Recipes

Greek Inspired Chickpeas Cooked in Tomato Sauce

Garbanzo chickpeas

I would like to continue where I left off from my previous post about beans; it is significant that a simple eating habit such as eating a cup of beans can help us lower our cholesterol levels, but also maintain our blood sugar levels as well as help us lose weight since beans are filling due to the fiber and protein. And let’s not forget the antioxidants.

Here in Greece we are in the holy week, the last week before Easter. While traditionally the religious fast starts about 40 days before Easter, most Greeks nowadays will not be fasting for all those days, however the majority of Greeks still fast (avoid animal products with the exception of some seafood) the week before Easter, so it seemed fitting to share this easy bean recipe. Read more »

Greek Style Roasted Olives

Roasted olives

I came across this idea in a magazine ad featuring the restaurant owner Donatella Arpaia, who mentioned spicy roasted olives as an appetizer idea.  I had never had roasted olives other than in a cooked dish, so this seemed very interesting yet simple.

You can use a mixture of olives, but I have a bunch kalamata olives that my sister had handpicked and prepared herself, so I used some of those. I made mine more “greek style” using Greek herbs such as oregano, garlic, parsley and lemon rather than making them spicy.

This recipe is really easy and these are best enjoyed right out of the oven. They give a burst of taste, because the roasting brings out the flavor. Serve them with an aperitif for something light to bite on when having a drink. Read more »

Traditional Greek Roasted Salted Cod with Onions, Tomatoes and Raisins-Bakaliaro Plaki

bakaliaro plaki

This recipe is one of my mother’s specialties and I have fond memories of eating it back in Chicago when I was a little girl. This is basically salted cod cooked in tomato, onions and raisins and accompanied by potatoes. Yes, I know-I know, it is another strange dish for a kid to like, but like I’ve said my mother only cooked Greek, and that’s what I grew up on.

The dish is known as being a Peloponnesian dish (from the area of Peloponissos in Greece) where my mom and dad are from. It is of the few Greek dishes that use fruit in a savory dish. The story goes that salted cod was first imported by the English and in exchange they were given Greek raisins. Korinthos another area in Peloponissos, was and is known for their raisins and according to George Mazos a Corinthian black raisin producer and owner of Golden Black, Greeks were in fact supplying the English with raisins so it seems that the two ingredients were somehow combined to create this wonderful dish. Now, although fish was available on the coastal areas of Greece, for the mountainous regions even on some islands fish was not so accessible, so salted fish was common as was salted cod which also lasted for a long time. Read more »

Greek Flatbread-Lagana

Lagana Kathara Deftera

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 »

Greek Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Feta and Tahini

Greek feta tahini sandwich

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 »

5 Ways to Instantly Make Your Pizza Healthier

Pizza healthy

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 »

Whole Wheat Cheese Filled Cretan Pita – Sfakiani Pita

sfakiani pita

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 »

Greek Style Baked Macaroni and (Feta) Cheese

Greek macaroni and feta cheese

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 »

Fluffy Lemon Greek New Year’s Cake Made with Olive Oil -Vasilopita-

Vasilopita

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 »

Apple-Raisin Phyllo Strudel

phyllo apple strudel

I’ve mentioned this before, but phyllo is so versatile and you should always have some in your kitchen. Here in Greece we actually have fresh phyllo (not frozen) available at the super market which makes it even easier to make your own Greek pies such as spanakopita. I do like to use it for sweets as well, in the place of a regular crust. It has no fat (although I noticed that in the US many brands have added fat in them) and only contain flour and cornstarch, providing a lighter version. Even when you brush your oil in between layers, you have control of how much you use and what kind of fat you add. Read more »