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For a chef who owns dozens of restaurants in multiple cities, José Andrés venerates nothing more than home cooking.

“We give too much value to chefs and restaurants for being influential,” he told me in a Zoom conversation. “I could be arguing against myself here, but the most influential cooking is what’s happening in the homes. That is really the cooking of a nation.”

Get the recipe: Carrot Fritters With Pistachio Sauce

He’s not just talk. At his restaurant Oyamel, he championed the work of firebrand author Diana Kennedy, the British expat who became a renowned expert in the complexities of Mexican cuisine, bringing her to the restaurant for regular consulting gigs. He founded Zaytinya, which celebrates the foods of the Eastern Mediterranean, after getting an education from Aglaia Kremezi, one of Greece’s foremost cooking authorities, who became known as the restaurant’s “Greek grandmother” thanks to her continuing impact on the kitchen there.

“As our mentor and guide, she keeps me and my team deeply connected to the Mediterranean as we explore new techniques, expanding our menu and our locations,” he writes in the introduction to his latest cookbook, “Zaytinya.”

I’ve had the pleasure of cooking with Kremezi, too, and adore her work, which is rooted in the essential flavors of classic Eastern Mediterranean dishes: the classic combination of olive oil, lemon, dill and honey; the pairing of dried fruit and nuts in stuffings and fritters, soups and salads; the yogurt, feta, gigante beans and other legumes; the bulgur and other grains; the generous use of fresh and dried herbs; the olives, peppers, sumac and saffron. Much like Kremezi herself, Zaytinya isn’t vegetarian, but vegetables play a starring role on its tables.

Of course, the defining characteristic of much of the region’s food is that it is served as mezze, a collection of small plates akin to Spain’s tapas. Andrés, perhaps more than anyone else, has been responsible for popularizing small plates in America, and they are the connective thread that weaves through much of his restaurant empire.

One of the most popular such dishes at Zaytinya is the carrot fritters, incredible sweet and savory bites, slightly crispy on the outside and creamy inside, nestled in an intoxicatingly delicious pistachio sauce. Unlike many other vegetable fritters beloved in the Greek kitchen, these are formed into balls, and they come together much like falafel, with very little to bind them except a single egg and panko flakes.

Andrés first tasted them in Istanbul, but added the pistachio sauce once they went onto the Zaytinya menu. It was a chef’s modern touch, but perfectly in keeping with traditional flavors — and the region’s love for such dips as hummus, tzatziki, muhammara, fata spread and more.

In our Zoom interview, he talked about how intertwined the foods of the Eastern Mediterranean nations are. “I just came from a taverna in Cyprus — Cyprus, which is divided between the Greek side and the Turkish side,” he said. “They are divided politically, but they are not divided in the love for the foods and their history that brings them together. I wish that the only wars we were fighting were about who makes the best hummus, who makes the best falafel, or who makes the best tzatziki or cacik. Oh, my God, the world would be a beautiful place.” (Coincidentally, Andrés and I were talking right before he fielded questions from another Post reporter about his World Central Kitchen’s aid ship heading to another conflict zone: Gaza.)

Thanks to the “Zaytinya” cookbook, you can bring all these dishes to your home kitchen, and you’ll see, if you don’t know already, just how accessible and delicious they are to make from scratch. In the case of the fritters, the ingredient list might look long, but much of it consists of the spices and herbs that flavor the carrot mixture, which you pulse in a food processor and scoop like cookie dough before frying. Good news for you air-fryer users: These work quite well that way, if you don’t want to deal with the oil.

While the pistachio sauce was originally a restaurant embellishment, once you taste it you’ll wonder why Turkish carrot fritters aren’t always served this way. Maybe chefs have some influence after all.

Get the recipe: Carrot Fritters With Pistachio Sauce

#José #Andréss #carrot #fritters #bring #restaurant #favorite #home

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