Really? Veggies in the oven? It is supposed to be healthy and good for us and bla bla bla but, come on, it is just roasted vegetables. How good that dish could be? I hear you and let’s find out how a 100% vegetable dish with a strange name can be your new delicious addition to your weekly menu. It is all about the traditional Greek briam, a luscious Mediterranean roasted vegetable dish.
So what is exactly this dish? Imagine a glorious summer garden. What can you see? Zucchini, eggplant, peppers, tomato, potatoes, onions to name a few. Now imagine all this freshness in your plate mixed with herbs and coated with a generous amount of olive oil. Don’t forget feta cheese crumbles. Hey, it is a traditional Greek recipe. It has to be feta cheese somehow.
Straight into a big baking pan and the oven. That’ it. The rest is just waiting time. Fresh and seasonal ingredients in a simple, effortless recipe.
THE TRADITIONAL GREEK BRIAM
Are you interested only in the recipe? No problem Jump to Recipe
The rest of you let’s find out more about the traditional Greek briam.
Another name for that plate is Tourlou (Türlü) which is a Turkish word meaning “something of diverse kinds” describing the variety of vegetables in that recipe along with the world briam (or briami). If you go west, you will find a similar dish named caponata in south Italy and the famous ratatouille in south France. You see, the countries of the Mediterranean region share many common elements and their traditional food is vivid proof.
The unique location of the Mediterranean Basin as the nodal point between 3 continents allowed traders to exchange their food goods and conquerors to import new ingredients and food practices. These cultural interactions throughout history transformed the regional culinary map and resulted in one of the most versatile, tasteful collection of cuisines. Lucky us!
No more food history… Let’s get down to business and cook the best Mediterranean roasted vegetables.
COOK IT THE MEDITERRANEAN GREEK WAY
Now that you’ve purchased everything (fresh and organic is always the best choice), cook it the Mediterranean Greek way. Use herbs, spices, good quality olive oil, and follow the cooking practices for a flawless, veggie plate. Veggies don’t have to taste as they came straight from the ground but they can taste heavenly as long as you are familiar with some basic cooking techniques that will enhance the flavor even more.
Briam belongs to a very important part of the Mediterranean way of eating called ladera. The cooking concept is so simple but it is more than enough to make your taste buds shout out in celebration: vegetables roasted in olive oil and tomato along with herbs. That’s it and, believe me, it is more than enough.
COOK IT YOUR WAY ALL YEAR LONG
The traditional Greek briam is definitely a summer dish and there is a good reason for that. One important ingredient is tomato and peak tomato season is in summer particularly in late August when tomatoes are incredibly sweet.
Even though the traditional versions include more or less specific summer vegetables, feel free to exclude some of them or add others. However, I advise you to start with a basic version (why to change something that already works forever, right?) and then do your swaps until you find the perfect Mediterranean roasted vegetables for you and your family. For example, I always add carrot because I really like its sweetness, etc.
That being said, I advise you to make briam all year long as a delicious alternative way to the boring, bland roasted veggies. Last winter, I found out how delicious sweet potato is in a wintery version of briam and this addition was really exciting and a fantastic way to serve sweet potato to my family.
Don’t worry if you cannot use fresh tomatoes during winter. You can absolutely have a kick-ass briam using canned tomato, tomato sauce (passata), or tomato paste. Well, in all honesty, I still prefer those sweet fresh tomatoes but, hey, sometimes I need this summer taste bliss in cold winter days. Who is with me?
COOK IT “VEGGIE HATER FRIENDLY”
Either it is you, a friend or member of your family, some people find it quite difficult to eat vegetables. In fact, some of them despise each and every bite of them. These are the most difficult cases, so you have to approach them in a clever and crafty way (evil grin).
As a mother of two picky-eater boys and a wife of meat lover hubby, I face the challenge of “eat your veggies, boys” (hubby included) with creativity. I usually add ingredients they like to the plate they hate. I mean, I get it! A plate of mixed vegetables can seem really bland for a main dish but maybe, just maybe, a light yogurt-feta homemade dressing would motivate them to taste some and see for themselves the deliciousness of that bite.
Nailed it! This is one of their favorite dishes. No more “Veggies? Yuck!” complaints, no more leftover food on the plates. You should definitely give it a try and let me know how it went.
MAKE IT VEGAN
Easy. Keep the vegetables and skip the dairy. The vegan way is equally amazing!
NO WASTE COOKING
Greek briam is a clever way to clean out your fridge and use up veggies and herbs that start to soften and go bad. That way, you hit two birds with one stone because you don’t waste a single thing and you have available delicious vegetables for 2-4 days. Sweet!
THE RECIPE: KEY TIPS
This is a straightforward and foolproof recipe. Nevertheless, if you have the following key tips in mind you will perfectly roast vegetables every single time.
Cut your veggies the right way
Cutting your vegetables into same-size chunks will ensure even cooking. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be 100% precise. Just keep this tip in mind and try toward this direction. It gets easier over time and practice. This is how you avoid veggies burnt to a crisp and undercooked pieces at the same time. For me, this is the first of the two secrets for nailing this dish.
After years of trial, I found out the perfect size for the veggies so that they remain crunchy and crispy at the same time.
Cut zucchini and eggplant into 1,5 inch (4cm) chunks.
Cut potato into 1 inch (2,5cm) chunks.
Smaller slices of carrot (about 0.5 inch – 1cm).
Big slices of onion and bell pepper.
Garlic cloves cut in half.
Avoid overcrowding the pan
The best way to cook the vegetables is to allow them to sit in a single layer. Crowding the pan will result in steaming them and you may even cook unevenly most of them. Give them space to breathe and don’t pile them on top of each other.
You may use any kind of baking pan as long as it isn’t too shallow (you don’t want your veggies to fall off the side) and it is large/wide enough to welcome a thin layer of vegetables. I wouldn’t recommend a high-side baking pan because it is harder for the water inside of the vegetables to evaporate and this can lead you again to a disgusting mushy outcome.
Don’t add water
Not a drop! Vegetables provide the most water of all foods, often being over 90% water by weight. So imagine how your veggies will look like if you add more water. Yep, then you got a nice veggie soup, which it will be delicious, but hey, this is a roasted vegetable recipe. Instead of water, the only liquid I recommend is olive oil.
The second secret for a delicious Greek briam. Well, it isn’t exactly a secret for the Mediterranean cook because they know how a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil can take a dish full of fresh, seasonal vegetables to the next level. Furthermore, the veggies need fat to caramelize and your body needs healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil.
The right temperature
400 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for your Mediterranean roasted vegetables. Place the pan in the middle rank of your oven and cover it with parchment paper. Remove it halfway and let your veggies get a crispy, perfectly browned exterior and a fork-tender interior. This is a safe way to preserve a steady temperature and prevent veggies from starting to burn before the inside has a chance to cook through.
FETA CHEESE CRUMBLES OR YOGURT-FETA DRESSING?
Two choices here. When your veggies are softened enough, either you sprinkle feta crumbles over them or you take another step and make the easiest and most delicious yogurt-feta dressing. The dressing that your picky eaters are going to love along with their veggies. It worked like a charm for me so you don’t have anything to lose. Just give it a try! Don’t forget to tell me how it went. Because if my recipe makes at least one child eat more veggies, this blog has a purpose, a good reason to exist.
You just whisk all the ingredients together and pour the mixture over the veggies again 10 minutes before the end. Ready. Set. Serve.
MY MEDITERRANEAN ROASTED VEGETABLES ARE READY! NOW, WHAT?
Greek briam is a versatile dish. In Greece, it is served as a main dish along with feta cheese or feta crumbles and a homemade slice of whole wheat crusty bread or pita bread to soak up the juices at the end.
However, it can be an amazing appetizer, side dish or served over your favorite grain (pasta, rice, farro, barley, quinoa) or along with meat or fish.
My clan loves it warm right out of the oven but it is delicious when served at room temperature as well. However, my absolute best way to enjoy this dish is the following two days. The olive oil-tomato-herb mixture is absorbed by the veggies and they are so sweet and caramelized beyond belief.
Don’t forget to serve it with a glass of white wine! A chilling Chardonnay, a Greek Malagouzia or Assyrtico are excellent choices.
WHAT ABOUT LEFTOVERS?
Keep leftovers in the fridge covered in a (preferably glass) food container. Either serve them at room temperature or warm them up in a medium-heated oven or add a bit of water to heat it on the stove.
You may freeze leftovers too. Divide into portions (if necessary), scoop into an airtight container or a freezer bag, and place it into the freezer for 3 months.
Thaw overnight in the fridge (not on the countertop, please) or reheat directly from the freezer to the pan covered with a lid. As the vegetables begin to thaw in the oven, stir them and break them apart.
If you make this recipe, you have to let me know! I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Bookmark this recipe and leave your rate and comment below, or take a photo with your Greek briam and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood.
Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables - Greek Briam
- 2 medium gold potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks (about 1 inch – 2,5 cm)
- 4-5 medium-sized zucchinis, cut into chunks (about 1,5inch - 4cm)
- 4 medium-sized eggplants, cut into chunks (about 1,5inch - 4cm)
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 bell peppers, cut into big strips
- 1 large fresh tomato, diced or 7 oz (200g) canned tomato, diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, cut in big slices
- 2 spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, cut in half or chopped
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- 3/4 cup mint, chopped
- Salt and pepper
FOR THE YOGURT-FETA CHEESE DRESSING (optional)
- 1 cup (250g) Greek yogurt
- 1 cup (150g) feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4- 1/2cup (60-120ml) full fat milk
- 1 egg
- Freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
- In a large baking pan add all the vegetables, herbs and season with salt and pepper. Use a small bowl to dissolve tomato paste into the olive oil and pour it into the baking pan.
- Mix well with your hands until vegetables are completely coated. Spread them evenly across the pan.
- Place the baking pan in the middle rack of the oven. Cover with parchment paper 45 minutes. Then uncover and stir carefully. Bakeuncove red for another 30 minutes. Stir again. Adjust the oven’s temperature accordingly if needed.
- Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt-feta dressing (optional). Whisk yogurt, crumbled feta, milk and egg in a bowl. Set aside.
- Check your veggies especially potatoes and carrots. If they are tender you are good to go. If not give another 15 minutes and check again. When vegetables are tender enough to your liking, sprinkle feta crumbles or pour over the yogurt-feta cheese dressing. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until golden.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: This post originally appeared on 30 days of Greek food in 2017. It has recently been updated with new photos and content so that the readers will benefit and enjoy it even more!