To confuse meze with antipasto or tapas is to miss the point. These small plates of Greek deliciousness come to us from a Mediterranean world of mid-afternoon snacking, drinking, and talking. The pace is leisurely, the content simple, the effect extraordinary. Early on in Meze
Diane Kochilas, award-winning author of The Glorious Foods of Greece
, sets the prototypic meze stage: two village codgers holding down either side of a small table; two glasses and a carafe of raki
between them; a plate with some bread, olives, air-dried anchovies, cucumber sticks, and cheese. They do not sit at the table so much as beside the table, the better to take in the world.
And thus it is with meze. It's not about sitting down to eat as much as being present to exchange ideas, enjoy a glass of wine or spirits, and snack on taste treats that enliven the palate and pull all the threads of the whole into one. Kochilas divides Meze into "Dips, Spreads, and Relishes"; "Savory Salads"; "Small Egg Dishes"; "Phyllo Pies"; "Finger Foods and Fried Treats"; "Vegetable and Bean Mezethes"; "A Sea's Bounty"; "From Meatballs to Kebabs"; and, the "Meze Pantry." She provides sources for ingredients. And she includes enlightening notes on Greek wine and spirits, perfect for serving with these small dishes. She is truly a master of it all and a delight to read. When was the last time you mixed garlicky yogurt with dried apricots, or baked figs with oregano? Put your hand in Kochilas's oven mitt. She'll take you to a new, delicious, life-invigorating territory. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Mezethes (plural of meze, which means middle) are little Mediterranean dishes designed to complement a beverage, tease the tastebuds and encourage diners to linger around a table for good conversation, says Kochilas (The Glorious Foods of Greece), and "variety, playfulness, and surprise" are key to their preparation. Her nicely illustrated cookbook offers 80 meze recipes to pair with ouzo or Greek wines, and shows American home cooks how a varied gathering of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese flavors-olives, anchovies, cured beef, cheese, good bread-can make for a perfect brunch or buffet spread (though, Kochilas is careful to note, a "meze spread is not meant to be a meal, but a nosh"). Her chapters cover culinary themes such as Dips, Spreads and Relishes, Small Egg Dishes, Finger Foods and Fried Treats, and A Sea's Bounty of Mezethes; dishes range from Fluffy Fish-Roe Dip with Ground Almonds (a variant of the classic taramosalata), to Three-Cheese Phyllo Triangles with Onions and Yogurt, to Marinated Panfried Shrimp in the Shell, to Grilled Greek Meat Patties with Chopped Tomatoes, Spicy Yogurt, and Lemon. (Don't let the long names fool you-these dishes are never difficult to prepare.) These piquant, lively foods are "a savory flirtation," and an array of them on a table is a delightful thing.
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