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Lathera: A Winning Combination of Vegetables and Olive Oil

Aug. 12, 2011
Elena Paravantes

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When olive oil and veg­eta­bles meet in a Greek kitchen, the result is lath­era, veg­e­tar­ian dishes cooked in oil. They may sound fat­ten­ing, but in fact they are extremely healthy. The cook­ing term lath­era, comes from the word lathi, Greek for oil, and basi­cally describes veg­eta­bles cooked in olive oil with a com­bi­na­tion of herbs and tomato.

All Greeks have been raised on these sim­ple to cook, but nutri­tion­ally com­plex dishes that remain a fun­da­men­tal part of the Greek diet. Lathera, pro­vide Greeks the advan­tage of con­sum­ing large amounts of veg­eta­bles effort­lessly, there­fore ful­fill­ing the often elu­sive 5 serv­ings a day rec­om­men­da­tion. A typ­i­cal serv­ing can pro­vide 100 per­cent of the daily rec­om­mended intake for veg­eta­bles.

These dishes con­sist of fresh sea­sonal veg­eta­bles and, with the excep­tion of small amounts of pota­toes or rice, they are low in car­bo­hy­drates. These veg­eta­bles are an excel­lent source of fiber and antiox­i­dants, and olive oil brings them all together essen­tially mag­ni­fy­ing their nutri­tional value.

On its own olive oil is rich in antiox­i­dants and healthy monoun­sat­u­rated fats, but in these dishes it inter­acts with other ingre­di­ents increas­ing the absorp­tion of vit­a­mins and antiox­i­dants from the veg­eta­bles. As for the calo­ries, don’t worry about the olive oil since the rest of ingre­di­ents have min­i­mal calo­ries the total count is low, aver­ag­ing 300 – 400 calo­ries per large serv­ing.

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Try these sim­ple recipes for a taste of veg­e­tar­ian Mediterranean:

Green Beans in Oil (Fasolakia Lathera)

1 pound green beans
1 sliced onion
1/4 cup olive oil
8 oz chopped toma­toes toma­toes (fresh or canned) with their juice.
1 large potato
Parsley
Salt/Pepper

Sauté the onions for a few min­utes in medium pot with the oil. Add the toma­toes, salt, pep­per, pars­ley and let it sim­mer for 5 min­utes. Add the green beans and let them sim­mer until soft and ten­der about an hour. Serve with feta cheese.

Makes 2 – 3 serv­ings

Eggplant with tomato (Melitzanes lath­eres me domata)

1 pound egg­plant
8 oz chopped toma­toes (canned or fresh)
1 onion chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Parsley
Salt/Pepper

Cut the egg­plant in cubes, place them in a colan­der, salt and let them strain. Sauté the onion in 2 table­spoons of oil. Add the toma­toes, a bit of water, the pars­ley and salt and pep­per. In another pan sauté the egg­plant in the rest of the olive oil. Once it starts to soften add them to the tomato mix and let them sim­mer for about an hour until soft. Makes 2 – 3 serv­ings

Rice with Spinach (Spanakorizo)

1 pound spinach
2 1/2 table­spoons olive oil
1/2 diced onion
1 grated tomato
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup rice
Salt/Pepper
Lemon

Wash the spinach, cook in a pot until slightly wilted and strain. In another medium pot, sauté the onion, than add the spinach, tomato, water, salt and pep­per. When it comes to a boil, add the rice, and sim­mer until rice is ready. Serve with lemon and feta cheese.

Makes 2 – 3 serv­ings

* Eat these these dishes at room tem­per­a­ture, accom­pa­nied with feta cheese or strained Greek style yogurt and some bread.

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