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 »
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 »
Pizza is commonly considered junk food or fast food, something you should avoid generally. However, when we look at the popular and original pizzas from Italy what we see is basically dough (with no added fat ) with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese sometimes extra tomatoes and basil.
The pizza we often order otherwise is really some sort of westernized version of the real thing. For example in Chicago where I grew up we have this deep dish version which is literally a pie like crust filled with melted cheese and tomato sauce (and sometimes topped with sausage). It is delicious, but Mediterranean diet it is not. Read more »
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 »
I’ve mentioned this before, but phyllo is so versatile and you should always have some in your kitchen. Here in Greece we actually have fresh phyllo (not frozen) available at the super market which makes it even easier to make your own Greek pies such as spanakopita. I do like to use it for sweets as well, in the place of a regular crust. It has no fat (although I noticed that in the US many brands have added fat in them) and only contain flour and cornstarch, providing a lighter version. Even when you brush your oil in between layers, you have control of how much you use and what kind of fat you add. Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »