If there's anything the Greeks have taught us, it's that 1. olive oil tastes good on just about anything and 2. it's pretty much the closest thing we have to an elixir of youth. While I may be veering into hyperbole, facts are facts: Olive oil is really good for you, and there's a reason why so many nutritious recipes call for it as an ingredient.
Greece is also home to some of the longest-living people in the world, including the Ikaraians, who regularly live to over 100. While olive oil alone isn't sustaining their youth, it reportedly plays a key role, as do other Mediterranean dietary staples like legumes, honey, and lemons. These happen to be the stars of Kosterina's new cookbook, Kosterina Kitchen ($32), which was curated to help us cook with longevity, too.
Kosterina Kitchen is a culinary trip through the Greek islands, minus the expensive flights. From tried-and-true Greek classics to more modern dishes inspired by the cultural cuisine, all the recipes are backed by superfoods found in the Mediterranean, many of which have been linked to longevity. Figs and pomegranates, Greek yogurt, honey, and of course, olive oil, are the backbone of this cookbook, empowering readers to live a "longer, more delicious life."
"They're [all] ancient ingredients that have been growing and used in Greece and other countries for thousands of years, and they're so potent for their health benefits," explains Kosterina's founder, Katerina (Katina) Mountanos. "We started developing recipes that of course included our olive oil and adjacent products, as well as these popular, readily-available superfoods from Greece."
If you're not familiar with Kosterina, the brand makes indulgent Greek olive oil and has been on a quest to bringing its powers to the masses. It's a superfood for sure—but it's not the only Greek treat worth tasting. The benefits? Slowed cell damage and protection from free radicals (UV rays, pollution, radiation, etc.), for one, thanks to the high amount of antioxidants in ingredients like pomegranates, lemons, and honey. Mountanos explains this is due to the fact that these foods are cultivated at high-altitudes, forcing them to cope with the stress by producing more antioxidants.
"Our olive trees actually grow in sand very close to the beach, forcing them to thrive in windy, sandy conditions. That's why so many more antioxidants come out of those olives," she says.
There's also gut-friendly probiotics from ingredients like Greek yogurt and feta cheese, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits from native oregano and lemon. "We also see people in the Blue Zones consuming a lot more legumes than usual, it's like the protein that replaces meat," says Mountanos. Expect lots of fava beans, chickpeas, and lentils while you're flipping through Kosterina Kitchen.
Put these superfoods together with other tasty ingredients, and you've got yourself a deluge of scrumptious recipes for every hour of the day. As mentioned, some of them are Greek classics, like honey-drenched baked feta and hardy olive loaf, while others are more innovative, putting a modern twist on traditional meals. (Mediterranean 7-layer dip, anyone?) Everything was developed in conjunction with executive chefs Anna Gass, Marilena Leavitt, and Bernice Baran, designed to make any home chef—regardless of level or skillset—able to bring these healthy dishes into their own kitchens.
"The recipe in the book that's most special to me is my mother-in-law's spanokopita, which is normally a very difficult dish to make. But she made it very simple [to copy]... We wanted basic, simple dishes that take 30 minutes or less to make—that's a lot of what you'll see [in Kosterina Kitchen]," Mountanos says. "Everything was developed with being healthy and helpful in mind."
Take it from some of the longest-living people in the world—these recipes are good for you. And, not to mention, totally delicious. Buy the new Kosterina cookbook, Kosterina Kitchen, here, or double down on your olive oil game with a cookbook-EVOO bundle here.
Here's what an RD has to say about the famous 'elixir of youth'.
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