As we approach our 30th anniversary I’d like to let you all know how grateful I am for our wonderful customers, employees and the opportunity to serve our healthy cuisine and share in the lives of so many interesting people. The talented writer Sheila Lane wrote a wonderful article we hope you’ll take the time to view. http://www.larchmontvillagebid.com/opa-le-petit-greek-celebrates-30-years-on-the-boulevard/ . We are also thrilled to have made LA Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants which you can view at http://www.laweekly.com/99-essentials/le-petit-greek-2190253
I get a kick out of the photos of my brother Tom and myself then and now.
I believe how we deal with stress is essentially more important than the actual stress itself.
So, Opa! What does that have to do with Greek food? Well, we all have heard the joke that “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts”. The truth is most people will at some point eat or drink to relieve stress. I cannot tell you how many times customers have walked in after work and said, “I need a glass of wine and some hummus with pita right away”. I hear you. Life can be quite challenging. The restaurant business is no exception. As much as I love the restaurant there are many days that I wonder, “what was I thinking getting into this business”! I grew up in a restaurant and watched my father first hand work long hours, miss holidays and even be hospitalized for exhaustion.
Here is what I do to combat stress:
Meditate- I get up early in the morning and meditate. I also mediate after work to de-stress. Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. Think about that, we are the patterns we create. I meditate every day. It calms my nervous system and rejuvenates me. I cannot always change the unforeseen challenges of the day, but I can help my nervous system integrate it.
Exercise- I exercise to release stress. Find what exercise works best for you. It doesn’t have to be intense or long, a little bit of exercise 3 to 5 days a week is more beneficial than one or two intense work outs. It is like releasing steam from a pressure cooker. Exercise gives me energy and keeps me going on days I’d rather not. If you don’t like exercise start slowly with a daily short walk around the block.
Eat Greek Food- Research has shown the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest. Lucky for me this is what I grew up eating. I eat more vegetables and proteins than anything else. I have found that by making healthy food choices it helps my body and mind to function optimally. When I eat well, I think more clearly, sleep better and am better able to handle stress and believe me in the restaurant business there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by without stress. I take great care to bring to my customers the freshest, healthy ingredients so that I have a sense of peace knowing that what they are enjoying at my restaurant is healthy and good for them. Of course, desserts are another story, but a lot of people choose our Greek Yogurt with honey, cinnamon, dates and walnuts. While we shouldn’t consume desserts daily, let’s face it life is meant to be enjoyed so having a little baklava (filo pastry with nuts and honey) or pagato (ice cream) is ok. Pistachio ice cream has always been my favorite since childhood.
Some more food tips that help to alleviate the effects of stress:
FRUIT- In Greece we eat a lot of fruits. Greece is known for citrus. Citrus and berries contain a lot of vitamin C. Vitamin C lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone Cortisol. Vitamin C helps reduce both the physical and psychological stress on people. People who have high levels of vitamin C do not show the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to acute psychological challenges.
FRESH FISH- People think of lamb when they think of Greek food, but we are surrounded by water and we eat more fish than Lamb. Fish is high in Omega 3. A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids helps keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you are feeling stressed out. The Omega 3 fatty acids also help the brain to function and focus. Have you tried our Grilled Organic Scottish Salmon? It is divine. We always have daily fish specials, because it is light, healthy and delicious.
SALADS AND WILD GREENS: Greeks eat a lot of salads and wild greens we call Horta. Green leafy vegetables contain folate which produces dopamine, a pleasure inducing brain chemical which keeps us calm. Spinach is high in magnesium and magnesium is helpful in relaxing nerves and muscles. Even more reason to enjoy a scrumptious spanakopita!
VEGETABLES: Asparagus is high in folate a calming B complex vitamin known to reduce stress and anxiety and produce dopamine for the brain. Our tasty appetizer of Sparagia is perfectly grilled asparagus with a sprinkle of feta cheese and a customer favorite.
CHAMOMILE TEA – This reminds me of my late mother Evyenia Houndalas; bless her soul. She would drink a cup of chamomile tea daily. Chamomile tea helps to reduce anxiety and aid sleep. Chamomile tea is a great digestive as well. It contains a flavonoid called apigenin and acts as an effective natural sedative relieving anxiety and stress. Remember a good night’s sleep keeps those cortisol (stress hormone) levels at bay. That must be why chamomile is a staple in any Greek household.
I hope you find these tips helpful and I along with my staff look forward to serving you a stress-free meal whether you dine in or order it to go. You can even have Le Petit Greek delivered via POSTMATES or GRUBHUB.
Στην υγεία σου (to your health),
Lemon- Citrus Medica
Now we reach the last ingredient of what I call the Holy Trinity of Greek Cooking; LEMON! Olive Oil, Oregano and Lemon are the 3 main ingredients you will see used consistently in Greek Cuisine. In fact, Hellenes (Greeks) use Lemon like Americans use salt. We put Lemon on everything, from fish to poultry, beef, lamb and pork, eggs, vegetables salads, beans, and of course it is used in desserts. One of my favorite memoires is leaving school at snack and lunch time and popping into my Father’s restaurant in Nafplion, Greece to eat. He would prepare me a basket of Fried Potatoes done in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, he’d load Feta Cheese on top and sprinkle Greek Oregano then for the finishing touch a half of a lemon squeezed over the top. Ahhh…life was good.
History- Lemons did not originate in Greece, but thought to come from either Northern India or Southeast Asia. Persian traders carried the trees along the Silk Road that ran between Asia and the Mediterranean. It is thought they made their way on to Greece in around 300 BC. They were used for seasoning as well as for their medicinal properties
Healing Properties- A single lemon has 40-70 % of a person’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. The healing properties of lemon include antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, diuretic, bactericidal, astringent, antiscorbutic, febrifuge, antifungal, antihypertensive, antiviral, insecticide and immune-stimulant properties.
Lemon Improves Digestion- Lemon juice makes fried food more digestible because its acids emulsify (cut) fats so that they don’t lie on the stomach, and aid protein digestion – which is particularly useful for the many people who lack sufficient stomach acid, such as one in two over-60 years of age, and those who are stressed or take antacids unnecessarily. Also, lemons are metabolized to potassium carbonate, which helps reduce any excess acidity in the body.
Lemon acids can aid digestion in people who don’t make enough of their own gastric acid. After the contents of a lemon or its juice have been digested, the lemon acids are metabolized (broken down) into water and carbon dioxide. The breakdown of the other contents releases alkalizing minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium). In contrast, most other fruits (including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, pears, pineapples) contain so much sugar that their metabolism adds to the body’s acid load.
Cultivation & Farming- Lemons make up about 18% of the citrus production in Greece, the majority are consumed in Greece. They are grown primarily in the Peloponnese region and in the Cycladic Islands primarily Crete. There is even a tourist attraction of a lemon forest on the island of Poros in the Saronic Gulf. Greek Lemons ripen in winter, but there are a few varietals that ripen in summer. The types of lemon varieties grown are mostly Eureka, Adamopoulou, Interdonato, Santa Teresa, Maglini, Zagara Bianca, Lisbon and Vakalou. Commercially grown are Karystino and Polyforo.
It is reported about 170,000 tons of lemons are grown a year in Greece and we export about 40,000 to 70,000 tons. The Greek Government bans the import of citrus plants into Greece to protect them from viruses.
Cooking- Lemons are acidic and often the binding agent in many marinades.
Natural Meal Tenderizers- Meat consists of muscle and connective tissues that are made up of proteins. Proteins contain lots of amino acids linked together in chains to make large molecules. Meat tenderizers act by breaking apart the amino acids. Marinades designed to tenderize meat usually contain acids or enzymes.
Marinades are usually added to meats such as beef, chicken or pork before cooking. Marinades have two main roles – they add flavor, and they may also tenderize the meat, making it softer and less chewy.
Marinades are a mixture of ingredients that can include acids (typically vinegar, lemon juice or wine), oils, herbs, spices, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
Raw fruits can be used to tenderize meat before cooking because they contain enzymes that break down proteins.
My Favorite Lemon Dishes of Greek Cuisine-
Avgolemono – is the traditional egg lemon chicken soup. Ours is superb! Come on in or pick up an order to go. Lemon Potatoes- These have become quite famous on the boulevard. Many people assume Greek food comes with rice, but while we enjoy rice it is our Lemon Potatoes you’ll see in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Ladolemono -this is a light lemon & olive oil dressing we use over fish.
We look forward to serving you some of our delicious lemon dishes mentioned above or our Dolmathes; vegetarian grape leaves stuffed with rice and a lemon dill sauce or our special White Fish from Lake Superior baked in a light lemon white wine sauce over fresh vegetables. Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)
Olive Oil, Oregano and Lemon are probably the 3 main ingredients that Hellenic (Greek) cuisine is identified with. In my last writing I spoke about Oregano, so now let’s take a deeper look into Olive Oil and its relationship with Greek cuisine and culture. We will touch on its origins, teach you about the different varieties of olive oil, and give you tips for cooking and seasoning with Greek Olive Oil. We will also have some fun looking into its healing and medicinal properties both in ancient times and today.
Olive Oil is said to be one of the greatest assets of the ancient world and at times worth its weight in gold. It offered humanity the gifts of health and wealth. Olive branches have been used as a symbol of peace since antiquity. After battles Olive Trees were given as an agricultural offering to the lands defeated.
It is said the Olive tree originated most likely in Ancient Greece, although some experts trace it back to Asia Minor. There is no doubt it is native to the Mediterranean basin. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint the beginning of man’s relationship with the pitted fruit, popular use most likely began in the southwest Mediterranean. Olive pits and wood fragments have been found in tombs throughout this area, some dating as far back as 5000 years. Recent Archeological evidence in Israel shows that the Olive was pressed into oil as far back as 6000 BC. It was brought to Italy and Spain by the Greeks. It had already spread to North Africa by the time the Romans arrived. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers and missionaries introduced the olive to the New World, planting trees in Mexico, Argentina, and California, where it continues to grow today. Today, The USA’s interest in Olive Oil makes America the 2nd largest importer outside of Europe. America only produces 0. 5% of the world’s olive oil. California is starting to grow more complex olives due to its popularity.
Athena’s gift- The olive tree was so important it is how the city of Athens, back then a city-state obtained its name. According to many Ancient Greek Philosophers including Plutarch and Herodotus, Athena was chosen as name sake of the city when she offered the Olive Tree to the city. When Zeus (ruler of the Ancient Greek Gods & Goddesses) was deciding who would be the ruler and watch over this key city-state in Ancient Greece, the competition was between the god Poseidon and the goddess Athena.
Athena offered the original olive tree and it was planted on a rocky hill that we know today as the Acropolis. The olive tree that grows there today is said to have come from the roots of the original tree. Athena was a warrior deity, but recognized the power of peace. Thus, wreaths of Olive branches were crowned on the heads of Olympic champions and great warriors.
Poseidon offered a beautiful spring of water. This would be a gift to the people in time of drought. However, it was salt water and not able to be consumed. The Olive Tree had many possibilities as you can see below.
Olive Oil’s many uses in the Ancient World-
Medicine- Hippocrates said, Olive Oil could heal. According to Hippocrates, “the father of medicine”, olive oil could heal numerous ailments, among them mental illness, and what Hippocrates charmingly referred to as “the diseases of women”.
Athletics- The Spartans, a breed of Greeks that lived to be warriors rubbed themselves with olive oil while exercising in the gymnasia and prior to competitions. It protected their skin from abrasions and the elements.
Cosmetics- It was also used as a cosmetic in all of the Hellenic city states. Olive trees were planted in the entire Mediterranean basin during evolution of the Roman Empire. It not only kept skin soft and subtle, but was used as a base for essential oils in perfumes.
Spiritual- It is still used in many religious ceremonies from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In Ancient Greece it was used by priests to consecrate the dead. The trees were so sacred that those who cut one down were condemned to death. Today it is the preferred oil used in Christian baptisms, especially Greek Orthodox Christians. It is still used to anoint priests. The Greek name for Christ is Kristos which means “the anointed one”.
Light & Heat- It offered light when burned, allowing people to see more clearly at night. Burning oil for heat is still done today in many parts of the country and world.
Wealth- The Minoans of Crete were among the first cultures to achieve prosperity on olive oil, and Crete continues to be an important olive production area today.
Cuisine- We know olive oil was used widely by Ancient Greeks or Hellenes as well as Romans in cuisine. It is as complex as wine and has rich as well as subtle flavors.
Modern Healing Properties- Anti-inflammatory and Pain- Studies revealed that a compound in the oil, called oleocanthal, prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes – the same way NSAIDs (Ibuprophen and Aspirin) work.
By inhibiting these enzymes, inflammation and the increase in pain sensitivity associated with them is dampened. The more peppery the olive oil is on the throat is directly related to the amount of oleocanthal it contains.
Many people will have 1 to 3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil a day to aid with inflammation due to arthritis or stiff, painful joints.
Types of Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil Comes from virgin oil production only, and is of higher quality: among other things, it contains no more than 0.8% free acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste, having some fruitiness and no defined sensory defects. Extra-virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece: 80%, Italy: 65%, Spain 50%).
Strong Extra Virgin Olive Oil is wonderful for cooking fish, meat and making marinades or to simply drizzle on foods. My favorite thing is to have the first press Olive Oil that still has the pulp in it. Think about olive oil as you would think about wine. Use different olive oils for different purposes. This olive oil is an equal complement to other strong flavors like peppers and garlic.
A medium intensity Extra Virgin Olive oil is great for dipping and putting on bread and appetizers and used in dressings as it doesn’t overpower. It also complements vegetables and potatoes. Instead of butter try olive oil. We love it in vinaigrette or sprinkled on various steamed vegetables and on baked potatoes.
A mellow late harvest extra virgin oil could be used in baking a cake or in condiments. Often cookies made in bakeries in Greece use olive oil instead of butter.
Regular Olive Oil is good for frying and sautéing.
Excessively heating olive oil will evaporate the alcohols and esters that make up its delicate taste and fragrance. Use a less expensive olive oil that doesn’t have much flavor to begin with if you want to fry with it, add a more flavorful olive oil after cooking or at the table. You can also try mixing another vegetable oil that is made to take more heat with olive oil. It will give you the rich flavor of olive oil along with the lightness of the other oil.
Storing and Preserving Olive Oil- When olive oil is exposed to oxygen, light, and heat, it is subject to oxidation and may become rancid. Proper storage can prevent this. Depending on the quality of the oil and on how it was made, extra virgin olive oil in a sealed bottle may last from 3 months to 2 years.
Storage- As soon as you open the bottle, the oxidation process accelerates and the oil will degrade fairly rapidly. Make sure you keep your oil in a closed bottle, in a dark container or closet, away from sources of heat like your stove or light. You do not have to refrigerate it, although refrigeration will not hurt the oil.
Cooking with Olive Oil- One common false myth is that heating olive oil will make it saturated or trans-fatty. This is not true. As far as making a saturated fat, according to Dr. A. Kiritsakis, a world renowned oil chemist in Athens, in his book Olive Oil from the Tree to the Table -Second edition 1998, all oils will oxidize and hydrogenate to a tiny degree if repeatedly heated to very high temperatures such as is done in commercial frying operations. Olive-pumice oils and virgin olive oils are both highly monounsaturated oils and therefore resistant to oxidation and hydrogenation. Studies have shown oxidation and hydrogenation occurs to a lesser degree in olive oil than in other oils. But in any case, the amount of hydrogenation is miniscule and no home cook would ever experience this problem.
You cannot make a saturated product like margarine at home by heating olive oil or any other vegetable oil in a pan. It takes long hours of cooking and high temperatures etc to do so.
Olive oil is the corner stone of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Olive oil can be used for sautéing, browning, and stir-frying, deep frying and as an ingredient in marinades and sauces such as mayonnaise, pesto or stand alone as a condiment and drizzled over various dishes form main courses to sides. It is also used for baking in breads and sweets. There is nothing more delicious then dipping a fresh piece of homemade bread into a flavorful rich olive oil. You can even infuse your oils by soaking herbs and peppers to add flavor. I enjoy olive oil infused with Rosemary. It adds a beautiful flavor to the oil.
While I do not promote a particular brand of olive oil I do favor Greek Olive oils due to the mature trees and the nutrient rich soil of Greece. I admire and support the organic farming techniques and care given to the trees by local farmers in Greece that has been going on for thousands of years. Kali Orexi- Enjoy!
From The National Herald By Vasilis Papoutsis
LOS ANGELES, CA – Brothers Thomas and Dimitris Houndalas are continuing a family tradition in the hospitality business that started over a hundred years ago.
Older brother Thomas studied hotel management and arrived in the United States in1982, and worked as the Maître’ Dat the exclusive Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles before opening Le Petit Greek restaurant in1987 with Dimitri.
Located in the historic Larchmont Village that was developed at the late1800s as a streetcar suburb of Los Angeles,it is now surrounded by the well-maintained historic homes in the nearby affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park.
The restaurant was very small then – thus the name Le Petit, with only 10 tables – but it quickly made a name for itself because of the tasty Greek cuisine.
Dimitris, who was raised in the restaurant business, had a love for music and studied classical guitar at the London School of Music and Drama, but eventually returned to the family business.
At the restaurant’s tenth anniversary in1997, it expanded, and for the first timeon Larchmont Boulevard an outdoor patio overlooking the cozy street was added, and the restaurant attained the aura of a Greek/European café.
The dining room is elegant and simple and the walls have black and white photographs from Greece, and family portraits. The main attraction is the cuisine, as the Houndalases’ commitment to high quality food is the hallmark of their philosophy
Dimitris’ passion for food is evident from the start. “We always strive to offer the healthiest, most organic version of food at the best possible price. After all our ancestors taught us that a healthy mind should reside in a healthy body.”
He writes a health blog that is educational and informative. “Everybody claims to serve organic food but that claim isnot entirely true most of the time. Commercial beef is grass fed the first few months but grain fed afterwards.
Cows cannot digest grain but it adds extra pounds and more money for the producer. True organic beef has to be grass finished and that is the only beef we serve here.”That commitment in food excellence earned the restaurant the prestigious Open Table Diners’ Choice Winner Award in 2016.Commitment to excellence of course requires hard work. Dimitri is up before sunrise every day to shop for fresh organic produce, meat and fish from carefully selected farms that he has done business with for a long time. He only buys chicken from farms that raised them outdoors. His calamari comes fresh from Santa Barbara and the whitefish from Lake Superior.
One of his specialties dishes is the delicious plaki, with blue nose sea bass from New Zealand cooked with shallots, fresh tomatoes, rosemary and Robola white wine. “We cook a certain amount of these specialty dishes every day.When the last order is gone, that is it for the day” he said.The signature of the house is the delectable baby rack of lamb that simply melts in your mouth.The restaurant offers an award winning wine list from all over the world and an unparalleled selection of Greek wines. The history, menu, and extensive wine list can be viewed at lepetitgreek.com.
Because of the restaurant’s location near the Paramount studios and production companies,spotting and even sitting next to a celebrity is a good bet.
A plethora of stars who have visited the restaurant include Tom Hanks,Jennifer Aniston (and other castmembers of Friends), Sean Connery, Billy Zane, Adrien Brody, and the late Telly Savalas.
Actually, LePetit Greek is not the family’s first restaurant in the United States. Patriarch Thomas Houndalas came to the United States in the late 1890s. “He was 12 or 13 years old when he came here by boat. He paid half the ticket in advance and he had to work onboard to pay for the other half.” From those humble beginnings, the family accented to ownership of the famous San Francisco Cliff House with ocean views, great ambiance, and food. The restaurant today is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area operated by the National Park Service.
The family also owned a restaurant near the old town of the historic city of Nafplion,Greece’s first capital. A taverna with a capacity of 1,000 seats and live music playing nightly that was operated by the family. In the 1970s the taverna left the old neighborhood of Arvanitia for a picturesque new location on the bay.
Today the family has expanded to Santorini: ”My father bought this old Catholic monastery from a businessman who had attempted to renovate it but could not finish it. We completed the renovations and it started as a Bed & Breakfast. With additional upgrades it now operates as a boutique hotel” Dimitris said. Thomas operates the hotel.
It has direct views of Nea Kameni volcano and Thirasia Island and at the rooftop terrace guests enjoy healthy homemade breakfast while enjoying the incredible views. It is also a great spot to enjoy the famous Santorini sunsets, a huge attraction to newlyweds and romantics from across the globe.The guest rooms maintain the original architecture and no rooms are alike. The hotel is nearby the crowded cobblestone streets and shops but guests can still enjoy tranquility while enjoying the views.
Whether visiting the restaurant in Larchmont Village with a view of the Hollywood sign or the Santorini hotel, one will experience the warmth of Greek hospitality and the delicious taste of Greek food.
Greek Oregano – Ρίγανη (pronounced REE-gah-nee)
Origins- Origanum vulgare
The name comes from two ancient Greek words. Oros and Ganos. Oros means the mountain and Ganos means the brilliance of joy. Oreganos is then referred to as the brilliant joy of the mountain. Anyone who walks when it is in bloom on the Greek mountain slopes can attest to the fantastic smell and softness of this plant that envelope the mountains. The plant plays an important role in erosion control on the mountain sides of Greece. Its roots reduce soil erosion. This plant finds life at the highest, driest and most difficult mountainous conditions in Greece. The best Greek Oregano is wild and comes from two places; Taygetus, the highest mountain region in Sparta and in the Olympus Mountains, where the Ancient Greek Gods called home. While Oregano loves sun it can thrive in 25 degree below Celsius. This is a testament to the strength of this plant. The Wild Greek Oregano there is seeded from plants that have grown there for thousands of years. Historically, as the name implies, Greek oregano originates on the mountain slopes of Greece. The Roman Empire adopted Greek Philosophy and knowledge. Included in that would be medicine and the use of the herb oregano from a medicinal and culinary standpoint. That is how Oregano was brought to Rome and then spread throughout Europe. Europe followed Hippocrates philosophy, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Eventually through trade Oregano made its way to China where it was used medicinally. The Chinese had vast herbal knowledge and welcomed this new plant into their pharmacopeia.
FLAVOR– Oregano is pungent, warm and peppery. Its leaves have a sharper flavor than sweet marjoram and taste a little like thyme. It is savory, earthy and aromatic. . It is more flavorful when dried than fresh.
Cooking & Food- It is used in almost every Greek dish. Oregano is marinated on every meat, poultry and fish along with lemon and olive oil. Oregano, Olive Oil and Lemon are the holy trinity of Greek cooking. These 3 ingredients are key to the fresh, simple, tastiness of Greek cuisine. While Greeks have been using oregano for perhaps thousands of years, other countries also cultivate their own oregano such as Italy, Spain and Mexico. Each plant slightly varies in its strength and flavor. Greek Oregano is more subtle. Americans really didn’t use or know much about Oregano until World War 2 when American soldiers brought it home. Oregano, like other herbs, loses its distinctive flavor during cooking as the volatile oils evaporate, so it is often added in the last few minutes of cooking or tossed atop a dish before serving. When it is used in marinades it has hours or sometimes days to pull the flavor into the meat. Oregano can be added to meats, poultry, fish, marinades, sauces, soups and stews as well as pizza, pasta, and any salad or side dish. Crush the leaves with your hands before adding to any dish to bring out the flavor and aroma of this delicious herb.
Horatiki- Traditional Greek Village Salad- Chop chunks of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers into a bowl. Add a few slivered onions and green peppers. Next place Greek Feta Cheese in a block or crumble atop salad. Toss your favorite Greek Olives over it. Our favorite olive is Kalamata Olives from the Kalamata region of Greece. Pour Organic Greek Olive Oil generously over the salad. Crush dried oregano in your hands and sprinkle over your salad. When the olive oil and freshly crushed dried oregano are applied they marry the flavors together in a delicious and simple way. It’s fresh, light and incredibly appetizing. Enjoy your salad and when you get to the end of your bowl sop up the oil and oregano with a piece of homemade bread, just like we do in Greece. Kali Orexi! (Good Appetite).
Mythology – According to Greek mythology, the sweet, spicy scent of oregano was created as a gift by the goddess Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. In ancient Greece, brides and grooms were crowned with a laurel of oregano to bring them happiness. Oregano plants were also placed on tombs to give peace to departed spirits. Planted around your home it is said to bring happiness and protection. Hippocrates born about 460 BC was the first to speak about the healing properties of oregano. He was born on the island of Kos. The island had an Asklipion which was a place for healing and prayer dedicated to the Ancient healer Asklipeous who was also the son of the God Apollo. Hippocrates father, Heracledes was an excellent doctor and a priest there. His grandfather was a Prothiereas in Asklipion which is the highest degree of a priest to the ancients. Although we view Hippocrates as the father of modern day medicine we can see his knowledge was handed down to him from many generations before. Prayer and healing were always connected.
Healing Properties Of Oregano- Oregano’s power to heal has been known for many centuries. Oregano oil derived from the leaves has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. It is used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory. Oregano tea is a treatment for indigestion, coughs, and to stimulate menstruation. The oil of oregano is used for toothache, and in some cosmetics. It could also be used as a laxative for its cathartic effect. The leaves and flowering stems are natural antiseptics because of high thymol content. Ancient Greeks made creams derived from Oregano leaves and then applied them to sore, aching muscles. It was also used by Traditional Chinese doctors to treat fever, vomiting and diarrhea, jaundice and itchy skin. In Europe it continues to be used to aid digestion and soothe coughs. Oregano has a wide reaching health benefits, but it is mostly associated with immune system health. When food is marinade in Oregano it will aid in the digestion which may be one of the reasons it was originally added to Greek cuisine in ancient times.
Oregano has extremely high levels of antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds. One teaspoon of oregano has the same antioxidant power (ORAC) of two cups of red grapes. It contains the phytochemical Quercetin, which is known to slow cancer growth and also promote apoptosis (natural cell death) in cancer cells. Oregano is a good source of Vitamin K and Iron.
Oregano contains carvacrol; a molecule that may help offset the spread of cancer cells by working as a natural disinfectant. Carvacrol is also present in marjoram, mint, thyme, basil, and parsley. Marinating foods with oregano may also reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) — chemicals created when meat is cooked at high temperatures. HCAs have been found to increase cancer risk in animals.
Oregano oil has also shown promise in preventing food-borne illnesses caused by pathogens like listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella dysenteria. Adding it to foods not only helps kill the bacteria, but may also alleviate food poisoning symptoms.
The Active ingredients in Oregano oil are Thymol – a natural fungicide and antiseptic, Carvacrol – found to be effective against various bacterial infections, Terpenes – known for powerful antibacterial properties, Rosmarinic acid – an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage, Naringin – which inhibits the growth of cancer cells and helps boost the antioxidants, and Beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) – this substance inhibits inflammation. Nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, boron, and niacin are also found in oregano oil.
Physical Characteristics– Greek Oregano, in bloom, reaches a height of almost two feet. Like all culinary oreganos, its flower is white. Its leaves are coarse, oval, and fuzzy. Leaves range from 5 to 8 inch long; they are dark green when fresh and light green when dried.
It’s a hardy, bushy perennial herb, and a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It’s native to Europe, although it grows in many areas around the world.
Oregano is sold fresh and dried as cuttings of flower tops and leaves packaged in disposable containers or as dried, ground leaves packaged in sprinkle-pour bottles.
Not all oreganos are equal. Greek Oregano (rigani) is a subspecies with the Latin name Origanum vulgare (previously Origanum Heracleoticum or Oreganum Heraclites). Look at oregano package labeling to identify it. Different oreganos have variations in flavors and healing properties.
Oregano Tea-For a warm spicy tea that can settle the stomach or soothe a cough use one to two teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Let it steep 10 minutes, drain herb and drink tea.
I hope you enjoyed this journey learning about Greek Oregano in all its glory.
Στην υγειά μας! (stin iyá mas!), To Our Health and Well Being,
Whatever our heritage, we all treasure our children. They are our future. So when my 12-year old son asked me why I left my home in Greece many years ago to come to America and start a new life, it got me thinking about the treasures I have found here, and how many of those treasures in American culture are so deeply rooted in the philosophy of my ancient homeland.
I decided to share my memories and my thoughts with you, my friends, my fellow Americans, who find ourselves sharing in this wonderful experience of Los Angeles 2014.
We take pride in our democracy, our freedom of speech, science, medicine, even our style of storytelling in books and movies. I too take pride in them, I feel them personally, knowing all of these evolved from my ancestors, the ancient Greeks.
We Americans strive to be healthy and admire those who are active, in good physical condition, and encourage even our elderly to be active. Every four years, we, as citizens’ of the world take pride in the Olympic Games, an ancient Greek tradition that started in 776 B.C. and continued for 11 centuries.
In the middle of the 5th century B.C., intellectual freedom was the defining feature of Athens. For them the development of the mind was foremost — for a democracy, a government “by the people”, could not exist for future generations without this individual freedom.
As an American, I am deeply moved each time I read the words that begin the Constitution: We the People…. There is difficulty in the world today; economic hardship here and abroad. Yet no matter how difficult and discouraging life can be, in the end it is still, “We the People”. With that positive and cooperative frame of mind ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
“We the People” have the ability to create the type of society we want to live in and we want to pass on to future generations. That inspires me. That is what I hope will inspire my son.
— Dimitri Houndalas
From the Larchmont Chronicle
Le Petit Greek co-owners and brothers Dimitri and Thomas Houndalas have spent the past 25 years serving grilled rack of lamb, bechamel-topped moussaka and a cold glass of retsina.
Also on the menu at the 100-seat Village staple is hormone-free, “grass-finished” beef. The seasonal menu is part of a larger “Hellenic” experience that expands beyond food, delicious as it is.
“Our philosophy is to give the best possible, healthiest, organic version of food in the most reasonable price…
“It’s part of our culture, a healthy mind, a healthy body. That’s what our ancestors taught us,” says Dimitri.
Up before sunrise, he shops for fresh produce, meat and fish in time to be back to greet the lunch crowd.
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A wildly held misconception in the main stream is that eating red meat is unhealthy and related to greater disease risk. There is significant evidence that eating processed meat is associated with greater disease risk; including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. However, red meat studies and reviews show no association and risk for disease.
The reason studies have shown red meat to be negative is because the participants in those studies were fed highly processed meat. Besides being processed it was conventionally grain fed and packed with hormones. The cleanliness and quarters the animals were raised in also would not be considered humane or healthy. That affects the health of the animal as stress hormones are released into the animal when it is not living a more natural life. As doctor Sean Lucan pointed out in a letter that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; it may be less about whether the meat is red and more about what the animal was fed. That is what is causing ill health and disease.
Factory farmed meats comes from animals raised on a mixture of genetically modified corn, chicken manure, antibiotics, hormones and ground up parts of other animals. Shocking isn’t it? Factory farmed beef and organic pasture raised beef are drastically different.
Organic Pasture Raised Beef contains amazing nutrients. It has Amino Acids like creatine, carnosine, carnitine, and glycine. It has vitamins B12 and absorbable minerals like Zinc & Iron. It has healthy fats like EPA and DHA for health and well being.
CLA- Conjugated Linoleic Acid
It is an anti-carcinogenic nutrient. CLA is a naturally occurring free fatty acid found mainly in grass fed beef and grass fed dairy products. CLA was discovered by accident in 1978 by Professor Michael W. Pariza. Professor Pariza was at the Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin, when he began studying the formation of bacterial mutagens in ground beef during grilling.
Conclusion of Professor Pariza’s Study
A growing body of data indicates that CLA is a nutrient that functions to regulate energy retention and metabolism. One of the most prominent effects of CLA is to regulate body fat and protein partitioning (body fat and lean body mass). Improved growth performance and enhanced immune function and reduced cancer risk. CLA also reduced blood LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein, often referred to as bad cholesterol) and it reduced the development of atherosclerosis (a common form of arteriosclerosis).
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid used for human growth and development. We must have it to be healthy. Grass finished beef is the best source of this essential nutrient. The source of Omega 3 is the green leaves of plants. When cattle are taken off feeding from the richness of Omega 3 grass, and shipped to a feed lot to be fattened on grain they begin to losing this beneficial fat.
FACTS About CLA & Omega 3’s
CLA conjugated linoleic acid is a good fat that is found in grass fed animal meat. Research shows that CLA can prevent cancer only if it is gotten from a grass fed & grass finished animal.
- Grass Fed & Grass Finished beef has four times more CLA than grain fed beef.
- Omega 3’s in grass fed beef is 7 % of the total fat content. As opposed to 1% in the grain fed beef.
- Organic grass fed beef is higher in omega 3 fats, EPA, DHA.
Grass fed and grass finished beef also has more than double the vitamins E & A and provide more Glutathione which is an antioxidant that is enormously effective in protecting the DNA and cells from cancers. Organic grass fed & finished beef has the highest Glutathione content of all foods. It is surpassed only by asparagus.
Grass Fed only means that the animals were generally raised on grass, but fed primarily grain over the last month before slaughter to fatten them up. Grass Fed & Grass Finished Beef means the animal was only fed Grass its entire life and raised healthfully on a pasture as nature intended. And that my friends is what Le Petit Greek Serves.
Since the average American consumes twice his or her weight in meat per year it is wise to ingest only the best quality, because your health is worth it.
Like my good friend Jack Lalanne used to tell me, “The best investment anyone can do is to invest in their health”. So my advice to you is this; purchase organic vegetables, fruits and for sure organic pasture raised meats, eggs and dairy. Of course we can only buy what is available to us and what we can afford, but try your best to make your health a priority by eating fresh non processed foods. When dining out please choose a restaurant that you really trust and you can verify that they put pride in their work and care about your well being, by serving healthy, fresh food. Also make sure they have a clean restaurant and hospitable atmosphere. Last, but not least be active everyday 20 to 30 minutes. You can choose how you want to be active. Walking, running, biking, swimming, lifting weights, yoga, Tai Qi, gardening are just a few wonderful choices. Do anything that would move your Qi ( life force).
Stin Y Yassas (to your health),
References: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Sean Lucan and Charles Poliquin Group.
- Pariza MW, Hargraves WA (1985) Carcinogenesis.
- Pariza MW, Loretz LJ, Storkson JM, Holland NC (1988)
- Pariza MW, Park Y, Cook M, Albright K, Liaw Cancer Research
- Pariza MW, Simopoulos AP (1987) Calories and Energy Expenditure.
- Pariza MW, Leek, Kritchevsky D. (1994) CLA Inhibits Atherosclerosis.
Le Petit Greek
Los Angeles, CA 90004