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How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking    by Michael Psilakis & Barbara Kafka order for
How to Roast a Lamb
by Michael Psilakis
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

'Greek-American culinary star Michael Psilakis has made a career of straddling two worlds - staying true to the spirit of traditional Greek cooking while exhibiting an American verve for breaking boundaries.'

So says the flyleaf of Psilakis' wonderfully inspiring cookbook How to Roast a Lamb. Did I mention this beautiful book's mouthwatering photographs will have the reader running to the kitchen to haul out the pots and pans and calling friends, relatives and neighbors to come celebrate a new and exciting fusion of Greek and American cooking? Not only will you learn how to roast a lamb but also how to cook goat.

A plethora of recipes reflects the chef's interest in his childhood cuisine as well as in testing these techniques on American tastebuds, attuned to their own early eating habits. We Americans like to think we are eclectic and many have at least tried one of Psilakis' four restaurants in New York and Eos at the Viceroy Hotel in Miami. He is the first outside chef to be invited by the Obamas to cook at the White House. High honor, indeed. The New Yorker says, 'Michael Psilakis is the Greek-American Mario Batali.' But comparisons are odious. Michael Psilakis stands alone.

But on to some of the recipes. What a tresuare trove from which to choose. Beef Stew with Leeks sounds like a hearty and welcome winter dish. While I was in Greece, I dined frequently on shish kabob. Delicious. The chef offers Souvlaki: Chicken and Pork Shish Kabob which will saisfy my yearning for this traditional Greek dish. I have never tasted Dumplings with Sausage, Dandelion Greens, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Pine Nuts, but am more than willing to give them a try. Sounds delicious.

I should mention here that interspersed between the recipes are reminiscences of Psilakis' childhood, including a mention of the way he does his father honor by doing the best he can. Especially enchanting are pictures of the women in the family dressed in their traditional Greek dancing costumes. The family photos made me think of my own old ones, and I have resolved to get them out to share with my children and grandchildren.

Michael says that one of the first dishes he ever cooked was his mother's quick-fix meal of Potatoes, Egg, Tomato & Peppers. The Potato and String Bean Salad appeals to my desire for color on my plate as well as good food. This fits the bill. My nephew in-law owns a meat packing family-run business supplying lamb and goat to restaurants. I can think of no finer dish than Grilled Lamb Chops. Painting the chops with Roasted Lemon Puree is a new idea for me, but I plan to try it.

Just wait 'til you see the photo of the Lamb Burger. Wow! And if you've never tried goat, now is the time. Can't knock it unless you've tried it. Open Goat Moussaka would be a good introduction. The photo is a work of culinary art. Has to taste good too. Potatoes, Olives & Capers with Anchovy Vinaigrette would go well with any dish but especially well with the burger. But that's my taste. For a seafood dish, try the Shrimp with Orzo & Tomato. Another beautiful presentation.

I could go on and on. But this has to end somewhere. Take it from me; How to Roast a Lamb is a worthwhile cookbook to add to your collection - or possibly to someone else's. Christmas is almost upon us.

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