“Cooking with Loula: Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours.” By Alexandra Stratou (Artisan Books, $29.95).
With this sweet and soulful book, Athens native Alexandra Stratou pays homage to Loula, the woman who cooked for her Greek family for three generations, and to her grandmother, who gathered the family every Sunday for long, lovingly prepared lunches.
Interspersed with poems, beautifully photographed and artfully designed, “Cooking with Loula” is a food memoir laced with standards of the Greek repertoire — spanakopita, baklava, dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves). Yet it is also alive with recipes that are personal and idiosyncratic: pork with celeriac, “accordion” potatoes, chestnut pavlova and sweet-savory Christmas stuffing studded with turkey liver, raisins, prunes, chestnuts and pine nuts.
Stratou studied at Brown University, went to cooking school in San Sebastian, Spain, and, sensing that her beloved Loula’s time was short, set about to record her recipes before they were lost.
In remembering her family traditions — the chocolate layer cake her mother made on her birthday, her father’s roast suckling pigs, the Easter sweets and breads — Stratou examines time through a philosophical lens: “Cooking is intricately connected to time; it is about the total time you need to go from start to finish, but also what you do with the time that’s in between.”
While there are instructions here for the likes of long-simmered beef stew, stuffed tomatoes and peppers, and chicken pie, what I long to try this summer are the simple salads and the cooling dips. Give me roasted-eggplant puree, pita chips, a glass of wine and this book.