I keep thinking about Greek food. Lots of rich tomato sauce, fresh chopped origanum, thick yellowy bechamel. Garlicky lamb.Moussaka. And there I stick because I donít know anything more about Greek herbs and sauces.
Itís not very trendy, rib-sticking food but I loved it so in the 1980s. And it is having a revival in New York but that doesnít help me. I see from the restaurant review that Molyvos on Seventh Avenue serves scallops with panko, a delicate and crisp Japanese crumb. They shun ground beef in moussaka. Is it Greek at all? But then the Greeks wanted their food less Turkish in 1920, took out the flavours of the Ottoman Empire and introduced French techniques and ingredients, notably bechamel.
What I might make over this Easter, to accompany the lamb, is skordalia, that potato purť with garluc, very slowly baked in a medium oven. I seem to recall it has cream as well, but I donít know I want it so rich. Years ago I knew a zoologist with a girlfriend named Marian who made Greek dishes, including skordalia, in the pinched and nasty kitchen of a shabby ground-floor flat near the Bible Institute in Kalk Bay. Marion made us an earthenware jug of this creamy pungent skordalia while her husband smoked a pipe and told rather desperately unfunny drunken jokes. Very few of us as post-grad vegetarian-inclined students could cook anything more exotic than lentil cutlets, so her dishes seemed both sophisticated and exceptionally delicious. The marriage ended soon after, in mutual accusations of alcoholism and stinginess. When I read one of the biographies of the young Elizabeth David stranded on a lonely Greek island during World War II, making Christmas pudding for eager peasants and watching for Nazi U-boats, I thought of Marian. Difficult circumstances, inspired cooking.