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 »
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 »
The olive harvest season has started for a few weeks now, and for me it’s just another reminder of the wonder of the olive. Yes, this fruit produces olive oil, and that is its main use, but the actual olives, known as table olives are a very important part of the Mediterranean and Greek food culture. While there are several recipes that include olives as an ingredient, particularly in Crete, generally olives are best known in the Greek food culture as a food on its own. Traditionally, it was common to have olives with bread for breakfast or a mid morning snack or along with herbal tea in the evening. Olives were something one did not need to buy; it was what the land produced. Olives are also strongly associated with the Greek-Orthodox fasting period. Since animal products such as cheese were not allowed, olives became an accompaniment for all meals during this time.
As an ingredient the olive takes many forms in Greek cuisine. It is added to dough to make what we call eliopsomo, olive bread, it is a common accompaniment with beans and lentils, there are also olive pies as well as combinations of olives with meat or seafood and of course there is even sweet olive preserves (gliko toy koutaliou). Read more »
Broccoli and cauliflower are such misunderstood vegetables. They seem to be coupled with ingredients that are chosen to hide their taste rather than complement it: loads of artificial melted cheese and cream will do the trick. But when you combine broccoli with healthy ingredients such as garlic, olive oil and nuts the result is simply delicious. With that in mind I’m sharing this simple Mediterranean inspired broccoli recipe.
This particular time I found purple broccoli at the market. According to the farmer, this type of broccoli is an older variety in Greece compared to the green type. I wasn’t sure about that, but I bought it anyway as cruciferous vegetables and bright colored vegetables are full of antioxidants and other substances that protect from various diseases particularly cancer, and this purple broccoli fit the bill plus it was really pretty and the taste is almost the same as the regular green variety. Read more »
Continuing with the pumpkin theme, I thought I would share a little known recipe for a super easy, vegan pumpkin cake from the beautiful Greek Aegean island of Sifnos.
I associate the island of Sifnos with my first summer vacation without my parents (but that’s another story), but apart from the wonderful beaches and the charming towns, Sifnos is known for its good food and even better sweets. One of those being Loli. Now Loli means crazy in Greek, that’s right, the crazy cake. Apparently some stories say that they called it that because of all the ingredients they basically threw in a bowl and just mixed them all together… crazily. And that’s exactly how you make this cake: you put all the ingredients in a bowl and then you mix it it, empty it in a pan and bake. Read more »
Well Thanksgiving is less than week away and while here in Greece it is not really celebrated apart from some hotels offering Thanksgiving dinner buffets, at our home we do celebrate it. Our Thanksgiving takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with turkey and a mix of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and Greek dishes as well.
One of my favorite ingredients is of course pumpkin. I like anything made with it. Pumpkin pie comes to mind, but if you would like to try something different this Greek savory pie won’t disappoint. The sweetness of the pumpkin with the spicy feta makes a perfect combination. While pumpkin is not typically associated with Greek cuisine, they do have several recipes for this versatile vegetable: obviously Greek pies, patties, preserves (gluko koutaliou) or they may marinate it in vinegar and use it in a salad. Just to clarify, Greeks call pumpkin glikia kolokitha (sweet pumpkin), but they also call zucchini kolokithaki. So kolokithopita may be a pie made with zucchini or pumpkin but today I’m sharing a traditional recipe made with “sweet” pumpkin, feta cheese and phyllo. Yes it is the same concept as spana-kopita (spinach pie) and tyro-pita (cheese pie). Pita means pie and can be sweet or savory, although they are usually savory. Read more »
In my last post I started discussing how certain aspects of the Greek lifestyle can help you live longer, in relation to a recent article in the New York Times about the people of the Greek island of Ikaria who are among the longest living people in the world. Continuing on this concept, among the many lifestyle factors is the diet. The “Ikarian” diet is actually the Greek diet 50 years ago. I have discussed most aspects of this diet on this blog, it’s the diet I followed growing up (thanks to my mom), the diet my grandparents followed, and the diet of most Greeks before 1970. So here are some aspects of the diet I remember experiencing (and still do).
I remember just eating vegetables as a main dish. Vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, artichoke, and okra are cooked in olive oil, tomato and herbs and accompanied with bread and feta cheese. One of my favorite foods at some point was okra. What kid likes okra? But the way it was cooked with all the tomato it was really delicious.
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