Ingredients

Pomegranate Salad Dressing

pomegranate

Pomegranates have a special place in Greek culture, they represent good luck, fertility and prosperity. For the New Year it is very common to bring (and receive) a gift of a silver pomegranate for good luck throughout the year. At weddings it is common to smash and break a pomegranate so that the marriage is fertile. Curiously enough, the pomegranate is also associated with death as it is supposed to symbolize re-birth after death. Ok… Read more »

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Sautéed Zucchini with Walnuts

zucchiniwalnuts

Sometimes Mediterranean inspired recipes appear in the least likely of places. We were visiting my in-laws and I found a cookbook from the 70’s called The Williamsburg Cookbook which includes recipes from Colonial Williamsburg’s taverns and restaurants. There are plenty of colonial recipes, but this recipe caught my eye: with the simple title Zucchini with Walnuts, the ingredients brought me straight to the Mediterranean. Read more »

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Greek Onion Pie with Feta Cheese – Kremmithopita

SAMSUNG CSC

You know that delicious aroma that you get when you are sautéing or frying onions? Doesn’t it smell wonderful? Well this pie tastes like that! Only better.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, pites (pie for Greek) are a great vehicle to get a lot of vegetables in your diet, but it was also a way to make a meal out of nothing. Homemakers like my yiayia would make wonderful pies with just some dough and vegetables or wild greens they had in their garden. Read more »

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5 Ways You are Using Olive Oil Wrong

EVOO spoon
1.You use it for special occasions
You may have bought a nice bottle of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil once and save it for special occasions and that bottle is sitting there for months even for a year waiting to be used. Drizzling it on some heirloom tomatoes you found at the farmers market or just to dip in some bread when you had company over. But the reality is that you are doing a disservice to the olive oil and yourself. Olive oil is best used when fresh for two reasons: it tastes good and it retains its nutrients when it is fresh. Let’s not forge that olives are fruit and as with every fruit you prefer their juice fresh. After 3-6 months from the harvest date olive oil is no longer fresh. So next time you find a nice olive oil, make sure you use it. Read more »

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Greek Zucchini and Feta Pie – Kolokithopita

kolokithopita zucchini pie Greek

Pites are what Greeks call their pies that are made with vegetables or cheese surrounded by layers of phyllo. Phyllo can mean the thin sheets of phyllo you find in the frozen section of the super market, or homemade phyllo (dough) which most women in Greece would roll out when they made a pita. It is just one layer of dough, kind of like a pie crust but thinner and more tender. It is sturdier than the thin is phyllo sheets and is better for pites that may be a bit more liquidy. It usually requires flour, olive oil, salt and kneading. Being short of time, I generally do not roll out my own dough and instead use the phyllo from the super market. The good thing about the phyllo that I find in Greece is that it contains no fat and just flour and salt. That is what you should be looking for as well. Read more »

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How to Use Olive Oil to Get the Most Benefits

olive oil in a pan

In the previous posts I shared some tips on how to buy and taste olive oil. But all that will not make any difference if you do not know how to use it correctly. So with this post I want to show how olive oil is used to get maximum benefits and taste.

1. Olive Oil is best used fresh. As I mentioned in previous posts, olives are fruit and olive oil is best when it is fresh. Best by dates usually are about 18 months to 2 years after harvest, but the truth is you should use your olive oil in a much shorter period than that. Ideally, use olive oil within one year of harvest. That is different though from once you open a bottle of olive oil. An open bottle of olive oil should be used within 3-6 months or less, so make sure you buy as much as you need for that period of time. Do not buy huge bottles that you will not use for months, remember air and time eventually will lead to loss of antioxidants and flavor. So make sure you use the olive oil in a fairly short time. If it is part of your regular diet you will not have a problem with storing as you will be using it regularly. Read more »

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Greek Orzo (kritharaki) with Shrimp and Feta

Greek Orzo with shrimp and feta and ouzo

Comfort food almost everywhere usually involves some sort of pasta. Orzo known as kritharaki or manestra in Greek is usually cooked and consumed together with some sort of meat or protein making the classic dish yiouvetsi (go here for a simple version), and often served for Sunday lunch.

For this recipe I did not cook some big piece of meat, and I did not even need to use the oven. Having been under the weather for a few days I was looking for a meal that was easy to make, hearty and comforting. Read more »

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How to Buy Good Olive Oil

olive oil

In my previous post I shared some ways to figure out if the olive oil you are consuming is good. But what should you look for when buying olive oil in the first place?

Let’s say you are in a store to buy olive oil, here is what you need to look at:

1. Expiration date. If the bottle does not have an expiration date do not buy it. And better yet, it should have a harvest date. The reason for this is not that olive oil will go bad in the sense that perishable foods go bad, but that it is old. In my previous post I noted that old olive oil does not taste good and it does not have the health benefits of the fresh olive oil. The older the olive oil the less polyphenols it will have. You should look for an expiration date that is about a year and a half away. If you find that, then that means it has been harvested in the previous year. Usually the expiration date is about 1 ½ -2 years after harvest date. But that does not mean that you should be using it until that date. Ideally, and if you want to replicate what was being done in the traditional Mediterranean diet, you want to consume olive oil within 1 year of it’s harvest date. In other words use olive oil of that year’s harvest. Generally though you should use an open bottle of olive oil in a short period of time.

2. Harvest date. As I have mentioned before, the benefits of olive oil come mainly from the polyphenols and the content of polyphenols is dependent on a few factors and one of them is when the olives are harvested. Read more »

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Roasted Figs Stuffed with Feta Cheese

feta figs

The scent of a fig tree always reminds me of summers in Greece. At my father’s village, there was a big fig tree in the back garden, we enjoyed its shade all those hot summer afternoons and we waited patiently for those figs to mature so we could eat them. My father remembers fondly that very same fig tree, which was the largest in the village by the way, and his father (my grandfather who lived over 100 years) who would go out to the garden and pick the figs first thing in the morning so that they could eat them for breakfast.

Figs are known as an important food for the ancient Greeks. They were part of their “food ideology” because they were produced in Greece and therefore represented loyalty but also frugality and the simple life. Read more »

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Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

sundried tomato tapenade I’ve posted recipes for other tapenades in the past and every time I do I learn something new. At first I noted that tapenades are a Provincial French ingredient, then upon further research I find out that olive tapenade may have its origins in ancient Greece.  And now upon further research I find another Greek connection: the word tapenade comes from the word tapeno, which is what a caper bud was called in Provençal. The capers would be crushed giving tapenade. So the original tapenade was made mainly of capers. Now capers appear to have been brought to Provence by the Greeks who founded Marseille in 600 B.C., so there is your Greek connection. Also the word caper comes from the Latin name capparis, which actually comes from Greek word kapparis (caper in Greek). Read more »

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