5 Greek Artisan Super Foods Perfect for Thanksgiving
If you’re anything like me, you appreciate all the fixings more than the actual bird on Thanksgiving Day. Mine are, well, as you’d expect, all Greek-inspired.I take most of my inspiration from the countless, delicious Greek artisan foods that are perfectly suited to the flavors and traditions of American Thanksgiving, or better said, of a “hyphenated” Thanksgiving, as in Greek-American!Here are a few of my favorite things.
Honestly, you’ve never experienced pistachios until you’ve popped a few of these small, delicious Aegina Koilarati variety pistachios. The island’s dry climate and chalky soil give these pistachios an intensely concentrated flavor. They are dry-farmed, watered just twice during the growing season, so extraordinarily sustainable. (By contrast American pistachios require up to 40 inches of irrigation water per crop.) Our farmer, Michalis Zois, a third-generation pistachio grower, salts them the traditional way, by immersing them in sea salt and roasting them with lemon. Why are these tiny nuts so good for you? For one, they are are cholesterol-free and a great source of vitamins and minerals, including: Manganese, Phosphorous, Copper, and Vitamin B6.
They also pack quite a punch of potassium. In fact, a 2-ounce serving has more potassium than a large banana and as much fiber as a cup of cooked broccoli. For Thanksgiving, they make a great welcoming snack, but are terrific inside stuffings, in salads, and, if you’re so inclined, processed with herbs, cheese and olive oil to make a unique pesto, like the pumpkin-feta-pistachio pesto I love to mix with cooked Greek giant beans, for a delicious addition to Thanksgiving. You can check out that recipe here:
These fleshy, succulent figs are one of my absolute favorite ingredients for Thanksgiving. I use them in my turkey stuffing together with Greek olives, bread and herbs, chop them up in salads, poach them with ouzo and/or sweet red wine as a garnish for roasted turkey, and add them to homemade cranberry sauce as a delicious foil against the tart flavor of the berries themselves.
Finishing the trio of Greek artisan foods that are perfectly paired to the Thanksgiving table is petimezi, essentially reduced grape must, which is nothing more than the juice from freshly pressed grapes before it starts to ferment into wine. Petimezi is one of the oldest sweeteners known to man, and an exceedingly healthy one at that. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and B, and minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Our bodies metabolize the natural sugars in petimezi easily, too. Our Petimezi has a deep, round, earthy flavor and is made by a passionate artisan in the Nemea region of the Peloponnese, an area of rolling hills and lush vineyards just an hour south of Athens. You can even get a first-hand literal taste of the region by taking a glorious three-day culinary adventure to Nemea and Nafplion next time you’re in Greece.
Our giant beans, aka gigantes, come from the mountainous region of Feneo, in the Western Peloponnese, and are produced by small, artisan farmers who hand-pick seed from year to year to preserve the quality and purity of these pesticide-free luscious beans. Gigantes low in calories and fat and very high in plant protein and fiber. They’re a rich source of all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and valuable antioxidants. They are also a good source of B vitamins, specifically thiamine, riboflavin and folate, which are necessary for turning the carbs you eat into energy. Make sure to soak them for 8 hours, drain then boil. What results are beans that are buttery on the inside but intact and beautiful!
Deciding which of my favorite Greek ingredients should be included in a list of five superfoods for Thanksgiving is like choosing who is your favorite kid. But tahini got my vote because it is so well-suited to so many of the dishes of Fall. I looked far and wide across Greece for a tahini that is a class apart from most of the commercial stuff and found a small producer in Northern Greece, an area once renowned for its sesame cultivation (tahini is nothing more than sesame paste). Samythos, based in Evros, Greece, produces of what I believe is the world’s finest tahini. They grow their Evros variety sesame seeds on mountainous organic farmland within the Natura network region, a designated European Ecological Network of areas that are home to rare flora and fauna. Low crop yields and a unique microclimate enables Samythos to produce certified organic sesame seeds with the highest content of essential oils, vitamins, minerals & enzymes. Use this delicious, nutty, power-packed tahini as a dip whipped with garlic, lemon juice and water, or as a salad dressing on your Thanksgiving table.