Dr. Saverio Pandolfi (center) in the lab with researchers at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania

Dr. Saverio Pandolfi, an Italian olive oil expert at the National Research Council - Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources (CNR-IBBR) in Perugia, Italy, visited the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania in Crete, Greece last month to work with researchers and taste Greek olive oils. We discussed olive oil tasting and cooking with olive oil.

a photo of lamb stuffed green peppers

On any night I use this recipe to make a quick dinner for my family. I tend to keep green peppers on hand and lamb in my freezer. It’s one of those dishes you can pull together in no time. I shop for ground lamb, or you can use ground beef, at the butcher department of the grocery store. He can always grind you a pound or two. Choose the rice you prefer.

2 large pieces of chicken schnitzel on a paper towel on a plate

This may not be a traditional Greek recipe, but it is very popular with children and families here. It’s almost the only way my kids will eat chicken, and when fried with extra virgin olive oil it is fine for our health, so I don’t object. To save yourself trouble, ask your butcher to prepare your chicken breast fillets for schnitzel for you.

carrot onion parsley frittata pictured with pumpkin and pomegranates

This recipe’s first name was my teenage daughter’s idea, and a UFO seems appropriate (like its orange color) for Halloween. The second name is closer to accurate, but not exactly. This is a Cretan mother’s variation on some wonderful carrot parsley bread sticks, and an invention so tasty everyone in my family likes it (hallelujah—a rarity for healthy food!).

black eyed pea salad in a glass bowl

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe: cook your black eyed peas, add the chopped vegetables you’d like to eat with them, and toss them all together with salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. Corn, beans, and sweet pepper can provide an appealing sweetness; vinegar and extra virgin olive oil add a nice contrast. The possibilities are endless!

two round white plates next to each other, one with small preserved fish fillets arranged like rays, the other with a black eyed pea salad

Looking for recipes rich in olive oil these days? Here are some from homemakers on the Greek island of Crete: a black eyed pea salad; a spinach, walnut, and garlic dip; octopus cooked in wine; and spicy meatballs (soutzoukakia) with olives and tomato sauce. They are worth trying, because they are part of the Traditional Cretan Diet: The Secret of Longevity.

apple pie made with olive oil

Okay, so I’m not exactly Greek, but my olive oil is, and my family will tell you that I’m obsessed with it. So obsessed that I almost forgot about Thanksgiving for the first time in 14 years in Crete. So when I decided on a healthier Thanksgiving, that meant one with more olive oil. Let me explain, and then I’ll offer some Thanksgiving recipe suggestions.

stuffing with olive oil and herbs

This is a wonderful stuffing recipe in which I do not miss the butter one bit; good bakery bread and an excellent extra virgin olive oil make it perfect. The herbs do have a strong flavor, so you can use less than called for if you prefer. See the link at the end for my inspiration and enough suggestions for almost endless variations on this theme.

oranges hanging from trees like Christmas decorations

I've always enjoyed dessert, especially my mother’s holiday creations. But when I learned I was following my mother into pre-diabetes, I decided it was time for a change. If you’ve resolved to eat more healthy food and less added sugar in the New Year, consider my method: stop the sugar, increase the tasty healthy foods, allow yourself bits of sweet treats.

Easter Table

There is plenty of extra virgin olive oil in almost any Greek feast. For example, olive oil is poured over potatoes before baking, included in marinades for lamb, mixed with ground meats for burgers, used for frying potatoes and cheese pies, and liberally added to salads. At one Orthodox Easter feast in Crete, Xanthi’s white dip was especially rich in olive oil.

Melomakarona cookies and other baked goods in a Greek bakery

Many ask what Christmas time is like in Greece. Is Christmas a major holiday? Yes. Is it on the same day as in the USA? Yes. Are there Christmas trees and gifts? Yes, plus charity bazaars, shopping, choirs, special church services, and Nativity scenes. However, Greek customs and flavors differ from those central to my American holidays in many ways.

a plate piled high with brown melomakarona cookies, with angel decorations near the plate and a bit of Christmas tree in the background

Melomakarona, traditional Greek Christmas cookies, tend to be rich in olive oil and honey (with the beginning of their name coming from meli, the Greek word for honey). Dr. Eleni Melliou, president of the World Olive Center for Health in Athens, shared a version of her grandmother’s cookie recipe that uses super healthy high phenolic extra virgin olive oil.

Vegetarian Dishes

Desserts, Sweet Snacks, Breakfast Items



Other Main Dishes