Appetizers

Tender Greek Roasted Beans in Tomato Sauce –Gigantes Plaki

Gigantes Plaki

This is a dish that really exemplifies the wisdom of Greek-Mediterranean cuisine. Beans were one of the main ingredients in the traditional Mediterranean diet, particularly for Greeks who due to the long periods of religious fasting (over 200 days a year) that prohibited most animal products, beans were the main source of protein. As a result, Greek cuisine has several bean dishes as main courses. One of them is known as Gigantes Plaki. Gigantes are a type of large white bean, the word gigantas in Greek means giant. Gigantes from several areas of Greece have a Protected Geographical Indication status due to the unique environment that these beans are grown in. If you can find these beans it is worth a try otherwise butter beans wil work. Read more »

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Tomato-Feta-Greek Yogurt Phyllo Tart

Tomato feta phyllo tart

I like all sorts of tarts, pies, pites (Greek savory pies), but I do not like having to make the crust, or using the ready made crusts that usually contain some sort of unknown vegetable fat along with 10 other ingredients. But I do like phyllo, here in Greece you can find different types of phyllo: thicker types, with olive oil, very thin etc. But I use the regular kind, which only contains flour and corn starch, so I don’t feel so bad, brushing it with olive oil later. Read more »

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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 »

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Greek Style Baked Zucchini Chips

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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 »

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Whole Grain Bread Taramosalata

Whole Wheat Bread Taramosalata

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 »

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Hortopita: Greek Savory Pie with Greens, Herbs and Feta Cheese

Greek hortopita
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 »

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Avocado and Orange Salad with Olive Oil-Lemon dressing

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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 »

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Greek Inspired Warm Bite-Size Carrot and Feta Cheese Appetizers

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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 »

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Scrumptious Whole Wheat Olive and Feta Cheese Bread

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 »

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Ancient Greek Inspired Olive Tapenade


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 »

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