Much like its cousin the Genovese basil (also known as sweet basil), Greek basil is delicious in pesto, tomato-based sauces or simply sprinkled on salads.
In Greece, basil’s culinary applications are usually secondarily to its use as an ornamental plant. You’ll find it overflowing pots on verandas and patios everywhere. Oftentimes, it is planted alongside vegetables, especially tomatoes, as it repels certain troublesome insects.
It’s flavor is somewhat more peppery and lemony than sweet basil (the one most commonly available in the US markets) and its also less likely to wilt so quickly when it comes to contact with hot foods.
It’s super easy to grow outdoors (depending on the temperature where you live) and does beautifully indoors in pots. This one is just getting started and will be coming inside within the next week or two to take its place on a sunny windowsill:
Pinch off the tops before they go to seed to encourage new growth and you’ll eventually have a dense plant that grows to about eight inches tall like this one that lives in my mom’s yard in Nafplio:
Then there’s this one that my mom grew that seriously resembles a small tree but that’s rather atypical:
Either way, it’s delicious, smells amazing and gives a nice shot of pretty green to any garden.
Yemista is a traditional Greek dish that is easy and very adaptable. In our recipe, we use tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, which is common, but we give the stuffing our own twist. (We like a combination of brown rice, barley and wheat berries but, really, any grain is fine for this dish.)
3 large tomatoes, 3 bell peppers and 2 Italian eggplant (or any combination you like)
2 lbs russet potatoes
1 1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup wheat berries
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 large yellow onion (chopped fine)
1 small bunch fresh basil (chopped)
1/2 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tbspns dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Cook all grains until just al-dente and drain. Set aside.
Wash all the vegetables. Cut just the tops off the tomatoes and peppers and slice a thick slice from one side of each of the eggplant, set aside. Remove and discard the membrane and seeds from the peppers. With a sharp spoon, scoop out the inside of the tomatoes, discarding the seeds and the thick middle but reserving the flesh (chopping first) and juice in a bowl. Scoop out the inside of the eggplant and reserve.
Place all the hollowed vegetables in a deep casserole. (Remember to keep the “caps” of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant as they will be used to cover the vegetables once they’re stuffed.
Chop up the reserved flesh of the eggplant and combine with the chopped onion and minced garlic.
Add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a frying pan and cook the eggplant, onion and garlic mixture until soft.
Combine the mixture with the chopped tomatoes and juice. Add the grains and herbs and one cup olive oil, tomato paste, cheese and salt and pepper. Combine well.
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fill all the vegetables with the grain mixture and conver with their respective “caps”.
Peel and cut potatoes into 2 inch pieces and place in between the vegetables in such a way that the potatoes are all in contact with the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour a half cup of water into the pan taking care not to pour over the vegetables. Add tomato sauce, pouring only over the potatoes and into the pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, checking every 20 minutes to make sure the pan does not get dry. There should always be a layer of liquid in the bottom of the pan for the potatoes to cook. If the tops of the peppers and tomatoes begin to brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
The dish is best served at room temperature and is delicious the second and third day. Serve with warm, crusty bread, feta and olives.
This versatile, flavorful spread can be enjoyed in a lot of ways. (Seriously, google it, you’ll come up with over 650,000 results.)
We've narrowed the list down to some of our favorites:
What's your favorite? Click on the title of this post, scroll down and let us know in the comments section.
Hilopites are small, square shaped egg noodles, especially made in Greece. The pasta can be made from scratch and the recipe is super easy. (Find it at the end of this post.)
But you don’t have to do all that... just buy a bag at the nearest Greek grocer. If there isn't one near you, no problem! Get some thin or medium width egg noodles, crush them gently while sill in the package or use orzo. This recipe will work just as well with those substitutions.
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 - 6 pieces of chicken (thighs, breast, drumsticks, bone-in or deboned but remember to adjust cooking time for bone-in pieces)
2 - 3 cups hilopites, crushed egg noodles or orzo
14 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
2 and 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
I large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon allspice (whole)
all purpose flour
salt, pepper and oregano to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Lightly flour the chicken pieces and add to the pot; brown over high heat a couple of minutes on each side, adding a little salt and pepper as you go. Don’t cook all the way through.
Remove the chicken to a dish/bowl, cover and keep in a warm place. To the pot, add one chopped onion and 4 cloves of garlic (minced) and sauté until the onion is translucent and soft.
Add tomatoes, a teaspoon of whole allspice and salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper is recommended). Cook for 5 minutes then add one cup of water and the chicken. Cook until chicken is done (5-10 minutes, depending on whether you’re using boneless or bone-in pieces).
Remove chicken and set aside in a warm place, add another two cups of water to the pot and the hilopites (or whichever type of pasta you’re using) and cook as directed on the package. (Hilopites usually cook within 5 minutes.) Add water if the sauce thickens too quickly (hilopites tend to “drink” up the liquid) so that you have a thickened but not “dry” sauce. Add the 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to finish your sauce.
Serve the pasta and chicken with grated parmesan and a salad of your choice and enjoy!
7 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup of salt
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Combine the first four ingredients and half the olive oil adding milk or flour, as needed, to obtain a firm dough. Once you make the dough, add some olive oil to a work surface and roll out the dough with a long, long rolling pin (my mom still uses a special “broomstick” kind of rolling pin she had made especially for this purpose) Wrap the dough around the pin (you will have many layers) and cut long strips through all the layers. The strips should be slightly wider than a fettuccini, about the width of your pinky. Then cut those strips crosswise, spread the pieces out on table to dry and ta-da you have hilopites.
If not using immediately, once thoroughly dried, store your hilopites in an air-tight container in the refrigerator (we keep ours in the crisper). In addition to the Chicken and Hilopites recipe above, you can use the hilopites in most pasta dishes, especially those calling for a delicate flavor and texture.
Love, love, love this gorgeous salad for its textures, colors and balance of flavors. The silky/crunchy texture of quinoa, the mellow roasted broccoli florets and summer squash, crunch of red onion and tang of feta. Like so many of our dishes, it can be made a day ahead and enjoyed as a side dish or a main attraction.
Any quinoa will do. We like the tri-color just for the fun of it.
The recipe we put together includes summer squash, broccoli, red onion and corn but you can use the vegetables you like best (or have on hand). Peppers, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, the choices are endless. Keep it to three or four and throw in some black beans too, if you like. Our recipe is more of a loose guide than something written in stone.
1 1/2 cups Quinoa (cooked for 20-25 minutes (drain and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and let cool)
Florets from 3-4 stalks of broccoli
1 large or two small zucchini, cubed
1 red onion, diced
Kernels from two ears of corn (or the equivalent of frozen corn, about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup crumbled feta (or to taste)
For the dressing:
1/3 cup lemon juice, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
2/3 cup oilladi extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon oilladi thyme honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh or dried herbs (oregano, thyme or basil work beautifully with this salad)
Use the herb of your choice, as noted above. Here we used Greek basil (aka bush basil). The leaves are small and delicate and have a subtle aroma and flavor.
Cook the vegetables until slightly softened (boil the corn and either sautee or roast the broccoli and zucchini). Leave the red onion raw.
Combine the vegetables and let cool to room temperature.
Pour the lemon juice or vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt and pepper to taste in a glass jar and cover tightly. Shake vigorously to emulsify. (Alternatively, you can simply whisk the ingredients in a mixing bowl.)
Combine quinoa, veggies and dressing and crumbled feta. Enjoy!
Ratatouille in French, Tourlou in Greek or Briam in Turkish. It's a classic, versatile dish that works beautifully as a side dish to a meat or chicken main but can stand alone as the main attraction. Just add good, crusty bread, feta and olives on the side and you're good to go.
Start with onions, garlic and tomatoes and add the veggies of your choice. The traditional recipe calls for eggplant and zucchini but green beans, artichoke, okra can all be added in or used as a substitute.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are best but if they're not available, chopped canned tomatoes (without herbs or salt) do a fine job as stand-ins.
1/4 cup (plus more for drizzling) Extra virgin olive oil
5-6 ripe or 28 oz of canned tomatoes
2 - 3 medium onions
5 cloves of garlic
2 medium eggplant
3 - 4 medium zucchini
fresh basil leaves
Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the eggplant and zucchini into large cubes or thick strips. In a large casserole, toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven. Stir occasionally until just cooked through (15 to 20 minutes, on average).
While the eggplant and zucchini roast, rough chop your tomatoes (if using fresh), rough chop the garlic and thickly slice the onion.
In a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, saute the onion 5 - 7 minutes, add garlic and continue sauteing for another minute then add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.
Lower oven heat to 350 degrees, combine tomato mixture with the vegetables in the casserole and return to the oven for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Serve as a side dish to chicken or meat or as a main course with crusty bread and feta.
Feta, feta and more feta. Truth is, we eat it year-round but definitely more so in the summer months.
In Greek salad, crumbled over grilled asparagus, in our spinach pie, and served on the side with so many meals.
Oh, and dill and lemons. They seem to make more appearances in the summer as well.
This pasta salad is so easy and quick to prepare and looks very pretty, especially if you use colorful tomatoes which are easier to find in the warmer months.
Ingredients (for 8-10 side-dish servings; recipe can be adjusted for less or more servings):
2 cups orzo
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or any small tomato cut into bite size pieces)
2 cups crumbled feta
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3/4 cups oilladi
2 teaspoons lemon zest
salt and pepper (start with 1/2 teaspoon each and adjust to your taste)
Prepare orzo as directed, drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine with all other ingredients and serve at room temperature. (The rose, however, should be chilled.)