how you treat the ingredients. “Never dump vegetables in the refrigerator and forget about them,” Kremezi says. “Have them ready to finish cooking however you like.” She recommends giving greens attention ASAP: “I will blanch them, steam them, saute them.”
They’ll keep that way for close to a week, ready to be stirred into a soup or piled atop polenta (as in the photo with her recipe, below).
As long as you’re thinking ahead, Kremezi also suggests soaking beans overnight, so they’re ready to be cooked the next day. Canned beans just don’t have the same flavor, she says.
Flavor is paramount to Kremezi, which is why there’s no tofu in the book. As Kremezi says: “It looks like cheese, but when you bite into it, it’s tasteless.”
Kremezi’s American cooking students associate vegetarian dishes with deprivation, so they’re in awe of basic, healthy staples, such as stuffed peppers and green beans with tomato sauce. “They think it’s the most delicious thing they’ve ever tasted, and it’s the simplest thing in the world,” she says.
Aglaia Kremezi will appear at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market.
Braised kale with peppers
1 pound tender kale (about 2 bunches: curly, Italian cavolo nero, Russian or any kind), only the very tough ends discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded, quartered and cut into ½-inch strips
3 scallions, white plus most of the green parts, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup white wine
Good pinch of Maras pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, to taste
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Good, fruity olive oil, for drizzling
Serves 3 to 4
Wash the kale. Chop the stems and set aside, then chop the leaves coarsely.
In a large skillet or saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and saute with the scallions until they start to soften. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, then add the kale stems and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the kale leaves and toss for 1 minute more, then add the wine, Maras pepper and ½ cup water. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the kale is tender.
Stir in the lemon juice (or vinegar) and remove from the heat. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and finish with a drizzle of fruity olive oil.
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