Cook the rainbow - the Greek way | Kitchen to Kitchen

Sidonie Maroon
Posted 6/17/22

Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows, lacked her usual vim and vigor. 

She’d put on a few pounds, so went on the trendy “Rainbow Diet.” It supplies lots of fiber, prebiotics, …

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Cook the rainbow - the Greek way | Kitchen to Kitchen

Tzatziki is Greek cucumber-and-yogurt sauce that is often served with grilled meats.
Tzatziki is Greek cucumber-and-yogurt sauce that is often served with grilled meats.
Photo courtesy of The Food Co-op
Posted

Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows, lacked her usual vim and vigor. 

She’d put on a few pounds, so went on the trendy “Rainbow Diet.” It supplies lots of fiber, prebiotics, and nutrients. She likes it because she won’t have to cut out major food groups, count carbs, fat or calories — just eat 30 different vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables per week. 

It sounds difficult, but the benefits are fabulous, and she’s determined to keep her goddess curves, even at 2,500 years old.  

Iris is old-school Greek, so she’ll cook local vegetables and use the traditional methods of her fore-goddesses like — stewing, braising, stuffing vegetables, making fresh salads, vegetable pies, pickled foods, plus lots of beans and greens dishes. 

She’ll use extra virgin olive oil. The average Greek eats about a ¼ of a cup a day per person. Iris already makes her own Greek yogurt using the Instant Pot. She forages for Horta (as in horticulture. Horta is the Greek term for wild greens). Now all she needs to do is plan what veggies to grow in her garden, buy at the farmers market, get in a CSA or at her local markets.    

33 Different Veggies a Week and Greek

Seven for red

Greek cooks use red onions in everything from salads to pies. They grate beets into tzatziki and slice them onto potato salads. Tomatoes get stuffed, sun dried, stewed, and eaten fresh. Sweet red peppers: stuffed, sundried, and braised in olive oil. Hot red chilies find a home in Taverna dishes. They boil red potatoes for salads, stews, and casseroles, and red chard is a favorite for pies and bean dishes.  

Three for orange

They blanch carrots for tzatziki. Use pumpkins and other winter squashes—dried, braised, and stuffed. Sweet potatoes are roasted, stewed, fried, and added to pies.   

Four for yellow 

They braise cauliflower with spices, roast parsnips and turn them into skordalia (a dip like hummus). They slice summer squashes into pies. Corn gets grilled with feta. Iris is adding lemons, although they’re a fruit, because lemons are so Greek. 

Five for blue/indigo/violet

They roast eggplants into dips, and stew purple potatoes, carrots, turnips, and cauliflower in a variety of delicious ways.

18 for green 

They chop dill, parsley, wild fennel, and mint into pies and scatter them throughout the cuisine. Thyme, bay, and oregano flavor braises and meat dishes. Spinach, amaranth, chard, kale, cabbage, mustard greens, nettles, and collards are pie favorites. Mezze — appetizers, feature green beans, artichokes, and cucumbers.

Iris is about diversity

There are so many ways to cook the rainbow, but let’s not forget garlic and mushrooms, two more Greek favorites. I plan to go into more depth on Greek techniques as summer arrives. 

If you’d like to explore Greek cuisine, whether or not you count colors, there are several ways to get involved. The Food Coop’s “Community Cooks Greek” begins July 1. There’s a free pamphlet of recipes, all written and tested by me. Get together with your friends and family and cook up a feast. 

For more wonderful recipes, try any of Diane Kochilas cookbooks, I especially love “Ikaria — Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die.”

Tzatziki 

(Tsaht-ZEE-kee)

Greek Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce 

Makes four cups. 

Tzatziki is often served with grilled meats, but I think it goes well with roasted veggies, but I love it best on poached eggs with olives and sliced tomatoes! 

Ingredients

2 medium cucumbers, 4 cups, seeded and grated

3 cups plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup chopped dill

¼ cup chopped mint 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, pressed 

1 teaspoon fine sea salt 

Directions 

Lay ½ of grated cucumbers in a small light tea towel or piece of cheesecloth, make a bundle, and lightly press and squeeze the excess water out. Repeat with the other half. 

In a bowl, combine the drained cucumbers with the other ingredients, allowing the flavors to meld for 15 minutes. Serve right away or refrigerate. The sauce keeps well for up to five days.

Variation: Try with green tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, or beets. 

(Sidonie Maroon is culinary educator for The Food Co-op. Find additional Greek recipes at foodcoop.coop.)

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