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!
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!
Ouzeri Lola (in Greek “Ουζερί Λόλα”) is really authentic seafood restaurant in Thessaloniki, Greece, where one can enjoy traditional seafood meze dishes, such as mussels, smoked fish, squid and various dips as well as fresh fish, either grilled or pan fried. As a typical “ouzeri” restaurant, Lola features a great selection of ouzo or tsipouro to match the seafood and meet every expectation. We tried the really succulent and delicious grilled octopus tentacles (“chtapodi sti schara”) in olive oil and vinegar sauce. Also the grilled fresh squid (“kalamari sti schara”) was very good. Further highlights were Thessalonian mussels “saganaki” (pan cooked mussels in mustard sauce with peppers and feta cheese), a very balanced taste, and the grilled smoked mackerel (“skoumpri kapnisto”) with the delicious and strong characteristic taste. We also tried the rich “Lola salad”, made of red cabbage, rocket, tomato and Greek hard cheese topped with seeds and a special salad sauce. Last but not least, the “taramosalata” dip, a dip made of salted and cured roe, was exceptional. A treat of a very nice homemade chocolate and cream dessert came at the end of our very fulfilling meal.
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.
Taverna Galera (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Γαλέρα”) is an upscale taverna situated in one of the nicest seafront locations of the city of Rethymno. The taverna enjoys fabulous views of the city and the coast and is very pleasant both in winter and summer. We almost feel compelled to enjoy seafood at such great seafront location. The signature dish of Taverna Galera is the shrimp “kritharoto” (risoni pasta cooked in shrimp broth). The shrimp pasta (“garidomakaronada”) is also great. Cuttlefish with greens (“soupies me maratha”) is also a must try when available. Worth trying are also the smaller meze style dishes, such as wild green pies (“xortopites”) and the spicy feta dip (“tirokauteri”), which is a great accompaniment to seafood. In summary, this taverna is a great place to relax while enjoying a seafood or meat based Cretan style meal also offering wonderful views.
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.