Lagana is a type of flatbread that is eaten in Greece only on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera). This particular Monday is basically the first day of lent for the Greek Orthodox religion. Nutritionally it is important because it marks the beginning of the 40-day fast, which ends on Easter. It is called “clean” because it was considered a day of cleansing oneself (spiritually) and preparing for the fasting and the mourning. People ate plain fish roe (taramas), bread, beans (without olive oil) and other vegetables. Read more »
Last Thursday was what we call Tsiknopempti (rough translation smoking Thursday) which basically celebrates the beginning of Mardi gras or as it is called in Greece apokria. Apokria actually means “away from meat” as the word carnaval. The real meaning of Tsiknopempti is that it is supposedly the last day before Easter one can eat meat, after that you can still eat dairy until Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera) which is the official start of Greek Orthodox lent and the beginning of the 40 day fast where most animal products are not allowed (see here for what is allowed during Greek Orthodox fast).
With that in mind, I made this Greek style grill cheese. Feta cheese, tahini (sesame seed paste), kalamata olive tapenade , olive oil and oregano all on whole wheat bread. There is no meat but provides a good amount of protein, I grilled it under the grill in a mini oven I use, for a few minutes and it is perfection. Read more »
Citrus is a very common ingredient in Greek cuisine. Particularly lemon. I’ve written this before, but I’ll say it again: Greeks add lemon everywhere: on meat, greens, salads, fish and sauces. Orange is added more commonly to sweets such as koulouroukia (cookies) and cakes especially the ones made with olive oil. But during the winter months you’ll see us here in Greece lugging large bags of oranges from the market, especially older people who still follow the traditional Greek diet (Mediterranean). People here ate fruit after meals and in the winter we always had an orange or mandarin as a dessert and as an afternoon snack with some herbal tea. Read more »
For many people particularly those with high blood pressure (hypertension), salt is a sensitive issue. The component of salt we worry about is sodium which makes up 40% of salt, the other 60% is Chloride. Now sodium is an essential nutrient for humans, we need it for many functions in our body. Most of us already consume more sodium than needed. Where does that sodium come from? Read more »
Pizza is commonly considered junk food or fast food, something you should avoid generally. However, when we look at the popular and original pizzas from Italy what we see is basically dough (with no added fat ) with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese sometimes extra tomatoes and basil.
The pizza we often order otherwise is really some sort of westernized version of the real thing. For example in Chicago where I grew up we have this deep dish version which is literally a pie like crust filled with melted cheese and tomato sauce (and sometimes topped with sausage). It is delicious, but Mediterranean diet it is not. Read more »
I have to say these little pies or pites are delicious. They are one of the most popular dishes in Crete. Sfakia is a remote and mountainous area in Crete where this dish originates from. Basically they are pieces of dough that have cheese in them, but the cheese is not a filling, but rather integrated in the dough through kneading.
The cheese used is a fresh cheese, some recipes suggest anthotiro others fresh mitzithra (which is what I used here) and others a local Cretan cheese known as pihtogalo. A substitute would be ricotta cheese, if you are not able to find the above cheeses. In Peloponissos we have a different type “pita” that has feta cheese instead of a soft sweet cheese. Read more »
I like having frozen shrimp on hand, it cooks quickly and with the addition, of simple basic Greek staples you have a complete meal. Combine with some carbs such as pasta, rice or orzo and you have a nice meal. Add a salad or some cooked vegetables and you are set.
Greeks often combine shrimp with feta (as I did here) but it also goes well with ouzo. For this recipe I added the olive oil and lemon (ladolemono) plus garlic and dill. Read more »
Pasta is such an easy meal to make with little effort. Many times dinner for us is a bowl of plain pasta with a drizzle of olive oil, grated cheese and a salad on the side. When I was growing up in the states I never experienced the famous American comfort food macaroni and cheese. My mom never made it, instead we usually had pasta with tomato sauce or with meat.
Of course, I was jealous of the other kids who got to eat this Kraft macaroni and cheese thing so recently, I decided to try it out for myself and see what all the fuss is about. I bought the ready made packaged stuff, as I had read that many people loved that type. I have to admit, it did not do much for me. Read more »
I usually make my mom’s recipe for Vasilopita New Year’s Day (or Eve). In case you are not familiar with this tradition, Greeks make a cake with a coin hidden in it, that is cut on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Each person present is provided a piece, and he or she that has the coin in their piece is promised good luck for the rest of the year. You can check this post for another Vasilopita recipe and a little bit more about the tradition.
This year I wanted to make a lemon flavored Vasilopita (instead of orange) with olive oil instead of butter. Read more »