Chickpeas (in Greek “revithia“) are legumes (which are always gluten free) with amazing health benefits widely consumed all year round in Crete and other southern Greek islands. Cretans prepare chickpeas in the form of a delicious and filling vegan soup that is exemplary of the Cretan vegan diet. Unlike most Cretan dishes that are based on tomato juice, adding a sweetness to their taste, chickpea soup is based on lemon juice giving it some acidity which brings out the great starchy taste of chickpeas. This slight acidity could be masterfully balanced out to some extent with the addition of a tiny bit of flour which also thickens the soup (this is optional as it takes away the gluten free character of the dish). When I try to motivate people to include legumes in their diet, I always use this great dish as an example!
Green beans (in Greek “fasolakia prasina“) are the pods of unripe beans which are considered vegetables although technically are legumes. The pods of green beans are tender and the beans contained are tiny, so the pods prevail in quantity and taste. Green beans cooked in fresh tomato juice (what else!) together with potatoes is the most typical Cretan summery dish. Of course the dish contains generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil. There is no summer in Crete that does not involve regular (almost on a weekly basis!) eating of green beans. Green beans is a casual dish that is ideal for the high temperatures of the Cretan summer, as it is light and refreshing. This dish is one of the cornerstones of the extremely rich Cretan vegan cuisine.
The health benefits of Cretan green beans and recipe are found here!
Squash (in Greek “kolokitha“) is a summer vegetable looking like something between a courgette and a big watermelon (note that there are several varieties of squash like the butternut squash or the pumpkin). The Cretan squash grows throughout summer and ends up huge (weighs several kilograms) in autumn when it is harvested (usually between end of September and October). It is consumed either pan fried (sliced and sprinkled with flour) or as the main ingredient of pies. There are two types of squash pies, one is savoury (eaten as main dish or starter) and the other is sweet (eaten as dessert or snack). Here we will talk about the savoury version of the pie. Squash has a natural sweetness which matches perfectly with the saltiness of the feta and graviera cheese added in the pie. This is wrapped between delicious filo pastry to produce an unforgettable Cretan pie that anyone would crave for. Every time we visit a Cretan vegetable garden (there are always squashes growing!) we become apprehensive of the time when the squashes we see become delicious pies. We provide below a great recipe for a squash pie that evokes happ
There is nothing more basic in a diet than bread. Therefore a healthy diet begins with healthy bread and Cretans eat a lot of it with every meal. The most traditional Cretan bread is the barley rusk (“dakos”) which is very difficult and time consuming to prepare at home. Apart from “dakos”, Cretans eat a great deal of whole grain bread. Our personal favourite whole grain bread, both in terms of flavour and its health benefits, is a combination of three kinds of wholemeal flour (“aleuri olikis”), namely spelt (“aleuri zeas”), rye (“aleuri sikalis”) and wheat flour (“starenio aleuri“). Below we provide a generic recipe for making bread in the traditional hand made way that can be executed with any kind of flour suitable for baking. Note that the provided flour types and quantities used correspond to our own favourite flour and seed combination.
Okra (“bamies”) is one of Crete’s favourite vegetable full of health benefits. Okra has a lot of devoted fans in Crete although in the rest of Greece less so. Okra is mainly found around the Mediterranean and is rare in other places. Cretans usually eat okra as a vegan dish cooked with tomato juice, although it can be also combined with chicken or fish. Okra has a sticky texture and fairly sweet taste which becomes delicious with tomato sauce. It is a very summery dish, light and refreshing. It evokes childhood memories of long and hot summers when we went for swimming in the turquoise Cretan seas. The usual question when we returned home was ‘what’s on for lunch’? When our mother’s or grandmother’s answer was’okra’ we always exclaimed with pleasure; what a perfect end to a Cretan summer experience!
There is nothing more basic in a diet than bread. Therefore a healthy diet begins with healthy bread and Cretans eat a lot of it with every meal. The most traditional Cretan bread is the barley rusk (“dakos”) which is very difficult and time consuming to prepare at home. Apart from “dakos”, Cretans eat a great deal of whole grain bread. Our personal favourite whole grain bread is a combination of three kinds of wholemeal flour (“aleuri olikis”), namely spelt (“aleuri zeas”), rye(“aleuri sikalis”) and wheat flour (“starenio aleuri”). We provide a generic recipe for making bread with the use of bread maker that can be executed with any kind of flour suitable for baking. Note that the provided flour types and quantities used correspond to our own favourite flour and seed combination.
Fish has always been regarded as a truly healthy and nutritious food. It is a fantastic source of protein, vitamin D (important when you live in less sunny places!), as well as the best source of omega-3 fatty acids that lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Add to that the amazing properties of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, celery and tomatoes (full of fiber, vitamins and folate) and you get the ultimate health booster; the Cretan “Psarosoupa”, i.e., the Cretan fish and vegetable soup, prepared with egg-lemon broth (“avgokoma”). The open seas surrounding the island of Crete (especially the ones to the south!) are some of the best sources for clean and amazingly tasty fish. The Cretan soil is also heavenly for vegetable gardens. There could not be any greater and more balanced combination of what land and sea offers on this magical island.
Lentils (in Greek “Fakes”) are gluten free legumes whose health benefits are well recognized. First of all, they are low in calories and, therefore, diet friendly. Furthermore, they are full of fiber, iron, folate and protein and as such they are a great detoxicating alternative to meat. Find the full article and recipe here.