When most people think of Greek food, they think of gyros, hummus, and baklava. But there is so much more to the Greek gastronomy. For the Greeks, food is a celebration, which is reflected in the vibrancy of the food. Fresh flavors such as lemon, olive oil, oregano, thyme, and feta brighten their meals. Because Greek food is high in nutrients and low in animal fats, it is not only delicious, but also healthy.
Greek cuisine revolves around a traditional Mediterranean diet, utilizing simple ingredients from land and sea to create a flavorful experience. The Greeks use very little meat in their everyday cooking. Meat is saved for special occasions or used sparingly for flavoring soups and stews. Sheep, chickens and goats are the most common livestock while beef and pork are fairly unusual in Greece. Cheeses are made with sheep or goat milk. Greeks also use plenty of seafood, fresh vegetables and whole grains in their cooking.
Meze is the Greek word for appetizer and they are a big part of Greek cuisine. Mezes can include pita bread and dips, cheese and olives, or a Greek favorite, octopus. The octopus is grilled over an open flame and usually served with ouzo or wine.
Dolmades are a traditional Greek meze. Dolmades most often consist of some type of chopped meat with rice, pine nuts, garlic, and herbs, wrapped in grape leaves. They can be served as part of a meze platter, as part of a salad or just enjoyed as a snack. Dolmades are most often served with a egg and lemon sauce.
Greek salad is an easy way to explore Greek flavors. A traditional Greek salad does not include lettuce, but revolves around the tomatoes. Other ingredients include cucumber, red onion, green pepper, feta, black Kalamata and green Cretan olives, pepperoncini and oregano. A traditional Greek salad is served with a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Spanakopita is a Greek favorite. It is a very rich spinach pie that contains spinach, onions, feta, and herbs. The ingredients are enfolded in crispy, flaky phyllo dough. Spanakopita is served as a meze, side dish or even a light lunch.
Another traditional dish of Greece is Souvlaki. Souvlaki are grilled skewered kebobs. They can be made with small pieces of meat or seafood and vegetables. This dish is usually served with tzatsiki sauce. Tzatsiki sauce is a condiment made from Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and dill, mint or parsley.
One of the most widely known Greek dishes is Moussaka, a delicious casserole that is similar to lasagna. It is made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling and topping it with a cream sauce and baking until golden brown. Lamb is most often used for the meat filling and potatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables are also sometimes used.
Stifado is a Greek stew that is made with a plenty of onions. It also includes meat, seafood, or vegetables and wine, tomatoes and cinnamon. Stifado is usually served with egg pasta or orzo.
Desserts in Greece usually consist of fresh or dried fruit. Pastries and rich desserts can be extremely sweet, flavored with honey instead of sugar. Therefore, they are usually saved for special occasions or eaten in small amounts. Baklava is probably the most well known Greek dessert. It is very rich and sweet, consisting of chopped nuts and honey layered in phyllo dough.
Many Americans today are hooked on Mexican, Italian, and Chinese foods. But few have stepped outside their comfort zone and tried the delicious foods from Greece. By purchasing a few simple ingredients, one can begin to experiment and enjoy a whole new way of cooking.