Just last month I was in Greece and even though I was there for a a mere 12 days, I squeezed in all the activities I could: seeing family and friends, visiting markets, trying out new eateries and…making new friends. One of the new friends I made was Vefa Alexiadou – the Julia Child of Greek cuisine. I was supposed to see Vefa in Detroit back in April but couldn’t make it but promised to meet up with her on my next visit to Greece.
Vefa Alexiadou began publishing cookbooks in 1980, she’s written and published 11 best selling cookbooks, 4 of which are in English and 1 is printed in 7 languages! Her books have sold more than 5 million copies in Greece and abroad. Vefa has appeared on Greek TV since 1990 and she later established ‘Vefa’s House”, a franchise chain of stores that sell kitchenware throughout Greece.
Vefa’s Kitchen was released a couple of years ago in the English-speaking world, offering a concise recipe collection from all of Greece’s regions (and Cyprus) and I was beaming when I saw her appear on the Martha Stewart Show. Vefa and I had an informal coffee and chat at the café of of the Asterias Hotel in Panorama – overlooking the Thermaic Gulf and Thessaloniki. We chatted about food, favourite dishes, recipe development and top of everybody’s mind – the Greek economy.
It was an honour to sit and chat with Vefa and I was moved when she went out of her way to give me a copy of her re-released cookbook, “Greek Cuisine”. This book has updated photos, some of the recipes are in Vefa’s Kitchen but it’s a worthy buy with 375 recipes inside! One of the recipes is a quick and easy meze (appetizer) that’s perfect for the summer grilling season. We’re talking gas or charcoal grill, whole shrimp, quick and perfect for Ouzo on ice.
This recipe was inspired by one of Vefa’s in the book and I’m sure she’ll approve. I’ve blended mustard and honey, some Boukovo (chilli flakes), citrus, garlic and a touch of earthy cumin seeds – just enough to give the shrimp some warm bottom end to play with the honey, mustard and the shrimp’s natural sweetness.
When available, I like whole shrimp – head, tail and even the shells still on them! No, I do not eat the vein (intestine) and nor should you. Here, I’m deveining the shrimp by curving the shrimp in its natural C-shape and if you look closer you’ll see the vein just beneath the flesh. Take a toothpick and insert it center of the tail and pull up the vein. The whole vein will come out of the shrimp and you’ve kept the shape of the shrimp without slicing open the tail (see slide show below).
Grilled Shrimp With Mustard & Honey (Γαριδες στη Σχαρα με Μουσταρδα & Μελι)
(makes an appetizer for 4)
1 lb. of medium-sized shrimp, deveined
1/4 cup Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. of lemon juice
2 tsp. of good mustard
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. of Boukovo (chilli flakes)
1 tsp. of cumin seeds, coarsely ground
2 Tbsp. of honey
1 tsp. sea salt
- If your shrimp are frozen, thaw overnight in your fridge. Peel and devein your shrimp by either running your knife along the back of the shrimp to show the vein or try the toothpick method. Leave the tails on.
- Mix all the ingredients (except for the salt) in a bowl, reserving half of the marinade to baste or drizzle on the shrimp when they are plated. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature before grilling.
- Pre-heat your grill to a high heat. Brush the grill surface and wipe with an oiled towel (so your shrimp doesn’t stick). Season both sides of your shrimp with salt and if you wish, you may afix them on skewers (no need to soak the skewers as the shrimp cook very quickly).
- Grill for 1-2 minutes on each side or until pink and arrange on a platter. Drizzle or brush the reserved marinade and drizzle or brush on top. Serve on a bed of grilled asparagus and wedges of lemon and serve with Ouzo on ice.
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