Sides

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 »

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 »

Juicy Roasted Greek Meatballs – Keftedakia

keftedakia Greek meatballs

For someone who prefers mostly vegetable based dishes, there is one red meat dish that I will always say yes to: Keftethakia. Bite-size (or a little bit larger) meatballs made from ground beef or usually ground pork or sheep or a mixture, along with all those tasty Greek herbs (especially fresh mint as both my grandmothers used) and then fried in olive oil, today it is mostly beef.

The meat was ground at home if you were lucky enough to have a meat grinder. There was plenty of stale bread added, along with a few eggs which stretched the meat to feed a lot more people. Read more »

Roasted Orange Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil

Olive Oil Roasted Potatoes

When I was growing up in the US, Thanksgiving was one more reason to have a trapezi. Trapezi literally means table in Greek and it means to invite people over for a nice meal. So during Thanksgiving my mom would make things like corn or sometimes a small amount of yams and then most likely Greek style chicken and potatoes or on some occasions stuffed turkey with a Greek style stuffing. We did not really have things like casseroles or cranberry sauce. In Greek cuisine you do not often see a combination of sweet and savory, so a sweet potato dish with brown sugar or maple syrup would not be very welcome particularly for the older generation Greeks.  Read more »

Mediterranean Black-Eyed Peas with Honey Vinaigrette

black-eyed peas

Beans are such an important part of any diet, regardless of what type of diet you want to follow. They are a food that combines so many qualities; it is filling, it has protein, it has slowly digested carbohydrates, it has antioxidants and it has fiber. These nutrients are not only healthy, as beans have been shown to protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer, but beans are also the ideal food for those trying to lose weight. Eating small amounts keep you full and satisfied for a long time. 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 »

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 »

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Tomato-A Recipe from Crete

Zucchini Cretan style

I have been coming across this Cretan recipe lately: whole zucchini stuffed with garlic roasted in the oven with tomato and olive oil. While I roast zucchini in the oven, it is usually with something else such as in stuffed tomatoes or in briami (the Greek version of ratatouille). But I found this recipe interesting because the zucchini itself is the main ingredient.

I was attracted to this recipe not only because it uses zucchini, which is in season right now, but also because of its simplicity. It takes a few minutes to prep and then you just put it in the oven.

Zucchini is generally a popular ingredient in Greece: you find it in many casseroles, they use it to make zucchini patties (try these for a baked version), they slice them and fry them for an appetizer (try the a non-fried version here), they stuff zucchini flowers with rice or cheese and lightly fry them and of course they make zucchini pies (kolokithopita). Read more »

Sun-Dried Greek Style Roasted Okra in Tomato Sauce

Bamies-Okra

Ok I have to confess, when I was little, okra (bamies in Greek) was one of my favorite dishes. Yes, you may consider this weird, but after tasting them you will understand why. Okra combines savory and sweet along with the tomato and olive oil perfectly. It was filling and satisfying and surprisingly comforting.

While this is usually made as a stew, known as bamies latheres, (you can see the recipe here), I like the roasted version more. I’ll make it during the summer when okra is available fresh, and make the stewed kind when I only have frozen okra available.

So okra in Greece is small, it is harvested when it is small, the smaller, the better. It is also important that when it is cooked, okra does not open and there is no liquid coming out, so there is no slicing like you would see with gumbo recipes where those juices are needed for the texture. The roasted version works great because it helps keep the okra intact. Read more »