Add a little Greek Blue into your kouzina palate!
The Mediterranean diet, deemed as the Best Overall Diet by U.S. News & World Report for the second year in a row, proves itself to be the world’s healthiest way to eat, improving longevity, protecting against chronic disease, as well as aiding in achieving weight goals. Gaining all of these benefits while adopting a delicious lifestyle that serves up key foods (such as salmon, legumes, grains, olive oil, nuts, and red wine) makes this nourishing cuisine an easy one to get used to.
Greece, especially Karpathos (the island where we’re from), is surrounded by water, (hence, the Blue Zone connection), so fish is plentiful, rendering it the country’s main source of protein. Greeks also eat more lower-fat plant proteins (such as legumes, nuts, and seeds) and fewer high-fat meats. Whole foods are the rock stars and processed foods are frowned upon. Daily meals include an abundance of whole grains, healthy fats (like omega-3s), fresh vegetables, and fruits. Red wine? Yes, please (in moderation)!
Karpathian Fasolada (Bean Stew)
Olive oil brings rich flavor and healthy antioxidant benefits to this meal, so always choose good-quality extra-virgin (Greek is best).
NOTE: By using canned beans, normal cooking time is cut in half. If you’re not pressed for time, use the traditional dried beans for a more nutrient-packed stew (preparation below).
PREP TIME: 30 minutes (plus standing, if using dried beans)
COOKING TIME: about 45 minutes (about 1 hour 10 minutes, if using dried beans)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2/3 cup)
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans (15 oz each) Northern beans, cannellini beans, or black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or canned plum tomatoes with juices, seeds removed
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), plus fresh sprigs for garnish
6 to 7 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups spinach leaves, washed and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup small pasta (like pastina or Greek kouskousaki)
1/2 cup sliced cooked/browned sausage
4 ounces crumbled Greek feta
Sliced crusty bread
1. In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and gently stir to coat with oil. Add the tomato, bay leaf, thyme, and just enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil.
2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the stew is thick and creamy, about 25 minutes (add pasta, if using, after 15 minutes of cooking and continue to cook for another 10 minutes).
3. Stir in the spinach and parsley. Stir in the sausage, if using. Cover and cook until the spinach is tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and serve hot. Top each serving with feta and garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired. Add crusty bread on the side, if using.
*DRIED BEANS: Use 2 cups dried beans. Pick over and rinse well.
Place beans in a large bowl and fill with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches; soak overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse well. Add to stew as directed and cook until beans are tender but not falling apart, about 50 minutes. Add pasta, if using, the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Place beans in a large pot filled with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well. Add to stew as directed and cook until beans are tender but not falling apart, about 50 minutes. Add pasta, if using, the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Recipe by Kelly Salonica Staikopoulos
Copyright © 2020 Kukla's Kouzina: A Gourmet Journey~Greek Island Style
Refer to our Mediterranean Diet Resolution blogs for our meal plans and suggestions—it’s an introduction to a healthy Greek lifestyle for your New Year and beyond. More recipes can be found in our Mediterranean Diet Resolution Recipes blogs.
I hope you enjoy cooking and eating the classic Greek Blue way, and that this month’s recipes guide you to a healthy lifestyle. Join us next week for our island-style baked fish recipe, Psari Plaki.
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Kali orexi! Good appetite!
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