The term “a la Grecque” is used a little indiscriminately. When a dish is “a la Grecque,” it means it has been prepared in the Greek manner, flavoured with, for example, wine, olive oil, lemon, herbs and spices, and is usually served cold or at room temperature. Generally it is applied to a single vegetable at a time, but vegetables can be mixed. It is ideal for tender, young vegetables — artichokes and mushrooms, carrots, fennel, cauliflower, pearl onions, celeriac, bell peppers, fresh lima or fava beans, zucchini. Use vegetables that can hold up during the cooking process. Root vegetables work particularly well; leafy greens do not.
It is likely that “a la Grecque” is a term that originated in France for dishes cooked in this manner.
The vegetables are quartered or halved or left intact, gently cooked in olive oil and a bouillon, then cooled and served lacquered with the broth, capturing their very essence. Some cook the vegetables gently in the olive oil first, then poach the in the stock; others will use both together, still others poach in the stock and then dress the cooked vegetables with reduced stock and olive oil.
A classic bouillon is a mixture of water; either wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or a combination of all three; peppercorns and salt; and aromatics and herbs, usually onion, garlic, shallots, celery and a bouquet garni of thyme, bay leaf and parsley. To the basic bouillon is added a generous amount of coriander seed and the olive oil. It is perfect for these dishes. You can add salt, or wait until the dish is cooked and season then.
Other spices can be added. Dried fennel seeds or star anise are lovely with fennel; celery seed compliments tender celery stalks or celeriac, or toss in a few dried chilles, a handful of peppercorns, slices of lime, juniper berries, brown cardamom, and/or even a vanilla bean.
Bring the bouillon to a simmer, then drop in the vegetables. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are just tender; they should still have some garden crunch to them. While the vegetables cool, reduce the broth until it’s almost a syrup.
Return the vegetables to the reduced broth (or pour it over the vegetables), season with a little salt or pepper.
Sprinkle with fresh herbs, chopped raw vegetables, goats cheese, slices of preserved lemon, small sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, olives, chickpeas and/or other complimentary items that do not overwhelm the gentle flavour of the dish. Serve with crusty bread and perhaps a glass of wine.
Often a la Grecque dishes are cooked slowly in the oven as well. Judicious choice of the amount of stock or wine means that the reduction step does not need to occur.
Here are a couple of favourite “a la Grecque” recipes for you to try.
- Courgettes a la Grecque – Zucchini Cooked in Oil
- Fennel a la Grecque
- Autumn Vegetables a la Grecque
- Leeks Braised with Tomatoes and Herbs a la Grecque
- Mushrooms a la Grecque
- Cauliflower a la Grecque
** some information from LA Times