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!
Taverna Zisis (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Ζήσης”) is an all time classic eatery in Rethymno where one can enjoy all facets of Cretan cuisine. The taverna is the biggest in size and also one of the oldest eateries in Rethymno. It offers a great multitude of Cretan dishes including traditional vegan Cretan cuisine, snails, pies, meat, Cretan barbecue and seafood. These can be ordered as mains or meze dishes to share (as most Cretans do). If you wish to quickly gain an understanding of Cretan food, this should be your fist stop! The taverna has a fixed a la carte menu and a large range of daily specials. Customers have the option to choose what to eat from the purpose-made food showcase of the taverna. As the taverna offers a great range of dishes, you need to visit it at least a few times to get a good impression of its cuisine. As regulars of the place, we usually start our meal with seasonal bitter greens which are nicely boiled and accompany well most Cretan dishes. As starters, we usually order some of the classic highlights of Taverna Zisis. We choose the juicy and soft stuffed vine leaves (“dolmadakia“), which are tender vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, accompanied with Cretan yoghurt. We also order the signature dish of pan fried and oven baked aubergine in tomato sauce (“melitzanes imam“), topped with grated cheese; easily one of the best executions of this really balanced dish. As mains various meat cuts and Cretan hamburgers on the barbecue are highly recommended. Same applies to meat or vegetable stews and casseroles. As dessert, the taverna brings delicious (although usually cold) doughnuts (“loukoumades“) topped with sesame and honey.
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
Taverna Alekos (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Αλέκος”) is a unique village taverna in the area of Rethymno, offering authentic meat-based Cretan cuisine with a creative touch. The taverna always offers a set menu, meaning that you do not order; the food comes to you, which is quite rare for Crete. The food is of exceptional quality and the offered food quantity (number of dishes and portions) is huge. The set menu always comprises salads, appetizers, casserole dishes and stews (served as starters) which vary depending on the day. A complete Cretan barbecue comprising hamburgers (some of the best you can have in Crete!) and steaks is always served as main accompanied with housemade French fries. The indoor area of the taverna is cozy, dominated by stone walls which gives it a rustic and friendly ambience. Taverna Alekos is highly recommended for tasting rustic Cretan cuisine with creative touches. It also offers great value for money. Please make sure though that you are really hungry before going to this taverna, as the offered food quantity is huge!
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.
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.