My Greek Family Table: Baked Asparagus with Oregano, Feta, and Lemon Zest
I found out about Greekalicious, the work of Maria Benardis, by chance. I attended an intimate event that she was doing in Soho where she talked about ancient Greek food and recipes. We got to sample some of the dishes and sip Greek wine. It’s not that I hadn’t had Greek food before. That evening gave e a whole new experience.
Since that night I’ve made some Greek food at home and now I basically only use Greek olive oil. I’m still a novice at Greek cuisine so I am thrilled to have a copy of Bernardis’ new book, My Greek Family Table. Within the pages are 100 recipes that emphasize health and well-being. There are beautiful photographs of many of the dishes that will inspire you to get in the kitchen.
If you are into food and history this is your kind of cookbook. There are references to what the ingredients mean to Greek culture, how they were used, and why. Most of the recipes are quick and easy to make.
Below is a recipe and excerpt for baked asparagus. It makes for a good side dish or a nice main if you want to have a vegetarian meal. I made this over the weekend, it’s so good! PS- Check out my interview with Bernardis on a the Witch On Wine Podcast.
Baked Asparagus with Oregano, Feta, and Lemon Zest
To the ancient Greeks, asparagus represented the spear of love. Here it is simply combined with feta, garlic, and lemon. Eat it as a main meal or serve it as an accompaniment to meat or poultry. When available, I like to mix the green, purple, and white varieties because they look so beautiful together. Serves 4
2 bunches asparagus
Sea salt and cracked pepper
4 ounces feta, crumbled
4 tablespoons extra virgin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon dried wild oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Wash the asparagus and place in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, then scatter the crumbled feta over the top.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan or skillet over low heat, add the garlic, lemon zest, and oregano and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly golden. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and pour over the asparagus and feta.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Garnish with dill (if using) and serve.
The early Greeks used asparagus for medicinal purposes and in herbal medicine, including for the cure of toothaches and the prevention of bee stings. Second-century physician Galen described asparagus as “cleansing and healing.” The ancient Greeks considered it very useful in the treatment of internal illnesses. In particular Dioscorides informs us that “the small stalks of which, boiled and eaten, soothe the intestines . . . the stalks pounded into small pieces with white wine lessen disorders of the kidneys.”
Asparagus was held in high regard by the ancient Greeks as an aphrodisiac.
Asparagus provides a wide variety of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C. It is also a rich source of potassium, important for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive system.