The Healthy Greek Mediterranean Pantry

August 19, 2016

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Having  been on a short vacation recently, I am reminded of the importance of having non-perishable food items on hand for meals I can make even if I get home late at night and there is nothing in the refrigerator. By non-perishable I don’t mean potato chips and boxes of macaroni and cheese, but staples that traditionally are part of the Mediterranean diet. These are items that I make sure I never run out of and they all play an important role both for their nutritional as well as culinary aspects.  We all know that if there are unhealthy items in your kitchen, in times of hunger and weakness you will eat them. So it’s much easier to avoid them in the first place by maintaining a healthy mediterranean inspired pantry.

Here is my basic list:

-Olive Oil-
Of course. It is the basis of all things Mediterranean. Make sure you buy extra virgin olive oil and look for a harvest date on the bottle

-Red Wine Vinegar-
Perfect for salads and salad dressings.

-Tomato paste and canned chopped tomatoes-
Much needed for many Greek casseroles (lathera) especially in the winter when good tomatoes are not available.
Look for those in bpa free containers, also they should not contain added salt

-Olives-
We have all sorts of olives, perfect for a snack or in salads and pasta

-Sun-dried tomatoes-
We love sun-dried tomatoes, they are treat! We eat them as a quick appetizer, but they are great in salads, sandwiches and pasta. Make sure they are preserved in olive oil

-Dried oregano, mint and basil-
What is the Greek diet without its antioxidant rich herbs? Especially my mom’s favorite: oregano!

-Dry and canned beans-
Dry beans are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, canned beans are fine especially when I have no time.

-Honey-
It’s our sugar, we drizzle some on yogurt, eat on bread with tahini and in salad dressings.

-Pasta-
An easy meal that you can embellish with plenty of vegetables. Kids love it.

-Walnuts-
Great plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat them with fruit, in yogurt in salads or plain.

-Cretan barley rusks-
My favorite! Snack on them or use them in salads. Great source of cholesterol lowering fiber.

-Italian Style Breadsticks Grissini-
These are very thin hard breadsticks. Great as a snack along with tomatoes and cheese. When you buy them make sure they are made with olive oil not palm oil or other oils.

-Canned sardines and anchovies-
Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and super easy to prepare. Look for fish canned in olive oil not other vegetable oils

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14 Comments

  • Reply Maria Soriano August 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    I heartily agree. Isn’t it funny how “macaroni & cheese” is used to indicate a box of low-quality macaroni and some orange chemical thing stealing the noble name of cheese? When good short-cut pasta with any of the dry Mediterranean cheeses (another pantry staple) and some olive oil (as well as a bit of the cooking water) is just as easy and probably cheaper.

    Canned beans are also useful in the event of a power outage.

    • Reply Elena August 20, 2016 at 9:40 am

      So true about the mac and cheese!

  • Reply Maria August 19, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    I like your receipes Elena, because they can be prepared with items you commonly have in your pantry, or easily purchased. Some healthy receipes have such exotic ingredients you have to search to find them in a speciality shop, or there are so many ingredients that they are too complicated for a weeknight meal.

    • Reply Elena August 20, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Thank you Maria! Yes, healthy eating needs to be easy

  • Reply Judy Matusky August 20, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Love your pantry tips! I agree 100%. No excuses about not cooking fast and healthy, even when you get home from vacation. Pantries should never be bare!

  • Reply Judy Matusky August 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    One question, when traveling in Crete, I loved the barley rusks used in salads or topped with tomato and cheese. I’m having a hard time finding them in Philadelphia. Any suggestions?

    • Reply Theresa August 20, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      I mistakenly replied out of order, but shared some suggestions on where to find rusks in Philadelphia below. Good luck!

    • Reply Maria August 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      If Bromall is convenient to you, there’s the Euro Market on Sproul Road, off of West Chester Pike. They have lots of imported Greek food including rusks from Crete.

    • Reply Elena September 9, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Hi Judy, As some readers noted you can find them locally or you can also order them online.

  • Reply Peg August 20, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Definitely going to stock up!

  • Reply Theresa August 20, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    You may be able to find them in the Russian/international markets of Northeast Philadelphia (like NetCost or Bells Market). There’s also a Greek store, N&E Agora at 917 Tyson Ave. They carry rusks.

  • Reply Catherine August 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Ever since moving to another city (a few months ago now, too long for it to still be a valid excuse) I’ve been living off pantry staples! What kind of tomato/pasta/bean/frozen vegetable combination will I have tonight with my sad little salad?

    • Reply Elena September 9, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Yes, the pantry can really be useful even when we just don’t have the time or energy.

  • Reply Christine September 13, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Elena, can you post a good recipe for Cretan barley rusks? I’ve purchased them at a local international market, but they were terribly expensive and not very fresh tasting.

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