Lasagna is one of my go-to foods. I love that you can make it ahead, freeze it and it’s totally company worthy. But what I don’t love is that it’s heavy and fattening, leaving me feeling somewhat guilt-ridden and obligated to put in that extra lap or two on my run around the block. Creating a lighter version of this classic dish was my inspiration for this Greek Lasagna recipe, which won 2nd place in the Olivieri Lasagna contest in 2012. I was also inspired by my LOVE of Greek food!
I have never been to Greece but it’s definitely on my bucket list. For now, I live through the food (and vicariously through Sue too, of course). Food is a wonderful way to experience culture.
Relationship between food and culture
Culturally speaking, what one eats defines who one is and is not. A recent study, published in “The Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies,” examined the relationship between food, culture and identity. Because culture is learned, not inherited, many people affiliate the foods from their culture (and their childhood) with warm, good feelings and memories.
Eating is a daily reaffirmation of one’s cultural identity
“The food we eat is part of who we are and what we become. It ties us to our families and holds a special worth to a person. Foods from our culture/ from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of frustration and stress.” This study revealed just how powerful the impact of food is on people, culture and groups in our society.
I am of Ukrainian heritage so I grew up eating Ukrainian food and it’s definitely the aspect of “being Ukrainian” that I identify with the most. And it is the food from my Ukrainian culture that provides me with the most comfort. Growing up, we weren’t exposed to many foods from other cultures. Then, as a young adult, I ended up working in Greek restaurants and that is how I came to fall in love with Greek food.
Working alongside first generation Greek immigrants in a family run restaurant was a rich experience in and of itself. I had the opportunity to become immersed in a different culture; a transplanted segment of Canadian society, unique from my own. And in conjunction with this, I was also exposed to the culinary culture of the restaurant industry.
You only have to read Anthony Bourdain’s, “Kitchen Confidential” (which I highly recommend) for a glimpse into that sordid world. And although I was not working at high-end restaurants in New York city, much of that culture is strikingly similar.
When I was working at my first Greek restaurant (I worked at 4 different Greek restaurants in Winnipeg and Calgary between 1987 and 1994) I recall the owner getting very upset because I would stand over the counter and eat during a shift- it used to drive him crazy!
He’d mutter something under his breath about me being barbaric. Because, in Greece, you are expected to eat slowly, eat a long time and linger after a meal, eating fruit, smoking cigarettes and drinking more wine or a coffee.
I’d simply ignore him because believe me, I would have preferred lingering over my meal to the slog of scarfing down my food in between slinging souvlakia. But I wasn’t paid for my breaks. At the time, I was just grateful for the generous staff discounts on the delicious Greek food!
Although it has been 20 + years since I have worked in a Greek restaurant, I still love Greek food. But now instead of serving it, I cook it and my Greek recipes, including Greek Lasagna, are amongst the favourites of all my creations.
Food in Greece and Greek Lasagna
Traditional Greek food (the Mediterranean diet) is healthy one. Grain, grapes, and olives are central to the diet, supplemented with eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, lamb, goat, chicken, rice, and fruits and vegetables. Certain foods are emblematic of the national identity, including moussaka, baklava, thick coffee, and resinated wine (retsina).
If you love Mediterranean food and are looking for healthy meal ideas, my Greek Lasagna is a great option. It incorporates black olives, light feta, turkey and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as a light Avgolemono sauce, which is a traditional Greek egg and lemon sauce. This Greek lasagna is perfect if you are in the market for a low fat recipe, something a little different and/or don’t eat read meat.
I am all about quick, easy and healthy recipes, but sometimes you just have to invest a bit more time for something spectacular. This is one of those recipes! And any lasagna you make is going to be a time investment. Lasagna is just not a quick meal nor something you’d generally plan to make after work on a weeknight.
So settle in, grab yourself a glass of wine (or whatever your beverage of choice is) and enjoy the process of cooking this wonderful Greek lasagna recipe. I can guarantee you, it’s worth the time investment!
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My Low-Fat Greek Wedding Lasagna
The flavours of Greece and Italy wed to create a delicious, light version of this classic dish!
Author: Terri Gilson
1 pkg. (approx. 500 g) mild Italian turkey sausage
1 pkg. (approx. 500 g) ground turkey breast
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2 tsp. olive oil
3 Tblsp. lemon juice from concentrate
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 ¾ cups cholesterol and fat free liquid egg replacement product
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. cornstarch
½ pkg. (170 g) fresh baby spinach
8 Olivieri regular or whole grain lasagna sheets (approx. 1/3 -400g pkg.) * you can use a another brand, but just make sure to use the fresh lasagna sheets- they are superior to the dry pasta in the box!
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1- 7-oz can sliced black olives
1 jar (210 ml) sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
½ cup dry curd cottage cheese
1 pkg. (200 g) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 Tblsp light parmesan cheese
1 cup light feta cheese
2 cups grated light mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- On stovetop, cook turkey sausage until no longer pink and cut into small pieces.
- In a large pot, cook ground turkey and onion in olive oil until turkey is no longer pink. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Add ground turkey sausage to mixture. Reduce temperature to med- low and add egg replacement, lemon juice from concentrate, fresh lemon juice, half the garlic (2 cloves), oregano and cornstarch.
- Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and remove from heat.
- In a separate medium sized mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, spinach, parmesan and, dry cottage cheese, sundried tomatoes and olives together.
- Pour ½ the lemon meat sauce in an oblong baking pan (9” X 13”) and cover with a layer of ½ the noodles (4 sheets).
- Spread all the Greek yogurt mixture over the noodles; then cover this with remaining noodles.
- Top with remaining meat sauce. Cover and seal with aluminium foil and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 35 minutes
- Remove and top with grated mozzarella and feta cheese.
- Return to oven and bake uncovered 8 minutes longer, then turn oven up to 500 degrees F (broil) and cook for 2-3 additional minutes until bubbly.
- Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes and serve.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes
For more contest winning recipes visit Terri @Food Meanderings.com
Terri is a competitive home cook and baker, recipe developer, food writer, and cake decorator. Her original and award winning recipes have been published in Taste of Home magazine, Saltscape Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens Family Circle Hometown Cooking Cookbook, The Old Farmer’s Almanac Readers’ Best Recipes 25th Anniversary Edition Cookbook, Safeway Destination Cheese Champions, among other publications and on several websites. She also contributes a monthly food & recipe column to The Rocky Ridge Royal Oak Community newsletter. She is a happily married mom of two that loves everything food. By day she works as a Project Manager in the health care field.