>>READ: Pano the Younger teaches dining legend father: A cookbook can be done
The book thoughtfully focuses on meze (Kyma always has at least 25 of the small dishes on the menu) and mains, with explanatory material on essential elements that define the restaurant experience: octopus, whole fish, Greek wine, simple sweets.
And it has recipes for cooks at every level. You can make a meal off spreads and pita alone -- or chef it up with Calamari “Pasta” with Saffron Yogurt and Watermelon and Feta Salad. The latter dish transcends the commonplace by adding small scoops of watermelon sorbet and a scattering of edible flowers.
Along with his signature seafood, Karatassos finds room for many variations of Greek staples: There’s phyllo and lamb and eggplant and grape leaves. Both the meze and the entrée chapters have vegetarian sections, too.
Karatassos remembers going into his Greek aunts’ pantries for pickled octopus; here he tells you how to preserve them three ways in jars, then add them to salads, grill them, or braise them. If octopus is not your thing, how about Lamb Meatballs with White Bean Stew and Preserved Lemon Yogurt? Or Roast Chicken with Warm Potato-Tomato Salad?
Little Greek Doughnuts are among the dessert recipes in "Modern Greek Cooking." Photo credit: Francesco Tonelli
Desserts range from homespun Yogurt with Honey and Candied Kumquats to Phyllo-Wrapped Banana with Flourless Chocolate Cake. The chef’s walnut-sprinkled, honey-drizzled Little Greek Doughnuts don’t seem difficult to make, and they are irresistible. (I know, I’ve had them.)
This deeply personal cookbook will appeal to fans of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and Kyma in particular. For students of meze, seafood cookery and Greek food and wine in general, it is essential reading.
From Atlanta to Greece and back again, it describes the remarkable odyssey of a chef who in service to his heritage and family business has kept a rather quiet profile. But Karatassos is not without ambition: His first cookbook is a testament to that.
He's the third Atlanta chef to produce a first cookbook this year. Eddie Hernandez wrote of being a Mexican chef who was born again in the South. Todd Richards upended stereotypes about African-American cuisine. Now Karatassos describes how a chef can use his European birthright in a modern context, how he brought the bright sunny flavors of the Aegean home to Atlanta.
“Modern Greek Cooking” will tantalize the senses and put you in the mood for a Greek feast.
“Modern Greek Cooking: 100 Recipes for Meze, Entrees, and Desserts” by Pano Karatassos (Rizzoli, $37.50)
Pano the Younger teaches dining legend father: A cookbook can be done
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Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock)