Greek Salad is a healthy salad. This is a test page for Speros! I can assure you that the recipes you will find here - when he writes them up will amaze you!
Traditionally, Greeks eat foods that are in season and follow a somewhat relaxed and unhurried approach to mealtimes. Greeks are, though, very serious about their traditional foods, and they can hardly change their dietary habits when it comes to dishes such as Greek Salad, as they consider it both delicious and healthy.
Greek Salad is the focal point of the Mediterranean diet
Greek salad is based on several fresh vegetables, each one of which is very healthy and provides our bodies with all necessary nutrients. In order to make a good and healthy Greek Salad, you need to use fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, peppers, feta cheese and comprehensive amount of olive oil and herbs. A healthy salad with these ingredients can be put together in just a few minutes and it’s a perfect starter – or whole meal for some people – all year long but mainly eaten only in the summer!
Tomatoes are considered the best antioxidants, among the fresh veggies. They contain lycopene, which is powerful antioxidant, blocking the effects of several carcinogenic chemicals of the body and mopping up free radicals. The high amounts of anti oxidants, found in tomatoes, are associated with anti-aging process and provide extra protection against diseases such as neurological and mental diseases, or cancer.
Onions on the other hand, are known to balance pressure in blood and they have been used in the countries of the Mediterranean Sea as means to increase lean muscle mass. They contain some natural components associated with anti-cholesterol and anti-inflammatory properties; cucumber and peppers on the other hand are also rich in veggie proteins and vitamins, and contain a great deal of minerals necessary to our bodies, such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. Feta cheese provides the necessary proteins and calcium and helps us maintain good cholesterol levels.
Olive Oil, the cornerstone of a healthy Greek salad
Greek olive oil and olives
The cornerstone and main ingredient of a healthy Greek Salad is of course olive oil, the cradle of life for the Mediterranean people. The typical dressing for a fresh Greek Salad is as fundamental and uncomplicated as the salad itself; Greeks usually dress the salad with a dousing of olive oil and herbs. The oil they use is local, green, grassy, perfectly pressed. The dousing is not timid either.
Olive oil is the base of the Mediterranean Diet, as Greeks tend to avoid margarines and butters when cooking; olive oil contains monosaturated fats which are healthy and can reduce the risk of heart diseases and cholesterol. Olive oil is also rich in chemicals that alleviate pain, and researches prove that half liter of olive oil contains the same amount of pain relieving chemicals as iboprufen, but in a much more natural way.
The goods for a Greek salad are a choice of fresh pickings; a healthy Greek salad depends on whatever is fully ripe and crisp in the marked; therefore make sure that you choose only fresh products for your salad. Cut veggies in slices, drizzle over some olive oil and enjoy your Healthy Greek Salad with a few slices of wholemeal bread. The Taverna Nafsika uses only their own olive oil havested yearly by Speros!
Theodora's Classic Greek Moussaka
Moussaka is a casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling then topping it off with a creamy bechamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection. This eggplant version is the traditional rendition taught to Theodora by her great aunt from Athens, however you can also layer in potatoes, zucchini, or whatever vegetables you prefer. It's hearty and filling so you won't need many side dishes. Sometimes Theodora uses lentils instead of mince meat to make a vegetarean Moussaka!
While it can be time consuming to prepare, I think you will find that once complete it is a very worthwhile endeavor.
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
- 3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
- 1 lb. potatoes
- 1 1/2 lbs. mince beef (or lamb)
- 2 large onions, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Kefalotyri (like Parmesan) cheese
- Bechamel Sauce:
- 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup flour
- 4 cups milk, warmed
- 8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
Prep the Vegetables:
Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt also helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant.
Peel the potatoes and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Fry them until soft and golden. Set aside on dry paper towels as to absorb all the excess oil.
Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Fry the eggplant slices in a deep frier or frying pan, turning them over once during cooking.
When eggplant is finished cooking, place them on dry paper towels as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the Meat Filling:
In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, (and sugar if tomatoes are not sun rippen). Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the Béchamel Sauce:
Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.
Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens but not too much.
Assemble the Moussaka:
Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.
Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese and sprinkle some nutmeg. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Repeat another layer with the meat sauce, eggplant, grated cheese and the nugmet.
Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.
Serve with Greek salad and/or bread...enjoy!