Appetizers

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 »

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 »

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 »

Feta and Greek Yogurt Pita Appetizer

feta pita appetizers

I had a bought a bunch of pitas, not the type you use for a souvlaki but the other type, which here in Greece are called “Arabic” pitas, to distinguish them from the Greek style ones, and had some leftovers that were going to dry out if I did not use them soon. The solution? A quick appetizer for that evening.

The recipe is simple and light and easy. No, it is not topped with tons of cheese. Basically you use double the amount of Greek yogurt and add only a bit of cheese. Pita (or pita bread) has very little fat and works well as a vehicle to add some protein, and whole-wheat ones are even heartier. Read more »

Greek Carrot & Parsley Breadsticks

greek breadsticks

Breadsticks in Greece are consumed and made in a slightly different way than they are in Italy. Greeks call breadsticks kritisinia from the Italian word for breadsticks grissini. Now in Greece these types of breadsticks are not consumed as something before a meal, they are not really part of the traditional Greek cuisine. However, nowadays you find them everywhere: bakeries have a bunch in different flavors and supermarkets carry all sorts (whole grain, with sesame seeds, with nuts, with olives or other flavors). They differ from the Italian type as they are thicker, heartier and usually contain much more olive oil. Greeks eat them as a snack, just plain or maybe with some cheese. Read more »

Greek Mini Eggplant-Feta Phyllo Turnovers–Melitzanopitakia

eggplant pies

Eggplant has always been one of my favorite vegetables as you may have noticed from the number of recipes I have posted here, but it is also well honored in the Greek cuisine. So as we still have warm weather here in Athens, I’m trying to hold on to whatever days of summer are left, and that means eggplant dishes.

For this recipe, I knew there existed some sort of eggplant pie; some with yellow cheese and some with meat, but I basically wanted cooked eggplant, tomato and feta wrapped in phyllo, and that is what this is. This is basically a turnover filled with a tasty eggplant mixture that includes tomatoes, onions and garlic sautéed in a bit of olive oil along with crumbled feta. Read more »

Greek Veggie Patties-Favokeftedes

SAMSUNG CSC

I remember when I came across my first meatless burger, and I cannot say that I was particularly excited. For starters I did not like the taste and why would I eat something that contains highly processed ingredients but yet acts like it is healthier than a regular burger?

But wait a minute, veggie patties have always been an important part of the Mediterranean diet; falafel, the chickpea fritters and the Greek zucchini fritters (kolokithoketedes) come to mind. In the Greek cuisine there are also tomato patties, wild greens patties, onion patties and several patties made with beans. They often call these patties pseudo-patties (pseftokeftedes) because they do not contain meat and therefore are not “real” patties. These patties were popular on the Greek islands and are usually served as a meze or appetizer but as part of a main meal as well. 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 »

Greek Inspired Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana

Yes this is also known as eggplant parmigiana or eggplant parmesan, and you would think it is made with parmesan cheese. Well it isn’t. This dish is actually a southern Italian dish that I enjoyed (a lot) while being in Sicily, and it is not from Parma nor is it made traditionally with Parmesan cheese. Most likely the name comes from the word parmiciana which meant in sicilian dialect a set of strips of wood that form a shutter, the same way the eggplant slices are placed one on top of the other.

Now, when you come across eggplant parmesan in the U.S. and other places, it usually contains tons of cheese, breadcrumbs, flour and eggs and you end up hardly tasting the eggplant. And that is a shame because eggplants are delicious and with so many health benefits. Although there are many variations, the basic form consists of eggplant, tomato sauce, olive oil, cheese and basil and that is what I have used as well. Read more »