Briami (The Greek Ratatouille)

August 30, 2012 6 Comments

I don’t like to describe a dish using the name of a dish of another culture, but if you ask someone (who is not Greek) what briami is they willl probably just give you a blank look. If you ask them what ratatouille is, well… there are more possibilities that they will know that it’s not just a cartoon.

So today is briami or briam day. This is another summer favorite, although I have to admit, I also make it during other seasons without eggplant. Briami is basically chunks of vegetables cooked in olive oil, and it belongs to the lathera family. But you don’t just add any vegetable you want, there are certain vegetables that make up briami: potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onion, tomato, sometimes okra and bell pepper. You can make briami in a pot just like you would make ….let’s say fasolakia lathera (green beans with tomato and olive oil), or in the oven which is how I like it. With the roasted version, the vegetables become crispy and in combination with feta cheese and a fresh bread, this is a perfect meal. Read more »

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Chios Mastiha: A very special Greek ingredient

August 27, 2012 3 Comments

Last week the summer forest fires ravaged many areas of Greece including the island of Chios. Chios is home to mastiha also known as mastic and unfortunately the fires destroyed almost 30% of the rare and difficult to cultivate, mastiha trees. But why is mastiha so special?

Mastiha is basically resin from the mastiha trees and appears in drops (see photo). While these mastiha trees may grow in other areas in the Mediterranean and produce resin, only the Chios trees produce the mastiha “tears” that have the characteristic aroma, taste and health benefits. Mastiha from Chios also is a P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) product, which means that its name (and reputation) is protected and only mastiha from Chios can carry this name. Read more »

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Baked Eggplant with Feta Cheese and Olive Oil

August 23, 2012 2 Comments

My personal favorite way of eating eggplant is baked, combined with tomato, olive oil and feta. It is a simple, but flavorful recipe and I managed to make it lighter by lightly sautéing the eggplant and letting the eggplant slices strain on paper towels. Yes, you need to sauté them a bit, otherwise the skin will be hard, but leaving them on paper towels will help get rid of the excess oil. I also did not use too much olive oil in the baking dish, I just drizzled some on top of each slice as opposed to having the whole baking dish full of oil. Read on for the recipe Read more »

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Time for Eggplants! Why you should eat this decadent vegetable

August 22, 2012 2 Comments

The eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. If it sounds like I’ve said this before, I probably have because I really have a weak spot for all summer vegetables. When eggplant season comes around there are all sorts of traditional Greek recipes to choose from. I remember one summer, I was spending my vacation on the island of Kithira and the family of my sister-in-law Maria, had their own organic garden with plenty of eggplants. So everyday we would eat eggplants. One day it was melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), another day eggplant with rice, then eggplant stuffed with beef or eggplant with tomato or moussaka (a lasagna like dish of eggplant cooked with beef and potatoes) or stuffed eggplant. There was even sweet syrupy eggplant preserves. But even after that eggplant overdose I never got sick of them.

The eggplant is a decadent vegetable; when cooked it literally melts in your mouth and caramelizes giving it a sweet taste. Although Greeks have plenty of eggplant recipes, the Mediterranean in general is known for its love of eggplants and there is an abundance of  traditional recipes to choose from. Read more »

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What to eat on a Greek Island

August 13, 2012 Leave a Comment
Zucchini sticks, beets and tzatziki (garlic -greek yogurt dip)

Zucchini sticks, beets and tzatziki (garlic -greek yogurt dip)

As promised I am sharing my dining experiences while vacationing with my family on the Cycladic island of Paros. Generally I am against rules that dictate what you should eat while on vacation, heck you are on vacation, you should be able to enjoy things you like and try foods you may never have a chance to try again! Unfortunately, many people place rigid rules on themselves even when on vacation. For example, at the hotel we were staying, a  young couple, obviously very fit, would come to breakfast with their big protein shakes every morning, have a couple of fruit and that was it. Too bad because they missed out on some wonderful local Greek breakfast foods.

On the other hand, many vacations are centered around food: hotels and cruises with all inclusive buffets, the whole vacation appears to be just about eating, not very healthy or fun either. So make sure you enjoy the food, especially if you are visiting Greece, because it is truly a unique experience. Just don’t waste your calories on average foods you can find anywhere like soft drinks, ice cream, crackers, chocolate bars, grilled meats etc. Read more »

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How to Eat Real Greek Food at your Favorite Greek Restaurant

August 9, 2012 Leave a Comment

I am back from vacation and I hope you had the chance to check out on Olive Tomato’s Facebook page what I was eating while vacationing on the Greek island of Paros-I will be posting the photos with comments here too. But now I will continue where I left off. As promised I am making recommendations on menu items in Greek restaurants outside of Greece.

In my first post I covered restaurants in the U.S., and today I will make recommendations from restaurants in Australia, U.K. and Canada, based on how closely they to the principles of the original Mediterranean diet, pointing out dishes that better represent that original Mediterranean diet and have more nutrition bang for the buck. I am listing my top 5 picks of each restaurant. Read more »

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The Elusive Greek Breakfast

July 31, 2012 12 Comments

Being in vacation mode, I’ll take a break from writing about Greek restaurants outside of Greece and write a few things about the Greek breakfast right here in Greece.

When people write or talk about the Greek breakfast, they often say it is nonexistent or is made up of a cigarette and a coffee. While the Greek breakfast was never a huge meal, except perhaps for farmers, there is a large variety of traditional Greek breakfast foods and recipes from different parts of Greece, which would be a great addition to any hotel breakfast buffet.

For example, you may find local savory pies made with local cheese, homemade Greek fruit preserves, local sausages and cured meats, Greek cookies and bread.  Read more »

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