Elena Paravantes Shares Her Great Greek Food Memories


My childhood is full of Mediterranean food memories; you see I grew up in a Greek household with a Greek mother who cooked Greek and only Greek food, even though we lived in Midwest suburbia. So while my friends enjoyed chocolate chip cookies, I got melomakarona-Greek syrupy honey walnut cookies. My mom would pack my lunch box with spanakopita -- spinach pie — instead of the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and this continued all through high school. Today I am glad that my mother insisted on serving Mediterranean fare at the table. With such upbringing it was no wonder that I would eventually become a dietitian, a writer, and an advocate for the Mediterranean diet, the diet I grew up on.

One of the great things of being Greek is that we visited Greece every summer. Our vacations were filled with swimming, playing, and of course eating. The most delicious meals were the ones we had after a fun day at the beach. Hungry from being in the water and sun, we waited impatiently for our meal to be served. As it was summer, meals consisted of the typical Greek vegetable dishes cooked with olive oil and tomato, accompanied by feta and good bread, known as lathera, which means cooked in olive oil. Vegetables such as okra, green beans, zucchini, potatoes, and eggplant were picked from the gardens in the village and cooked in the morning. And we ate it all. Yes, all the children were eating all these vegetables happily and eagerly. To this day, once summer arrives I crave all those humble vegetables cooked in olive oil… even when I’m not at the beach.

Here is one of my favorites:

Baked eggplant topped with feta cheese and tomato sauce



3-4 eggplants
½ cup olive oil
2-3 fresh tomatoes chopped or a can of chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 cup feta cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Wash the eggplant and cut into ½ inch slices (do not peel). Place in a colander, salt and let the eggplant sit for about an hour, this helps remove the bitterness but also to absorb less oil.

In a pan sauté 1 chopped onion, add the tomato a bit of salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar and simmer for about 20 minutes.

After an hour, rinse the eggplant making sure to squeeze out the water.

Sauté the eggplant slices lightly in olive oil and place in on paper towels, covering both sides.

Grease a baking dish and place the eggplant slices in one layer.

Spoon the tomato sauce on top of each eggplant slice, covering it well.

Drizzle each slice with olive oil and then put about a teaspoon of crumbled feta on each slice.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

Serve at room temperature

-Elena Paravantes

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