There are countries where vegetables are considered poor mans food. This is an interesting concept for me, because I loved vegetables, their divine colors, salivating flavors, crispness when broken like how a bell pepper or a carrot does when you are crunching on it. Or how about the sweetness of a beet as its deep burgundy color paints your lips? In many mediterranean cultures they believed just that, so I have read. Today, I was researching Greek culture for my afterschool program, where Olive oil’s sweet flavor and absolutely honoring smell floats through my mind, the pungent smell of garlic, one of my absolutely favorite flavors makes me reminisce and the thought of freshly picked tomatoes and lemons create such a party in each dish created, I can imagine the endless creative possibilities within every vegetable, except for eggplant, which I have never quite been able to get into its harmony.
My love of vegetables is very cultural and nutrition focused! I love to learn about how every culture may explore the same vegetables as we do but how the creativity of using them comes out in such different and beautiful ways through these culturally created dishes. The balance is sophisticated, simple and elegant all at the same time, unless they come in a can, that’s a whole different conversation. Lets stay FRESH!
So, as I research about Greek culture to explore and share with youth, I find myself looking into the Ionian Islands cultures, that have been influenced by Italian, Turkish, Balkan, Yugoslavian and many other beautiful cultures. Of all the cultures that have shared their food cultures with the Ionian Islands residents, what I find to be truly exciting is that in food, no matter which culture they may come from, they are meant to make people happy, bring community and family together, inspire sharing and satisfy our beings with every bite as each flavor hits our taste buds! MMMM!
In Ionian culture one dish meals were prominent, as they were able to be added to a handmade pot and put on coals to simmer all day, just like the modern-day crock pot. The importance of me sharing this with my youth is to share with them how stories of food, culture, memories and experiences are important to be shared. Stories told over meals have created a map or a portrait as you would pay to see at a museum of the way others, elders traditionally lived and thrived. These experiences, memories and stories are slowly vanishing the less we sit and connect at the table, the less we spend time listening, observing and inquiring of our elders and the more focused we become on the modernized world we live in the less connected we become to the beautiful culture surrounding us!
Lets take a moment to dedicate an ingredient, story or delightful connection to a memory of magical memories we have from our cultures or others that have inspired us!
zucchini Toast with Vegetable Topping
3 large zucchini
1 bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
3 tbl olive oil
1 tbl oregano
4 tbl dill
2 tbl lemon juice
Wash and pat dry zucchini, slice into 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch if you prefer yours thicker, slices. Add sliced zucchini to large plate.
In a large bowl, add washed and pat dry diced red bell peppers and tomatoes. Mince garlic, add to bowl and toss. Add olive oil, oregano, 1 tbl dill and lemon juice, toss to combine.
Add one to two tablespoons of mixture onto each zucchini round. Sprinkle remaining dill onto each round. Serve and Enjoy!