The light shifts ever so slightly. The breeze carries the first hints of a chill. Soft, bursting figs dangle from trees, begging to be plucked, and grapes are everywhere, pale green, yellowish gold, mottled pink, deep purplish red. Peppers populate market stalls in a palette of bright fire-engine reds and oranges, green and more, crisp, smooth, wrinkled, curled, twisted, long, round, stout, a whole family of diversity, each with its own special place in the Greek kitchen.
These are some of the things I think of when September slides in, the official end of summer, a time to regroup and resume what is for most of us a more hectic way of life.
This year marks the first time that I’ll be spending a good part of the month on Ikaria, feeling the change in season and spirit more fully. I have two classes running and am looking forward to savoring the start of autumn surrounded by so much nature.
But it’s also a time to start thinking about recipes that fit into a busier lifestyle, quick dinners, easy, healthy lunch options, heartier salads and more, all, of course, calling for the wonderful range of Greek ingredients that are part of the greater Mediterranean diet.
In that light, here are a few ideas for making life easier and tastier this fall, with a focus on rethinking the sandwich and the spreads we typically slather across bread.
Out with the mayo and in with a range of pure plant-based spreads that add incredible flavor to the world’s easiest grab-and-go lunch!
The traditional Greek recipe for yellow split pea puree has another life as a sandwich spread. It pairs beautifully with roasted eggplant slices, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and “spicy” greens like arugula. Its rich, sating texture means you can skip the cheese, too.
One of my favorite ideas is what I like to call the Santorini Sunset: spread fava on one slice of bread, Santorini sun-dried tomato paste on the other, and fill the in-between with smoked or roasted turkey slices, arugula, chopped Santorini capers, thinly sliced red onion and a tablespoon or two of crumbled feta. Voila…you’re transported to Greece’s most romantic destination with the first bite.
Arguably the ultimate plant-based, high-protein spread with countless variations. Hummus is so abundant nowadays that it’s easiest to find a great commercial product and use it every which way. One of my sponsors, Esti Foods, has a great range of delicious, innovative hummuses: lemon, pesto, roasted garlic, caramelized onion, jalapeno, roasted red pepper and more are among my favorites. I I use them interchangeably as sandwich spreads, but here are three specific ideas for pairings:
- – Lemon Hummus: pairs beautifully with grilled chicken, fresh tomato slices, and spinach or arugula.
- – Kalamata Olive Hummus: I love to use this in a “Greek Salad” sandwich, with tomatoes, sliced red onions, green pepper rings, cucumbers, and crumbled or shaved feta. Makes a great grilled sandwich, too!
- – Caramelized Onion Hummus: I just love this in a great roast-beef sandwich, packed with delicious sliced cheese such as the Greek cheese graviera, or the sharper Greek cheese kefalograviera, watercress or arugula, a dash of black pepper and lemon zest.
Santorini Tomato Paste
You don’t need much of this intensely flavored Greek dip to enhance almost any sandwich. You can dilute it with a little olive oil and spread it over great whole grain bread, then top with roasted eggplant and zucchini slices, feta and chopped fresh basil or oregano, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Mediterranean Diet Greek recipe for an amazing sandwich. You can also try whisking a tablespoon of Santorini tomato paste into 2 – 3 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, mascarpone or cream cheese, and creating a spread that’s great with smoked salmon, red onions, Santorini capers and arugula, a combination that screams out for a great bagel!