Ingredients

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Santorini Fava Bites – Yummy Mini Appetizers Made from Yellow Split Peas

Fava Bites

Yes, these little rounds are made with yellow split peas also known as fava in Greek (do not confuse these with the broad bean that is called fava bean). Greeks call these yellow split peas fava but they also call fava, a puree that is made with these beans along with olive oil, onion and some lemon. You can check the authentic recipe here. It is served often as an appetizer and it tastes great plain or with a bit of bread. Of course it is extremely healthy since you are having a meal of legumes rich in fiber, antioxidants and protein accompanied by the good fats from the olive oil. Read more »

Baking with Olive Oil, Tradition or Trend?

chocolate cake with EVOO

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 »

Cool Greek Beers with Local Greek Ingredients

Greek Beer

In the past few years we have been seeing many new Greek beers on the market. For years Fix beer was known as “The” Greek beer, years later Alpha as well as Mythos became common choices. Today there are a number of new Greek breweries that offer unique formulations based on Greek ingredients.

Obviously this blog is not about Greek wine or beer, but I found it interesting how several beers are using Greek food ingredients as the selling point. I identified a few of these beers that I thought were quite interesting:

  • Septem is a microbrewery based in Evia in Greece. Their beer Sunday’s uses Greek floral honey, with the ingredients stating that it makes 9% of the ingredients (site is under construction).
  • Volkan is a beer from the Greek island of Santorini. It uses Santorini honey and citrus medica, which according to the company is a rare fruit bought to Greece from Persia. It is also filtered through a lava rock filter made from Santorini basalt (basalt is a volcanic rock).
  • BIOS 5 is a beer produced by Athenian Brewery, the same company that makes Alpha beer. The label states that this beer is made from 5 grains produced in Greece (barley, wheat, rye, corn and rice). Read more »

Simple Greek Style Beet Salad

beets with olive oil

Beets along with their greens are traditionally served here in Greece with skordalia, the delicious Greek garlic sauce. So wherever skordalia goes, beets go too. The beets were cut off from the greens and both were boiled in a large pot. Once they were cooked, they were served with skordalia, feta cheese and bread. This consisted of a whole meal. Yes, the beauty of the Greek diet, vegetable main courses. Many people think that beets are “fattening” because they are what we call a starchy vegetable.

Yes they are mainly carbohydrates, however they are a good source of fiber and they have very few calories: 3 ounces (100 grams) are about 40 calories. More importantly, beets contain several substances that can benefit our health. One of the them known as betaine is a nutrient that may protect from heart disease and stroke, research shows that it can lower homocysteine levels in the blood. High homocysteine is related to a higher risk of heart disease. Beets also contain betalain, a substance with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Now since you are cooking beets, it is good to know that a Cornell study found that processed beets lose very little of their antioxidant activity, and phenolic activity (another beneficial substance) was actually increased. Read more »

How to Make and Drink Greek Coffee

Greek coffee

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)
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Espresso coffee cup or Greek coffee cup like the one in the photo Read more »