One of my all time favorite appetizers at a Greek tavern are kolokythakia tiganita (fried zucchini) with tzatziki for dipping. I generally don’t fry that much at home, and if you don’t either, you can enjoy these by baking them.
When baking sometimes you need some extra ingredients to add more taste and a crust. So I crushed regular Greek rusks this time (I will try crushed barley Cretan rusks next time), panko can also work well. Don’t use very fine breadcrumbs because they will not make a nice crust. I added herbs typically used in the traditional zucchini patties such as mint, parsley and dill. Also a touch of parmesan will help form the crust. Read more »
It is that time of year in Greece again. The big fasting period is approaching and its beginning is marked with Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday). On that day the food is special, people spend the day flying kites, dancing and eating taramosalata (fish roe dip made with olive oil and bread), olives, lagana (bread), shellfish, octopus and halva (you can read more about it here).
As this is a blog about the traditional Greek diet and food, I am always looking to make little tweaks here and there and make some recipes even healthier. I’ve been trying out some new ways for making taramosalata, and this one with whole wheat bread is outstanding. I have to say that I don’t like messing with traditional recipes if it is going change the taste drastically, but this recipe tasted great. The texture is a bit grainier compared to a taramosalata made with potato and the color is a bit tanner, but taste-wise there is not much difference. Read more »
Everybody knows the famous spanakopita also known as spinach pie, a combination of spinach and feta cheese. But something I like even more is a greens pie. It is one of the secrets of the Greek diet. Various greens mixed with herbs and a bit of feta (or not) tucked in layers of phyllo dough.
Within the traditional Greek diet, the consumption of greens, particularly wild greens contribute largely to the benefits of the diet. They are good sources of various antioxidants as well as omega-3 fatty acids. These greens can be consumed boiled or cooked in olive oil and accompanied with lemon juice and feta, but also in pites (pies). Pites are a fine way to eat vegetables and even more so greens. And this applies to kids as well; my kids happily will eat 2-3 pieces in one sitting. Read more »
I first tasted this recipe when I was in Crete for a culinary event organized by the Cretan olive oil company Biolea. I was curious as to why they included avocado in an otherwise traditional Cretan menu. Discussing with the chef Giorgos Makris, he noted that although avocado is not part of the traditional Cretan diet, it has been cultivated in Crete for over 25 years now and they have developed ways and recipes to incorporate it with the rest of the traditional diet.
And they did it very well. Avocado, along with oranges, olive oil, lemon juice and cumin makes a very healthy, Mediterranean and flavorful salad. At first I thought it was too much to add olive oil to the already rich in (good) fat avocado. But surprisingly all the ingredients mingled well to make a fresh tasting salad. Read more »
This little recipe came about a few days ago. My parents came over and I had nothing in terms of vegetables to make a somewhat warm healthy appetizer, except carrots. Now carrots are great, they are an excellent source of beta carotene, antioxidants and fiber and have few calories, but you rarely come across them as an appetizer, with the exception of having them raw with dip. So with just carrots in the fridge I thought of making small bite-size patties similar to the Greek recipe for zucchini patties (kolokithokeftethes).
I kept these light and basically combined shredded carrots with some herbs and cumin and a touch of feta. Also eggs and bread crumbs to keep it all together. I tried these baked in a mini muffin pan but I also made a batch sautéed in a bit of olive oil, (see photo below). Both were gone within minutes, and the kids loved them, although I have to admit that the lightly fried ones had a better texture. Read more »
I will continue with one more of my favorite olive foods: olive bread. In Greek it is called Eliopsomo. This bread is really something else; it can be a small meal, a snack, breakfast and an appetizer. I remember having a piece of this moist savory bread after a day on the beach and it just hit the spot. This bread makes a good snack nutritionally: the olives provide some fat while the feta some protein and the whole-wheat flour will give you fiber. These three nutritional components (fat, protein, fiber) provide satiety, making it an ideal snack or small meal. Of course you are getting some good antioxidants from the olives as well.
Now authentic Greek olive bread is of course vegetarian, and something Greeks could snack on during their religious fasts that prohibited animal products. My version includes cheese so although it wouldn’t be appropriate for Greek fasting, it is OK for vegetarians who also consume dairy. I also used half whole-wheat flour making it a bit healthier and heartier. Read more »
Now that it’s apparent why olives should be part of your everyday food routine, it is useful to have a variety of ways to include them in your diet. Of course you can eat them plain with some bread, cheese and tomato which I have to admit is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them, but another way is making an olive paste or as it is known olive tapenade.
Now a year ago I had written about olive tapenade and had mentioned that it really is not a Greek product, but Provincial French one. But is it? Well, apparently its origins may be in ancient Greece. We know that olive oil was one of the Three Fundamentals, the three most important components of their diet (the other 2 being bread and wine) of the ancient Greeks. A recipe of the time described using black olives and combining them with vinegar, honey, cumin, fennel, coriander and mint. When I had visited Crete, Cretan chefs and culinary students, explained that in Crete during times of war olive paste was a basic food for survival it was served on bread. So, olive paste really is also a Greek product. Read more »
As promised in my post about my visit to the Food and Nutrition Conference, I’ll be sharing interesting, Mediterranean inspired recipe ideas that I found at the conference. Beans are always on top of the list of healthiest foods and a very important part of the Mediterranean diet. Here is a recipe that presents lentils wrapped up in phyllo dough, putting them in a nice attractive package to be served as an appetizer. A perfect idea if you are entertaining or for the holidays or…if you just want your kids to eat beans. Read more »
I’ve been mentioning and posting quite a few photos of sardines these past few weeks on the Olive Tomato facebook page, grilled or marinated these are great little fishes. And while they are super-healthy and tasty, what can you do if fresh sardines are not available or you just don’t really cook fish? Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, canned sardines are just as fine.
A simple recipe that you can make at home is a spread that is an alternative to the traditional tuna salad. You can spread on bread for a sandwich or as I did here on little pieces of whole wheat bread topped with a slice of cherry tomato for a tasty but healthy appetizer.
There are versions with cream cheese or mayonnaise, I use Greek style yogurt (strained) instead, to give the creamy texture but without all the fat.
Try and choose sardines canned in olive oil rather than some generic vegetable oil. Read more »
In my mother’s descriptions of my grandmother’s cooking and her own, one ingredient would come up that seemed odd to me: tomato paste. I would wonder: why would you use all these fresh ingredients and then add a canned tomato product?
Well, in the olden days it served a purpose: it was used as a substitute for tomatoes, when fresh ones were not available. Tomato paste was made at home as a way to preserve tomatoes to use during the winter. I read somewhere that tomato paste originated in Italy and and then its use spread across other areas of the Mediterranean, which makes perfect sense considering how important tomato is in the Mediterranean cuisine.
My mother remembers as a little girl in the 50’s, going to the local deli (in Greece) and getting 1-2 tablespoons of the stuff on a piece of wax paper so her mother could use it for cooking. What did they do with it? Well they made the known kokkinista, which translates as the “red ones”. These are dishes either made with tomatoes or tomato paste, hence the name referring to the redness.The tomato paste along with olive oil is warmed up (or almost sautéed) in a pot or pan, and the vegetables or meat are added and cooked. Of course it is also used in pasta and sauces and basically when you want to give a little color or added flavor. Read more »