10 Greek And Mediterranean Cookbooks Even Yia Yia Would Cook From

Opa! These books, some vintage and some modern, include recipes that any Greek grandmother worth her sea salt would be proud to present.

It is a grand and noble task to round up Greek and Mediterranean cookbooks that would be approved by a yia yia. In Greece, grandmothers rarely follow step-by-step instructions in the kitchen.

Certainly a woman with a name like Cleopatra Papadakis isn’t going to measure out 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and she certainly isn’t adhering to a “dash” of garlic. No, she’s throwing together spanakopita by memory, and if the rare lapse occurs, she has a stained, sun-damaged piece of paper written in chicken scratch with discombobulated directions.

The following cookbooks are some of the most authentic options for tried-and-true Greek and Mediterranean recipes. All include the standard fare: mezzes like tzatziki or vampire-repellent skordalia (a garlic and potato dip), horiatiki salad (think a Greek “village salad,” which will never have lettuce, so don’t even think about buying some) and more complicated options. There are holiday staples: tsoureki Paschalino (Easter bread) and paidakia (marinated lamb chops).

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“Cooking for Artists” by Mina Stone
Part coffee-table book, part cookbook, "Cooking for Artists" is a New Age take on Greek cuisine but one that even the pickiest of matriarchs would agree with. The fasolakia recipe is one of the best, but make sure to add a heavy dusting of feta on top before even thinking about serving it to anyone of Greek or Mediterranean origin.

Get “Cooking for Artists” for $40.
“Greece: The Cookbook” by Vefa Alexiadou
If amnesia suddenly swept over Yia Yia, this “bible of authentic Greek cooking” would certainly shake her back to her senses. Littered with pictures and plenty of recipes, this is hands-down one of the most genuine and detailed Greek cookbooks on the market. Become an expert at making hummus, avgolemono and kolokithia without feeling overwhelmed.

Get “Greece: The Cookbook” for $47.55.
“Pure Greek Cooking” by Anna Z. Spanos and John Spanos
If vintage cookbooks are your style, feast your eyes on this 1976 masterpiece. If you want to dip your toe into the Greek cuisine, start small. Appetizers, dips and other mezzes will dazzle even the toughest of critics.

Get “Pure Greek Cooking” for $7.37.
“The Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook” By Ozcan Ozan
This is a staple in our family’s kitchen, and rightfully so. Turkish recipes might seem a little different from other Mediterranean options, but "The Sultan’s Kitchen" is a delicious look into another culinary culture that is so closely married to its cuisine. Yogurtlu kebap is one of my favorite recipes: kebabs smothered in pureed tomato sauce with crispy bread strips and a healthy serving of full-fat yogurt and garlic (lovingly referred to as tzatziki).

Get “The Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook” for $19.47.
“Best Book of Greek Cookery” by Chrissa Paradissis
Another oldie but goodie, "The Best Book of Greek Cookery" is a Yia Yia staple with some weirdly described recipes woven in. One Amazon reviewer vouches for its authenticity:

I was born and raised in Greece in a house full of great cooks. Nevertheless, whenever they wanted a recipe for something they never made before, or they made once a year and didn’t know it inside out, they turned to two cookbooks and this was one of them. The translation is a bit 'weird,' probably because like the book it is more than 40 years old and done by someone that did not really speak English, but the recipes are AMAZING. If you want traditional Greek food, this is it.”

Get “The Best Book of Greek Cookery” for $16.95.
“Louis Pappas New Generation Greek Cuisine” by Louis Pappas
There is a neighborhood near Tampa Bay, Florida, known as Tarpon Springs. It has one of the largest gatherings of Greeks outside of Greece. And if you walked around, this tidbit would be very, very obvious -- people named Nick, George and Georgia line the streets.The city was best known for Greek sponge diving, but it is now a nucleus of Greek American culture. A restaurant called Louis Pappas, home of the famous Greek salad (wherein potato salad sits underneath the typical “village salad”), is authentically fresh and delicious. Naturally, it created an impressive cookbook. Originally a coveted pamphlet, the recipes have been upgraded to a hard-cover publication. It can be tough to snag a new one, but there are used ones offered, too.

Get “Louis Pappas New Generation Greek Cuisine” for $93.66.
“The Foods of the Greek Islands: Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean” by Aglaia Kremezi
I would be remiss to omit Aglaia Kremezi from this roundup. Lovingly referred to as “one of Greece’s foremost cooking authorities,” the food writer has an impressive publishing record and runs a successful cooking school on the island of Kea. So it’s safe to say following her recipes and instructions will get you some gold stars in the kitchen or at your next big fat Greek wedding.

Get “The Foods of the Greek Islands: Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean” for $35.85.
“Modern Greek” by Andy Harris
"Modern Greek" is a staple in our household and for good reason. The major players are accounted for while adding some more challenging recipes to up your game. Though this cookbook was published in 2002, everything feels hip and youthful.

Get “Modern Greek (170 Contemporary Recipes From the Mediterranean)” for $10.77.
“Mediterranean: Naturally Nutritious Recipes From the World’s Healthiest Diet” by Susie Theodorou
When Mediterranean cuisine was branded “healthy” and good for longevity, that wasn't counting the fact that copious amounts of retsina and ouzo are served at lunch and dinner, often paired with hand-rolled cigarettes. But, sure, cucumbers and olive oil are good for you. As one reviewer claims, Beautiful to look at, inspiring but simple recipes. Perfect if you want to eat a Mediterranean diet without all the pseudo science blurb surrounding it.”

Get “Mediterranean: Naturally Nutritious Recipes From the World’s Healthiest Diet” for $19.99.
“Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity From the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die: A Cookbook” by Diane Kochilas
“Where people forget to die” is a bold claim, but seeing as my yia yia died at the ripe age of 113, I figure there has to be some truth in such a title. On Ikaria, in between Greece and Turkey in the middle of the Aegean Sea, such recipes would surely impress a yia yia from any region of the Mediterranean. And yet again, the inclusion of fresh ingredients makes for a great meal, but seasonal offerings are the key to truly impressing your guests or, better yet, yourself.

Get “Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity From the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die: A Cookbook” for $22.99.

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