From “Cooking to Share” to “Cooking With Loula”

Cooking with LoulaI’m patting myself on the back for recognizing early on that Athens native  Alexandra Stratou’s Kickstarter campaign title, Cooking To Share, was a winner. That original self-published edition (she raised almost $40,000!) is worth almost double now, and I treasure my copy, which has some unusual graphic and binding touches.

But now, just as I’d hoped, a major publisher, Artisan, has picked it up and republished it, now titled Cooking With Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours. There’s even a cover blurb from Alice Waters complementing Stratou on her soulful and imaginative approach.

Loula, who passed away just as the book was completed, cooked for the author’s family for three generations, sharing not just recipes but also the spirit of love that she brought into the family kitchen. Some of the dishes in the book are traditional, and others are updated. Some are everyday and others for special occasions.

Stratou’s stories and commentary throughout make this a charming book and a great gift for those who love to cook, or who just love to read the stories we tell about family and food. It would make a nice hostess gift for summer too, thanks to a substantial section devoted to summer holidays. Other sections cover stocking your pantry, seasonal foods, and menu planning.

Here’s a potato salad recipe from the book, from the author’s mother, Charlotte. The recipe is dead simple, but it does call for home made mayonnaise (recipe also below), which will elevate it greatly. I used to make my own all the time, even hand beating it when camped in the woods one summer many, many years ago. If you do make your own, be sure to use eggs from a trusted source since they are not cooked. And use the mayonnaise within a couple days.

Charlotte’s Potato Salad

8 medium to large potatoes

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

9 ounces feta cheese

1 small onion, sliced in half moons

1 recipe mayonnaise (from Essential Recipes section of book, see below)

1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

Boil the whole, unpeeled potatoes in well-salted water till fork-tender. Drain well. Once just cool enough to handle, peel and cut into about six pieces each, making sure they are all around the same size.

Place the potatoes and quartered eggs into a serving bowl. Crumble over the feta and add the onion, mayonnaise, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss together and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary. Place in the fridge to cool for 1 hour before serving.

Mayonnaise

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt

3/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups sunflower oil

Pepper (optional)

Combine the egg and the yolk in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your food processor. Add the mustard, vinegar, some salt and give it a mix.

Mix the oils together and start adding it to the egg mixture in a slow and steady stream while mixing. The mayonnaise should start thickening as it incorporates the oil. Stop adding oil if you see that it needs some time to absorb it. Generally, mayonnaise can absorb large amounts of oil though if it reaches saturation it will cut.*

Once you’ve stopped adding oil, taste the mayonnaise and adjust the salt. Season with pepper, if desired, but keep in mind that you’ll see the black specks of pepper in your mayonnaise.

*Cut means to separate. If this happens, break another egg into a separate bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the separated mayonnaise and beta it well. Then slowly add the rest of the separated mayonnaise to the bowl.

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