One of the reasons for coming to Greece, if not for travel and relaxation, is the food. The Greeks have a rich culinary history with a wonderful mix of fresh vegetables, roasted meats, cultured yogurt, and sweet baked treats. Influenced by the freshness of the Mediterranean, Greek dishes appeal to all tastes.
Starting from a base of healthy country cooking, Greek Cuisine has expanded over the centuries until today, Greece is synonymous for a diverse range of family meals, holiday foods, and elaborate presentation dishes. Ancient Greek foods were cooked over open wood fires and in wood burning ovens - roasting, baking, boiling, stewing, etc. Greek food migrate from simple to complex.
Salads & Dips
The one thing that everybody has eaten and never gets tired of is a Greek Salad or "Horiatiki". Made with large chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and olives, often topped with feta cheese. By the way it does not always come with feta so you may have to ask for it.
Greek food also has a variety of dips which they use with bread or even as a side to the meal to go with meats and potatoes. " Melitzanosalata" has the word salad in the name, but is more like a dip made with aubergines (eggplant) – goes great on bread.
The favorite which everybody knows about is the wonderfully refreshing "Tzadziki", made from strained yogurt, grated cucumbers and garlic. This is then whipped up into a puree and is not just a dip for your pita but goes great on "Souvlaki" and meats. "Taramosalata" is another common dip you will find on the menu, with more of an acquired taste, but once you are hooked it’s hard to stop. This creamy dip is made from red caviar.
Every menu will have an abundance of starters " Meze", such as the small mouth sized filo pastries filled with feta cheese, called "Tiropita". Sometimes you will find "Spanakopita", a pie made with a feta cheese and spinach filling and coated with a filo pastry. If you don’t like the idea of pastry for an appetizer then try the fried cheese or "Saganaki", it forms a nice golden crust. Just squeeze a little lemon and it tastes sooooo good, but don’t over load on this high calorie appetizer.
In the fish category, you will love "Marides Tiganites", usually young herring, tossed in a salty flour mixture, deep fried, and drizzled with lemon. The perfect finger food to tie you over till supper.
And we have not gotten to the main courses!!!!!
For lunch, try one of the many street eateries and fill up on Gyros (pronounced ear-rohs).
Meat is cooked on a spit and strips of warm meat are then shaved off and wrapped in a pita with tomatoes, onions, then topped off with a garlic sauce and spices.You can also get the ingredients without the pita bread. Just ask for "Merida"
Late evening in Greece
Now we’re talking like about after 10 p.m. As the taverns start to fill up, before the dancing starts, you will want to enjoy some of the traditional Greek oven foods. I recommend "Brizoles", Greek pork chops or beef steaks done on the grill and served with potatoes or fries. A different version is the grilled lamb chops prepared with oregano and lemon. They call this one "Paidakia". Because lamb has little meat and more bones, they can be compared to ribs, and they are delicious!
One of the most famous Greek dishes is "Moussaka". Ground beef (pork or lamb) is layered with aubergines (eggplant) and topped with a béchamel sauce, then baked in the oven.
Their desserts are more middle-eastern influenced, heavily using sugar, and syrups rather than butter and creams. They make use of seasonal produce such as fresh fruit, walnuts and pistachios.
Many well known Greek sweets use filo pastry, creating multi layers of wafer thin pastry. These sweets are then soaked in a sweet honey syrup. The syrup will give these cakes a wonderful flavor and texture as well as helping to preserve them for longer.
Kataifi, along with Baklava is one of the most popular and delicious Greek Desserts, made with a special type of pastry called "Kataifi". Like angel hair pasta and when rolled up resembles shredded wheat.
"Baklava" is a pastry rich in nuts and sweetened with honey. The pastry was once exalted to the status of becoming a food for the rich and the aristocrats and is now a sumptuous treat that is greatly enjoyed with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Baklava originated in the 8th century somewhere in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region.
I hope I made your mouth water with all this food from Greece.