Live to Eat: Cooking the Mediterranean Way
Books in the Mediterranean cooking genre are a dime a dozen. The Mediterranean is a big place. In it are numerous cuisines of many different derivations. Too many at best mediocre books are a result.
Michael Psilakis knows his stuff and has the good sense to not try to proselytize about all Mediterranean food in one book, an impossible feat. In this book he shows his professionalism, good taste, and common sense.
He has produced a book using simple, basic, and readily available ingredients to show how one can organize and set up a transparent system to be able to prepare family meals quickly that taste good.
Any professional chef knows the expression “Mis en place”—everything in its place. Psilakis uses it here to show how to prep specific, basic ingredients ahead—he calls them the “Magnificent Seven”—that can be kept fresh or frozen and later used in numerous variations.
He uses basics such as good yogurt, roasted tomatoes, garlic confit, red wine vinaigrette, etc. as staples that prepared in advance can quickly make a meal.
He covers a few basic tips on technique that are easy for the home cook to understand.
Good yogurt is of course an important item, and he offers numerous recipes that use it in variations.
Some examples are Chipotle yogurt sauce, which can be used for a number of very nice dishes such as grilled chicken sandwiches, tuna melts, Greek turkey burgers, salmon sushi, spicy roasted salmon, and more.
He uses these basic preparations to make an interesting combination of dishes, blending ideas and influences from other ethnic cuisines—Asian, Greek, Mexican.
The book is well organized and easy to use. This is no chef’s ego trip.
Several recipes were tested and they all work well.
A fine example is Pan-Roasted Chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. This one-page recipe uses two of his basic preparations (garlic confit and a basic tomato sauce). Psilakis explains how to vary it by using other meats such as pork or beef.
The lagniappe here is once the cook learns the basic preparations that can be used in numerous dishes—fish, meat, vegetables, and also simple but good desserts—they can be easily adapted to other dishes.
Recipes are on just one page, most accompanied by excellent full-page color photos. A number of recipes have variations at the bottom of the page, which makes it easy to use as a basis for other dishes.
This is a good book for home cooks, especially those with families. It is not meant to be a challenging cookbook.
Little niggling criticisms: He has perhaps a little too much emphasis on yogurt.
He omits any mention of olive oil. Many Greek olive oils are excellent and can be had at good prices. A simple explanation of this would be good, as many supermarket oils, especially Italian, are not what they say they are.
Some various grains like faro; pastas such as Sardinian fregula; and even trahana, a traditional Greek pasta that is essentially flour kneaded with sour milk, buttermilk, or yogurt and some salt, could possibly have been used in some recipes. It would have been helpful to have more on rice.
Michael Psilakis as a professional chef has bona fides that are unquestioned.
Live to Eat: Cooking the Mediterranean Way is a cookbook that works. Strongly recommended.