Theo Stephan and Christina Xenos share their love for Greek food and living the good life, in OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook. Learn more, and get a recipe, too. It’s a must for every cook!
OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook brings together longtime friends and chefs
Theo Stephan and Christina Xenos have much in common. In addition to their Greek heritage, roots in Ohio, and now living in California, they both share a love of Greek cuisine and healthy living. The friends teamed up to share modern twists on Mediterranean recipes that they’ve been cooking up in their respective kitchens over the years. Let’s meet the authors and learn more about this new cookbook, just out last week. We’ll also share a recipe and tell you how you can be the winner of a free copy!
Theo Stephan of Global Gardens
If you’ve been following me over the years, the name Theo Stephan and her amazing Global Gardens is familiar. In 2011, I met Theo through our friends, the Zahoudanis Family of Demetria Estate. We visited her at her first store in Downtown Los Olivos, CA, and tasted her amazing olive oils and specialty vinegars. We visited her again when she had her store and cafe in Los Alamos, and more recently at her farm in Los Olivos. Her story is one I love to tell.
Born and raised in Dayton, OH, Theo traces her roots to Thessaloniki and Macedonia. She grew up in the kitchen, learning to cook and about all the wonders of Greek olive oil. Back in the 1990s, she co-owned/operated a design and marketing firm. She had many clients in the Los Angeles area, and went there for an extended period of time. As the story goes, she had to escape the hustle and bustle, and rented a car. She arrived in Santa Barbara wine country and fell in love with the area — she said it was like she found the home she didn’t know she was seeking. She phoned her partners to tell them she wasn’t coming back. In 1996, Theo purchased a farm and orchard in Los Olivos, and moved there with her two adopted daughters from Nepal, Anita and Sunita. Then she began the process of importing 500 Koroneiki olive trees from Crete, and planted them on her farm. Since then, she’s produced several varieties of olive oil, specialty vinegars, and more, which can be sampled at Global Gardens’ tasting room at the farm. Theo published her first cookbook, Olive Oil and Vinegar for Life in 2011. Since then, she’s lived and touted the Caliterranean lifestyle, combining the best of Mediterranean and California healthy living and eating.
Also a native of Dayton, Christina traces her Greek roots to Crete, Milos, and Sparta. She said she learned to cook from her yiayias.
“Like most Greek children, I followed my yiayias around the kitchen helping them chop vegetables, roll dolmades, and pick through rice (yes we really did that!).”
In the summers, her mom would take her to church to help bake for the annual festival. There, Christina honed her own skills by working with the ladies. By the time she was 15, her parents were both working full time, and she assumed cooking duties in their home, making recipes from Greek cookbooks.
Christina moved to Los Angeles 12 years ago, and attended the New School of Cooking. There, she added classic techniques to her knowledge. Soon after, she founded her popular company, Sweet Greek Personal Chef Services. As a personal chef and journalist, she lives food. She has many regular clients, teaches cooking classes, and holds pop-up events in L.A. She said she prefers being a personal chef to the restaurant business, because she can connect with people on a more personal level, and it allows her more creativity and flexibility.
Theo and Christina go way back — to their days in Dayton. Their moms taught Sunday school and were “like sisters”. Christina said that when her family moved to Dayton in 1986, Theo’s family became their adopted extended family. Now both in California, they’re as close as ever. Christina loves exploring wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, near Theo’s farm.
About OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook
Both women love to cook Greek food, and over the years, have experimented and put their own signature twists on the recipes. Christina elaborated.
“I think people are naturally curious about Greek food, and despite the traditional recipes in the Greek cannon, the cuisine has modernized. I was in Athens this summer and it was so inspiring to eat at restaurants like Nolan, Cookoovaya, and Kuzina that were doing innovative takes on Greek recipes and ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my share of souvlaki and gemista, but I appreciate the creativity. I think our book is structured like that as well. You’ll find a few tried and true traditional recipes, but the other ones, like my avocado skordalia that’s served with swordfish souvlaki, butternut squash and hazelnut pasta; and Theo’s stuffed leg of lamb, crab cakes, and feta-stuffed burgers; are all indicative that Greek food is evolving.”
The longtime friends compiled 90 modern and healthy recipes, that are easy to cook and share. Theo said that the recipes are tried and true.
“You can trust our step-by-step instructions for no-fail success with these all-new recipes. We also include substitution tips, creative serving ideas, and cool options for using the leftovers — if you have any!”
Keep reading to grab a recipe from the book, and learn about a special giveaway!
Review of OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook
Theo Stephan and Christina Xenos’ OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook is a must for every cook. With stunning photographs, easy to follow instructions, and many tips and tricks, this book will be a favorite. In addition to the 90 recipes, there’s so much here, which will benefit the novice and seasoned cook alike. Find a slew of handy tips on how to stock your pantry and the right equipment to use, as well as their best cooking tips. There’s even a glossary of terms, info on regional cuisine, holiday menu suggestions, and more. Pick up a copy, and get ready for a whole new experience in Greek food.
Opa! The Healthy Greek Cookbook: Modern Mediterranean Recipes for Living the Good Life
By: Theo Stephan and Christina Xenos
Publisher: Rockridge Press (November 7, 2017)
Available at Amazon
Zesti Salata Synkomidís – WARM HARVEST SALAD
Reprinted with permission from OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook by Theo Stephan and Christina Xenos (Rockridge Press), ©2017.
* This recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Sometimes a warm salad hits the spot on a cool day. We love making this hearty salad during the fall season, when pistachio kernels are freshly harvested and sweet potatoes evoke the coming of winter.
2 large sweet potatoes, pierced 6 to 8 times with a fork
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 ounces organic cremini mushrooms, quartered, brown bottoms trimmed from the stems
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 pound dandelion greens, alligator kale, or fresh spinach
4 tablespoons mizithra cheese
4 tablespoons roasted pistachios
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Bake the sweet potatoes (you may want to put a piece of aluminum foil underneath to catch any drips) for 1 hour.
- In the meantime, when the sweet potatoes have cooked for about 30 minutes, place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the mushrooms, onion, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, keeping the mushrooms firm. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and stir in the greens until wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the mushroom and onion mixture.
- Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and cut each crosswise into 8 slices. As you slice them, the peels should slip away; discard the peels. Arrange 4 sweet potato slices on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Scoop the warm greens, mushroom, and onion mixture over the warm sweet potatoes.
- Top each with 1 tablespoon of cheese, pistachios, and parsley.
Substitution tip: Use Greek yogurt or sour cream instead of the cheese.
PER SERVING: Calories: 361; Total Fat: 24g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Protein: 9g; Total Carbs: 32g; Fiber: 5g; Sodium: 599mg