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5 Ways to Eat More Vegetables The Greek Way

horta

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 »

Traditional Greek Stewed Octopus in Tomato Sauce

Greek octopus

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 »

Greek Flatbread-Lagana

Lagana Kathara Deftera

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 »

Top Doctors Recommend Mediterranean Diet Against Dementia to the British Health Secretary

caprese salad

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 »

The Secret (of the Mediterranean Diet) is in the Sauce

Cretan zucchini and garlic

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 »

How to Recognize Good and Bad Olive Oil

Olive Oil Tasting

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 »

Olive Oil Popcorn with Oregano

Olive Oil Popcorn

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »