Summer means Greek islands for a lot of us here in Greece. We all have memories of our first “adult” vacation when we took a boat to one of the islands with our friends and arrived in one of the many Greek islands and had the time of our lives. The islands are often associated with a carefree lifestyle, no need for formalities just fun. While living on an island is not all fun and games, particularly years ago when transportation was not good, islanders and those living near coastal areas are generally more outgoing than those from mountainous areas of Greece. Even their songs were more positive sounding. This was very refreshing for me as both my parents are from Arcadia which is in the center of Peloponnesus surrounded by mountains and people tend to be a bit more closed.
I remember a friend of my mom’s back in the U.S. Her name was Petroula and she was from the island of Kimolos. We would always go to their house on Christmas and it was a big Greek gathering. The moment she opened the door and saw us, she welcomed us with such excitement that it made you think that you were her favorite person in the world. During these parties the table was full of food: mountains of meatballs (keftethakia), salads, cheese, lamb and also lathenia. Lathenia is a recipe that resembles a pizza from the island of Kimolos. Read more »
When we talk about the Mediterranean diet, one of the foods that comes to mind are fish. It is recommended that we eat fish at least twice a week. The reality is that many of us do not eat fish even once a week.
Why? Well I can think of a few reasons: many of us think that it is a lot of work, we never prepare fish at home and because really it is not part of our weekly routine. In reality, fresh fish are easily cooked at home as long as someone cleans them for you. But I’ll talk about that another time. I have a much easier idea to propose. Yes, canned fish. Read more »
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that individuals who consumed 7 or more servings of vegetables a day had a reduced risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.
While we know that the traditional Greek diet was mostly vegetarian due to the religious fasts, but also to economic reasons, today Greeks have moved away from their traditional diet eating a more westernized diet, but surprisingly still consume plenty of vegetables. In fact, according to a 2010 OECD report, Greece has the highest consumption of vegetables per capita in Europe based on supply and production, however it is mostly older Greeks that still eat more vegetables. Here is how we do it: Read more »
This is a traditional dish that is served during Greek lent and often consumed on the first day of lent known as Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday). We eat that along with the lagana (Greek flatbread), taramosalata and olives.
The Greek Easter fast goes on for about 40 days and Greeks fasted for over 180 days. This fast does not allow animal products and is pretty much vegan with the exception of some seafood. Now you may wonder why certain creatures of the sea are allowed. Well, many believe because these creatures do not have blood. In fact, it has to do more that their blood is blue rather than red, due to the due to the hemocyanin.
This meal though is great even if you are not fasting or not Greek, it combines lean protein with starch along with the tomato resulting in a complete and nutritious meal. Read more »
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 »
A letter signed by top physicians was addressed to Jeremy Hunt, the British Health Secretary right before the G8 meetings planned on the topic of Dementia, explaining why the Mediterranean diet may be the best solution for protection against this chronic disease.
The letter explains that they believe that “there has been insufficient emphasis on the role of diet and lifestyle – factors which have been shown to be associated with a dramatically reduced risk of developing dementia. In particular, a Mediterranean-style diet is pre-eminent in preventing and slowing the progression of Dementia.” Read more »
Yes, really, it is. Tomato is one of the most important components of the Mediterranean diet, mainly because it is part of the sauce that accompanies most vegetables (and meats) in the Greek cuisine. The famous lathera which is basically vegetables cooked with a tomato forming a sauce or the kokkinista which is the same thing although it usually refers to meats cooked with tomato sauce. The sauce is made with tomato, olive oil, onion and sometimes garlic, oregano or spices.
A similar sauce is the the sofrito and the Spanish version in particular, resembles the Greek one. It also contains tomato, olive oil, garlic and onions but also peppers and is prepared the same way: lightly sautéing the ingredients in a pan and then slowly simmering with tomato. Read more »
The reality is that many people do not know what a good olive oil is supposed to taste like. And since I have many recipes that include olive oil, I thought I would give some tips on what to look for in a good olive oil. We always hear that good food comes from fresh ingredients. Olive oil in the Mediterranean diet is an ingredient that is in almost every recipe-especially in Greek cuisine-let’s not forget Greeks are the highest consumers of olive oil in the world, and for a reason; olive oil is added everywhere. That is why it is especially important to have good olive oil if you are trying to incorporate elements of this diet to your current eating pattern. But apart from flavor, good olive oil is important for its health benefits: old olive oil lacks those valuable antioxidants that are responsible for most of its health benefits.
You may think that you would know just by tasting if an olive oil is bad, but that is not the case, particularly when olive oil has not been part of your diet initially. A study from the University of California, Davis had found that 44% of consumers in the U.S. liked defects like rancidity, fustiness, mustiness and winey flavor in their olive oil. Read more »
I’m surprised more people do not pop their own popcorn. Considering that studies have shown that microwave popcorn contains several substances such as perfluorochemicals (PFC’s), which are a group of chemicals that are applied to the bags because of their non-stick properties. These chemicals, which are carcinogenic, once ingested stay in our bodies for a long time and are associated with lowered immune response in children and endocrine problems. The popcorn itself is also often coated with another substance diacetyl, which appears to cause lung damage in popcorn factory workers. Read more »
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 »