Tasia’s Table: Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre
Author: Tasia Malakasis, Photography by Stephanie Schamban
Publisher: NewSouth Books
We are used to chef stories like that of Jacques Pepin, who worked as a child in his mother’s restaurant in France, or Anthony Bourdain, who began as a young fellow and worked his way up.
Tasia Malakasis took a different path. She was an English major in college (sure that “if I got a good liberal arts education I could do anything I wanted”). She then had a successful career in “Internet technologies” and left that career for the Culinary Institute of America, the famous CIA. Browsing at
Dean and Deluca, the famous Manhattan food store, she spotted a goat cheese, “Fromagerie Belle Chevre,” made in Elkmont, Alabama, and that changed her life. She eventually returned to Alabama and became the owner of Fromagerie Belle Chevre.
Malakasis includes some autobiography in her cookbook, and it was unusual enough to make me wish there were more. She was an Alabama girl, raised around Lake Guntersville. As a child she watched and helped her mother and, especially, her grandmother cook, Southern style, and the book reflects this upbringing. There are recipes for fried chicken, breakfast biscuits, chicken and dumplings, hushpuppies, cornbread, a lot of what you would expect.
Then, at the age of 15, Malakasis took her first trip to Greece to meet her father’s family, especially her Greek grandmother, and was exposed to a different culture and cuisine.
From her, Tasia learned and here includes recipes for Greek meatballs, tzatziki, Greek zucchini fritters, saganaki (fried cheese) and moussaka, which she rightly warns the reader, is “not a recipe, it’s an event. Almost a full day event.”
This should not be seen as a problem, though, for throughout the book Tasia urges cooks and guests to meet, talk, laugh and cook together in the kitchen. She unabashedly believes food, shared, is a fine manifestation of love. “I hold sacred the power of food; how we share it shapes our world in ineffable ways.”
This cookbook reflects both her Alabama and her Greek heritage. To many of the Southern traditional recipes and to some of the Greek recipes are added, naturally enough, goat cheese.
This reminded me at first of some of the little pamphlets I used to see distributed by the liquor Southern Comfort, which included directions for making ALL drinks with Southern Comfort: Manhattans, old fashioneds, martinis, everything. I was dubious. Tasia urges we substitute goat cheese for mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, especially in sandwiches.
But the many recipes that include goat cheese do look sensational. There are: goat cheese ravioli and lasagna, goat cheese and asparagus pizza, grilled steaks with goat cheese “butter,” goat cheese potato pancakes, goat cheese cole slaw, potato salad, grits, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and goat cheese deviled eggs. I could almost say: you name it. In fact Tasia probably would say that, because throughout the book, she urges creativity. Experiment, use leftovers, use whatever is in the fridge and pantry. And, don’t forget, add goat cheese. Tasia is NOT obsessed with exact measurements and techniques. Have fun.
These recipes are relatively simple and seem truly useful, not frighteningly complex. And the photographs are gorgeous and include, along with pictures of roast chicken, leg of lamb, and many desserts and vegetables, several adorable photos of goats.