Cabin fever … social distancing … elbow bumps. I hope that by the time you read this column, the coronavirus is going, going, gone for the health of our country, our people and all others around the world. Usually when we are sick or feel like we’re coming down with something, comfort food is what we crave. But what if we’re not sick, just panicked, stressed and very concerned that we may get this virus? Comfort foods may not be what you want or need, unless it is healthy comfort food. So don’t panic. I have some delicious healthy foods that will feed and support your body’s nutritional needs as it satisfies your senses, especially those of smell and taste! As I tell our grandkids, stay healthy … enjoy foods that are the colors of the rainbow. Colorful healthy foods. Can’t find the fresh produce you need? You can always buy frozen and remember, beans and lentils also are so good and healthy. Check out foods of the healthy Mediterranean diet; they are good for you but as you know, some foods do taste a bit better to some than others. And of course, the Italians, Greeks, Lebanese and others do have yummy desserts. They are full of sweet syrupy goodness -- creamy butter, sugar, honey and cheeses baked or fried as pies, breads, custards and candies. Those are not the healthiest. But we all indulge (in moderation of course). Let’s all fed our bodies well. I want to help you enjoy healthy options so “Please Join Our Table” as we share great-tasting, healthy food for you to make while enjoying your time at home with family.
Baby Sis Kim’s Cretan Greek No-Lettuce Salad
This is my sister Kim’s favorite salad. When I went back to Greece in 2010 with Phil I loved the salads even though they had no lettuce. We were served a Greek village salad every time we ordered salad. I guess lettuce doesn’t grow well in Greece. However a horta’ salad is very popular; it is made with wild greens like dandelion. This Greek village salad, (Horiatiki), is the most popular in our family, especially with my baby sister, so much so that I named my version after her. Most importantly, I use high-quality, extra-virgin Greek olive oil, great imported feta, and lots of oregano, fresh and dried.
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks (remove all the seeds)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 European seedless cucumber, cut into bite-size chunks
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 banana or Anaheim pepper, seeded and chunked
1 cup Kalamata black olives, pits removed
Several sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 1/2 cup, without stems
2 (1/4 pound) slices imported Greek sheep feta
1/3 cup (a couple of glugs) extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3 tablespoons (3 splashes) red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano, crushed in palm of your hand
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Coarse salt and black pepper
Anchovies in oil, drained
* Topped with grilled calamari option, see below
Combine vegetables, olives and parsley in a large bowl. Combine oil, vinegar and oregano and all seasonings in a small plastic container with a lid. Shake vigorously to combine oil and vinegar and pour over salad. Let the salad marinate until ready to serve so the flavors merge together and impregnate the vegetables, at least 30 minutes or so. Place sliced feta on the top of salad. Top with anchovies, a drizzle of EVOO, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of Greek oregano. Serve with pita bread brushed with EVOO and sprinkled with Greek oregano, salt and pepper. Lightly brown pitas under the broiler, till blistered and warmed.
*Soak 20 wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes. Rinse 10 small whole cleaned, tentacles removed, calamari tubes and pat dry. Split the bodies from top to bottom so you have 2 triangular pieces. Thread a soaked skewer through the length of each piece. Heat grill or a grill pan and oil it lightly. Grill the calamari for 2 minutes on each side, no longer or they will be tough. To serve, put the salad onto a large platter and top it with the calamari skewers. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and lemon wedges.
My Vegan or Not … Lentil Soup
We have several friends and family members who are now vegan or semi-vegan, so I’m sharing this soup both ways. It’s inexpensive to make and very filling, nutritious and tasty. The big bonus is that the lentils don’t need to soak overnight!
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, dry
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained (I sometimes use Rotel for extra heat)
4 cups water or *vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dry
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a 3-4 quart pot, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic and saute for 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add dried lentils, tomatoes, vegetable stock or water, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper and the remaining olive oil. Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the red wine vinegar. For the (optional) topping, in a small bowl, mix together yogurt and lemon juice. Top the soup with the yogurt/lemon juice mixture, feta cheese and olives.
* To make this a hearty sausage soup, change the vegetable stock for chicken or beef stock and add 12 ounces sliced andouille sausage.