If haute French cuisine never existed, it’s hard to imagine that we’d ever have come to take the country’s wine as seriously as we do today. It’s in this spirit that Pano Karatassos has come out with Modern Greek Cooking, a collection of 100 recipes from Kyma, his Atlanta paean to his family’s heritage cuisine, each accompanied by recommendations for Greek wines.
While Karatassos grew up in Atlanta, his palate is deeply informed by the meals his grandmother fed him while his parents ran Buckhead Life, a restaurant group now 14 restaurants large. Not one of them was Greek, however, until Karatassos opened Kyma in December 2001. By applying his classical French training as well as tricks he picked up while working at Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges and The French Laundry, he presented Greek cuisine in a fresher, brighter, more modern light—one readily worthy of pairing with fine wine.
Back then, Greek wines were still hard to find in the US; it took his cousin, the Athens-based oenologist Sofia Perpera, to create All About Greek Wine, a coalition of wineries that raised the visibility of the country’s wines exponentially over the next decade. Perpera inspired Kyma’s move to a nearly-all-Greek wine list; she also lends a hand in Modern Greek Cooking, offering wine recommendations for each dish, as well as background information on Greek grapes and regions for anyone who wants to freestyle their wine explorations.
While the book’s recipes are not necessarily easy—their precision and detail reflected in the gorgeous photographs taken by Francesco Tonelli—and Greek wines remain challenging to locate in many parts of the country, the combination gives even the armchair reader a sense of what’s truly modern Greek cuisine today, from presentation to wine. And the adventurous cook will find plenty of stunning, clever recipes that present familiar flavors in completely new contexts, like squid presented in the guise of an olive-strewn spaghetti—that will more than live up to the wine in your glass.
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