Eat and Drink

Lathera

Olive Oil-Based Vegetable Dishes

Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

A huge part of the Mediterranean Diet, which we're focusing on this month, is, of course, plant-based food. In Greece, there is a whole segment of vegetable dishes known as "lathera" (la-there-AH) , from the word "lathi", which means "oil". 

 

And naturally, being Greece, this refers to olive oil.

 

Greeks have the highest olive oil consumption in the world, and it's present in almost every dish, from the eggs cooked in it at breakfast to the bean casserole at lunch to the chicken and vegetables sauteed in it for dinner.

 

The combination of lots of vegetables and/or beans plus the healthy fat of olive oil makes for not just wholesome meals, but absolutely delicious ones! 

 

Lathera can absolutely be a meal by themselves - in fact, during Greek Orthodox fasting times (which is a good chunk of the year), animal products are prohibited, so lathera are a great option for vegetarians and vegans, as well as omnivores who want to add some crave-able plant-based foods to their diet. 

 

One of the most popular ways to eat lathera is in the form of wild greens. Even today, it's very common to keep a small knife somewhere in the car or on your person, in case an appealing stand of wild nettles, dandelions or other wild greens should appear on the roadside. These are boiled and served with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Wild greens are exceptionally high in vitamins and antioxidants. 

 

You can try to duplicate it as much as possible by using (organic, if possible) greens like mustard greens, chard, beet greens and the like. 

 

Lathera are frequently accompanied by some nice crusty bread and cheese (simply leave out the cheese if you want to make it vegan). Here are three nice and easy recipes you can make as a main course or a side dish. 

Arakas Latheros (Peas in Olive Oil)

 

1 16 oz. bag frozen peas, thawed

1 carrot, cut into coins 

2 cups potatoes, cut into small chunks

1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tbs dried or 2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped fine

1 Tbs garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

crumbled feta, optional

 

1. Add olive oil to a large, deep frying pan and turn heat to medium-high

2. Once the oil is hot, add the potatoes. Add garlic powder and stir.

3. When potatoes are starting to brown a little, add the carrots. Stir and let cook another 5 minutes

4. Add peas and tomatoes. 

5. Add dill, salt and pepper. Stir so that everything is coated with the oil. Let cook until potatoes are cooked through and peas are completely cooked.

6. Serve with crumbled feta (optional) 

Fasolakia (Green beans)

 

1 12 oz bag of green beans

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes

a pinch of sugar

1 Tbs dried parsley or 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the beans and drain in a colander.

2. Heat half the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.

3. Add the onions and saute until onions are translucent.

4. Add the garlic, tomatoes, pinch of sugar and bring to a boil

5. Add the green beans and stir so they are coated with olive oil

6. Cover pan with a lid and turn heat down to low-medium for about 30-40 minutes. Check the pan frequently to stir beans and make sure they're not getting dry. Add a little bit of water as needed. Continue cooking until the beans are soft but not mushy.

7. Just as they are finishing cooking, season with salt, pepper and parsley. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over them.

8. Serve as-is or with crumbled feta.

Black Eyed Peas with Herbs (Mavromatika)

4  15 oz small cans black eyed beans, keeping 2 cups of the liquid for reserve

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh parsley,  chopped

1 cup fresh dill, chopped

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2-3 carrots, sliced

2 bay leaves

1 Tbs garlic powder

2 cups water

2 slices  of orange with peel and fruit

2 Tbs tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Drain the beans, reserving liquid. Rinse the beans.

  2. Heat oil in a deep pot. Sauté beans, parsley, dill, onions, and carrots for about 3 minutes.

  3. Add bay leaves, orange peel, tomato paste, the reserved liquid from beans and 2 cups water.

  4. Cook for 30 minutes on medium heat, keeping an eye on it and stirring frequently. Add a bit more water if it cooks down too fast.

  5. Salt and pepper to taste

Do you love Greek food? Check out more recipes here!

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