There’s a special place in my heart for Greece, and especially Greek food. I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time there – especially in Athens, and also Crete and Evia. I love it all. This box is a small expression of that love, with some tasty ingredients that you can do a whole lot with.
And these items also coordinate very well with the items in the July Essentials Box (and, of course, Ben to Table box subscribers get both!).
I’ll discuss some specific dishes below, but part of what’s so wonderful about these ingredients is their simplicity and versatility, so go nuts :)
Here’s what’s in the box itself:
* Extra Virgin Olive Oil, cold-pressed from Koroneiki olives, from Neolea
* Fleur de sel, smoked, from Neolea
* Fragrant fennel seeds, from Daphnis & Chloe
* Oregano from Taygetus, also from Daphnis & Chloe
* Greek Table spice blend from Spice Tree Organics
* Roasted red peppers from Hellenic Farms
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Neolea)
Pressed from highly sought-after Koroneiki grapes, this cold-extracted, fresh and fruity olive oil is both delicious and beautiful, and the ceramic bottle keeps it fresher, longer, by shielding the oil from any unnecessary light.
You won’t want to heat this oil up – use it in dressings, to blend a bean dip, or at its most essential, on a piece of crusty bread (ideally with some of the salt, below, sprinkled on top!).
Hand harvested sea-salt, smoked (Neolea)
Harvested by hand from rocks on the Greek shore, this delicate fleur de sel is infused with a light smoke flavor to serve as a beautiful finishing salt. You can bring a bit of that summer/grill taste with just a pinch of salt, without overpowering the other flavors you’re working with.
Use atop meats, roasted veggies, orzo, in dressings and sauces, or just with bread and oil. Packaged in a reusable ceramic jar with a cork lid, keep this in easy reach.
Fragrant Fennel Seeds (Daphnis & Chloe)
Sourced from a single supplier in Northern Evia, who tends his fields in person, this is an unusually fragrant and flavorful fennel seed – if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, a half teaspoon of this should do.
You’ll get the most benefit from these if you have a good spice grinder or mortar & pestle, but you can also use whole in some recipes.
These fennel seeds work great as a main ingredient in a rub for meat, fish, or tofu, as a base flavor for stews, or even as an herbal tea! Fennel is one of the most widely used aromatic plants in the world, so you can stray far from the Aegean while using this, too.
I used them recently with some braised giant beans in the Essentials box, as a rub for grilled chicken, and as a main flavor in a cold yogurt soup (kind of like a Greek Vichyssoise) I used as a base for roasted tofu. Recipes for the braised beans and soup are below.
Oregano from Taygetus (Daphnis & Chloe)
Sourced from a small farm in a Peloponnesian village, this all-purpose oregano is pungent and peppery, without overpowering.
You can use as an all-purpose seasoning in salads, on pasta, pizza, grilled vegetables, and most everything else. Coordinates well with lemon, too. Sprinkling a bit on top of almost anything just kinda smells like Greek food.
Greek Table Blend (Spice Tree Organics)
Based in Queens, Spice Tree Organics co-founders Doaa and Freda make incredible, organic, non-irradiated spice blends, sourcing directly from top-notch suppliers like Burlap and Barrel. They roast, grind, and hand-blend the spices in small batches and then vacuum seal them, to ensure you get them still super fresh.
Their Greek Table blend is perfect as a seasoning for just about any protein (including beans), and especially ones that can handle some bold flavor. You can just use the blend, add salt to taste and some oil, and grill away.
Greek Roasted Red Peppers (Hellenic Farms)
These beautiful (very large) Greek peppers are roasted immediately after the harvest, and then packed by hand to reach you intact.
They’re in a vinegar mixture, so there’s a pleasant, tart flavor to it; different than a more Spanish-style, piquillo-type of pepper. They are also nice and sturdy – they work great in a salad, chopped and stirred into pasta, or on a charcuterie board with cheese and some tinned fish.
Braised Greek Giant Beans with tomato, feta, oregano, and fennel
Greek giant beans (like the organic beans from Arosis in the July Essentials), cooked according to the instruction in my “How to Cook: Beans,” with cooking liquid reserved
Red onions, chopped
Fragrant fennel seeds
Dried oregano (preferably Taygetus)
Canned, good-quality whole tomatoes, chunked (or fresh tomatoes even better)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Parsley, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 450 or so
- Heat oil in a dutch oven on medium heat
- Add fennel seeds (1 tsp or so) and oregano (1 tsp or so)
- Once fragrant, add onions, and salt and pepper, sauteeing until onions begin to cook down
- Add as many beans as you want to use
- Add tomatoes and their juice
- Add bean cooking liquid to fill the dutch oven to about 2/3-3.4 the height of the dry ingredients
- Stir well, and, once warmed, top with a layer of feta
- Put in the oven for 20-30 minutes, uncovered. It’ll be warm and bubbly, with some places a bit crusty on top.
- Garnish the top with finely chopped parsley, and serve with crusty bread!
This is a riff on a classic vichyssoise – basically a creamy, chilled potato leek soup, classically French. I added some Greek flavors, dialed down the potato and leek, and dialed up the cucumber, yogurt, and feta. I also used cauliflower in lieu of some of the potatoes. The vegetables all get pureed, so the quality of the chop doesn’t really matter.
As pictured, I served it underneath some roasted root vegetables and tofu.
4-5 small potatoes, halved
½ Cauliflowe, chunked
1 onion, in large pieces
½-1 tsp Fennel seeds
Fresh herbs as available
2/3 english cucumber
6 oz or so of Plain Greek yogurt (ideally full fat)
A good chunk of Feta
Dry white wine (ideal) or Chicken or vegetable stock (also good) or broth (less good, but fine) or water (works in a pinch)
Olive oil for cooking
Olive oil for finishing
- Heat oil over medium heat
- Add fennel seeds
- Once fragrant, add onions, salt, and pepper
- Once they begin to soften, add fresh herbs, potatoes, cauliflower, and some white wine (maybe 2/3 cup or so) – you’re not looking to cover everything, just get enough in there to absorb flavor and cook the potatoes and cauliflower by simmering or steaming
- Add more liquid as needed to keep things from drying out and accomplish the goals above
- Once potatoes and cauliflower are soft, dump everything into a good blender (this is a great use for your Vitamix here if you have one). Remove hard stems from herbs if you have any in there beforehand, but everything else goes to the blender
- Add cucumber, yogurt, and feta, and blend until smooth and soupy. Add in a glug or two of your good olive oil (like your Neolea) at the end, once everything is cooler
- Put it all in the fridge until later, or in the freezer for a bit if you want to eat sooner
- You can serve on its own (garnished with some herbs), or use it as a base for something crispy and roasted (like the next recipe for crispy roasted tofu)
Crispy roasted tofu
I love this basic technique for super-crispy, deeply flavored tofu. They come out almost like croutons, and go great on top of any number of things. This recipe uses the Greek Table blend as the main spice, but you could as easily use Sichuan chili bean paste (coming soon!), turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili for more of an Indian feel, or almost anything else. If you’re feeding more than 2 adults, you’ll probably want to double up on what’s below. It’s very easy, but takes about an hour.
I also roasted some vegetables in the same way, though for less time (this ultimately went on top of the Greek vichyssoise, above)
Ingredients (serves 2, depending on what else you’re preparing):
1 lb firm tofu
High-heat cooking oil
1-2 tablespoons Greek table spice blend
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees (convect if you have it)
- Drain tofu as much as possible out of it’s package (squeeze a bit), but don’t worry if there’s still some moisture
- Cut tofu into approximately ½ inch cubes (don’t worry too much about precision here)
- In an appropriately-sized mixing bowl, toss the tofu with the spice blend, a generous pour of oil, and some salt
- Lay it all out on a large, rimmed baking sheet, separating the tofu as much as possible, and ensuring everything is on one layer
- There should be a bit of extra oil; pour a bit around the pan if it seems too dry
- Put it in the oven on an upper rack. After 20-25 minutes, use a metal spatula to move things around and get different sides down. Put back in the oven,
- After 20-25 more minutes, do the same thing, checking for doneness.
- You might be good to go, or you might need 10 more minutes
- Once nice and crispy, remove from the oven, drain, and serve! The oil can also be used to flavor whatever else you’re eating it with, as it’ll be delicious.