I dream of running away to the Greek islands. Aglaia Kremezi and her husband Costas Moraitis actually did it. They left Athens in 2001 for the idyllic island of Kea, in the Cyclades and never looked back. If I ever get to Kea, I may never leave, either, especially knowing I’d be near Aglaia, cookbook author, cooking instructor, host of Kea Artisanal Cooking School and — though we’ve never met in person — my culinary soul sister.
Aglaia’s dishes sing with lemon, garlic, olive oil, the freshest thyme, oregano, mint, fruits and vegetables, often harvested from around her home. They come from a “rich, frugal, vegetarian legacy,” as she writes in Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, “perfected over centuries by resourceful cooks all over the Mediterranean.”
Sure, there’s a recipe for classic Greek moussaka, but Aglaia also presents an array of dishes you might not find anywhere but Kea, including tahini cookies and hortopsomo, somewhere between crustless pie and a plant-based quiche, stuffed with greens and herbs. This cuisine, rooted in terroir and tradition, makes me swoony and happy. So does Aglaia’s fuss-free approach in the kitchen. If your pie doesn’t come out Instagram perfect, “it doesn’t matter,” she says. What matters is honoring the purity of ingredients.
I couldn’t ask for a better grande finale to Mediterranean Diet Month. We tend to link the idea of diet with deprivation, but it comes from diaita,a Greek term referring to a centuries-old way of living, of being in tune with nature at its most delicious. If Aglaia’s recipes mean austerity, bring it on.
For those of us who can’t run away to Kea, she has some advice: “You cannot go wrong with olive oil. Add a little kick with red pepper flakes.” It’s not Kea, but it’ll bring you closer.
- 2 bunches scallions white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
- 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chopped dill
- 2 cups chopped tender greens: outer leaves of lettuce spinach or chard. Use tender foraged greens, if available.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal or more as needed
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- About 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup chopped chervil
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup pine nuts optional
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- In a large bowl toss together the scallions, parsley, dill and greens. Add the salt and ‘knead’ the mixture to wilt and soften the greens. Their volume will reduce considerably.
- In a small bowl mix 1-1/2 cups cornmeal with the water and add to the green-herb mixture. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, the mint and chervil and1/2 -1 teaspoon pepper and toss well to mix.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush generously with olive oil. Scatter the pine nuts on the paper, if you are using them, and then carefully spread the mixture, making sure that it is not thicker than 2/3 of an inch.
- Mix 1/2 cup cornmeal with 1/2 cup warm water and spread over the greens. You may need a bit more cornmeal slurry to almost cover the greens. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes, or more, until set and lightly golden.
- Let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.