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 »
Ok, so it is officially summer in Greece and that means tourist season. Athens, the islands and Greece in general is filled with visitors enjoying Greece and if you are one of them here are 6 tips to help you get the best food experience.
1. Order the right things at touristy places.
Yes we all like to visit and eat at the known touristy places in any country. But as cliché as it sounds sometimes they are just that – “touristy” – and you shouldn’t settle for touristy food. But here is what you should do if you are in touristy area, in Athens it is Plaka and in other places it is not hard to identify them, there are usually a bunch of taverns gathered together with waiters trying to get you in and with large menus that look like books. Now I personally like the ambience of being in a touristy area in Greece, it usually is pretty (e.g. Plaka) and lively, but if you want to eat there make sure you choose the right things so you are not disappointed. Read more »
While 80% of Greece is mountainous, you associate Greece with the sea, and Greeks have a very strong sea culture. Let’s not forget that Greece has a coastline of over 13000 km making it the country with second largest coastline in Europe. Fish have always had a special position in Greece. In antiquity it was a major part of the local diet and the main source of protein. In modern Greece they are equally special. The photos above are significant because they show how common and important fish was in the daily life in Greece. The illustrations are from a Greek school book first published in 1955, it was used in Greek schools until 1978. Every time I see these photos, especially the one with the mother holding fresh fish and the daughter bringing the olive oil and the pan to fry them, I remember the smell of frying fish taking over the whole neighborhood and how it tasted so good. Read more »
Lately I’ve been coming across all these articles about desserts made with olive oil or using olive oil in baking as if it is this new trend. Well in a way it is a trend, outside the Mediterranean that is. Many bakers are just discovering the beauty and merits of baking with olive oil. But here in Greece it is a common ingredient for baking.
This is probably due to two factors: First, olive oil was abundant and much cheaper then butter, which was considered a luxury item. Secondly, Greeks had all those fasting days where they were not allowed to consume animal products, so they had plenty of dessert recipes made with olive oil. And many recipes that require butter also have an olive oil version. Read more »
We have known for a while that coffee can be good for you and particularly Greek style coffee as that recent study on elderly Greeks showed us. So how do you make it?
Well, first of all taste is subjective and when it comes to coffee the variations are limitless. The same goes for Greek coffee, obviously you won’t add milk or syrups to it, but the ratio of sugar to coffee, the amount of coffee, the length of time it is boiled, whether it has bubbles or not, all these are factors that can affect the taste and texture of the coffee. So in this post I will show you how I make the coffee and present the numerous other ways it can be prepared.
You will need
You will need some equipment to make a proper Greek coffee.
- A gas source. In Greece most people used to have gas stove tops, nowadays these have been replaced with electric stove tops, which I am not very fond of, as I cannot see flame. Since most people no longer have gas stove tops, here they use what you call a gazaki, it is a single camping gas burner. Traditionally this type of coffee is made in what is called hovoli, which is basically heated sand.
- Get a small coffee pot called a briki.
- Greek coffee, known also as Turkish or Arab coffee (see section below)
- Espresso coffee cup or Greek coffee cup like the one in the photo Read more »
The traditional coffee consumed in Greece, called ellinkos (the Greek), outside of Greece commonly known as Turkish or Arab coffee, may be good for the heart and one of the secrets of long life in Greeks, according to a new study.
The research comes from a larger study known as the Ikaria Study conducted by Greek researchers from the University of Athens where the investigated the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the Greek island of Ikaria who have one of the higest longevity rates in the world. One of the characteristics is that they drink coffee every day. The Greek researchers wanted to find out whether the elderly population’s coffee drinking had an effect on their health. In particular, the researchers investigated links between coffee-drinking habits and the subjects’ endothelial function. The endothelial is a group of cells that line the interior of blood vessels. When these cells are not functioning properly, it may lead to atherosclerosis-hardening of the arteries. Read more »
Centenarian Cretan Man, 2010
So February is National Heart Month in the U.S. and the U.K. as a way to increase awareness of heart disease. As the Mediterranean diet is known for its heart protecting qualities I could not let the month pass by without dedicating a post about it.
Now why do I have a photo of a very old (over 100) Cretan man? Well, we know that in the past that Greeks and particularly Cretans had one of the lowest rates of heart disease worldwide. One of the reasons being the diet. But what diet? You may say “the Mediterranean diet”, but what we are really talking about is the Greek diet and more specifically the Cretan diet. The Cretan diet (and the Greek generally) of the 50′s and 60′s was in essence the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The description of the Mediterranean diet today has been altered a bit compared to the original. In a great article by Registered Dietitian Rita Carey (she is not Greek, so no bias there) she says, “The term Mediterranean diet is rather misleading. The diet recommendations with this regional characterization are actually based, in large part, on an epidemiological study of men living in rural Crete in the 1950s.“ I couldn’t say it better myself. Read more »
I was excited to hear that the restaurant at the state of the art, Acropolis museum located steps away from the Parthenon in Athens, has started serving a real Greek breakfast every Saturday and Sunday.
As I have mentioned in another post, a Greek breakfast is hard to find and even harder to identify. Although you will find several hotels offering Greek breakfast items, they are scattered among other western breakfast items, making it a bit difficult to find and choose them. In addition to that, there is no one Greek breakfast as each area of Greece has different breakfast foods.
The good news is that the restaurant at the Acropolis museum offers a good variety of Greek traditional breakfast items. It is worth a visit to try the galatopita (milk pie), tiganites (Greek pancakes) with tahini and petimezi (grape molasses), trahana (pellet shaped pasta made with milk) with feta cheese and the omelet with the famous graviera cheese from the island of Naxos, as well as the siglino (smoked pork) from Mani. Read more »
This is something we have known for years: Don’t eat large meals late in the day. Traditionally in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Spain the main meal is consumed between 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can read more about when we eat here: “When Greek Eat”. After that we had a little nap and an evening meal consisted of something light such as yogurt and fruit or bread, cheese and olives. According to a new Spanish study that followed 420 Spaniards who were on a weight loss diet, those who ate their main (largest) meal before 3 p.m. lost more weight (5 pounds more) compared to those that ate that meal after 3 p.m. Read more »