Food has kept us diverse long before we shared our recipes and co-mingled flavors.We live in a world where food much like technology is ever-changing. We try to keep up with words such as “foodie”, “artisanal”, and “farm-to-table”, but these trends appear and fade as appetites waver. Yet one thing that always stays the same is the history of a culture and the history of a cuisine. So lets dive in and discover what it truly means to eat Greek.
Greece! Ελλάδα! (Elláda)
Low in fats, high in nutrient dense foods, and melded with the taste of olive oil and a glass of red wine, the Greek cuisine is the perfect example of a traditional Mediterranean diet. Greek cookery has helped shape many cuisines around the globe while inheriting many classic flavors from other regions as well. The Persians introduced Middle Eastern foods such as yogurt and honey. The Romans introduced pasta and sauces, and the Arabians introduced spices, while the Turkish later introduced coffee. Even to this day many traditional Greek dishes hold onto their cultural influenced names. Take tzatziki (Turkish) and hummus (Arabic) for example. A nation of small farmers, Greece produces an incredible array of fresh ingredients in a warm tropical environment. These ingredients give birth to five regional cuisines that carry on a rich and diverse flavor.
- The Peloponnese- Πελοπόννησος (Pelopónni̱sos)
Greece’s southern most peninsula is etched with lush rolling mountains overlooking glistening seas. Sheep, goat, crustaceans and shellfish are introduced into many flavorful dishes. The fertile land brings forth many fruit, vegetables, olives, and honey. Locals enjoy arni me votana, a rustic lamb casserole with fragrant herbs, hardy vegetables, and legumes.
- Athens- Αθήνα (Athí̱na)
A melting pot of cultural diversity Athens, Greece’s capital, is home to bustling streets and co-mingling flavors. Sparangla kai aginares, a local favorite, consists of al dente fall vegetables and artichoke hearts tossed in an olive oil lemon sauce.
- Northern Greece- Βόρεια Ελλάδα (Vóreia Elláda)
Influenced by immigrants from the Asia Minor war in 1922 the cuisine of Northern Greece is known for its spicier pallet. Soutzoukakia is a must try Greek sausage spiced with coriander, pepper, and cumin and tossed in a wine-sweetened tomato sauce.
- Central and Western Greece- Κεντρική και Δυτική Ελλάδα (Kentrikí̱ kai Dytikí̱ Elláda)
Home to some of the highest mountains in all of Greece, this region is known traditionally as Roumeli, a name deriving from the Turkish word Rumelia meaning “the land of rum.” Local specialties include cheese, spicy pies, and “Glyko kastano”, a chestnut pudding flavored with honey and orange.
Here are six main ingredient components to Greek cuisine:
Phyllo Dough- φύλλο ζύμης (fýllo zými̱s)
Phyllo dough is comprised of multiple layers of paper-thin pastry sheets to provide for a light and flakey texture. Phyllo dough was first used by the Turks nearly 100 years ago and has even given way to the popular dessert baklava. In Greece, phyllo dough is used to create ‘parcels’ of food. One such dish is spanakopita, phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and cheese.
Honey- μέλι (Méli)
Greek honey has been produced for well over 3000 years and is considered the best honey in the world due to the rich variety of flora in Greece’s countryside. It is used especially in sweet delicacies, and it was the first sweetener ever used by the Greeks. Honey was also used for medicine and was once considered the food of the gods.
Feta- φέτα (Feta)
One of the most famous Greek cheeses, Feta cheese is made from a combination of sheep and goat milk. Classified as a “white cheese”, the taste and the texture of Feta can differ based on age and region of the product. A younger Feta will be creamier and less salty, while an older cheese will become drier, saltier, and tangier. It is best paired with softer flavors such as roasted peppers and nuts.
Greek yogurt- Έλληνες γιαούρτι (Élli̱nes giaoúrti)
Known for its delicate taste and subtle flavors, Greek yogurt can be used for savory and sweet dishes. It may be mixed with a variety of flavors or topped with fresh fruit and toasted nuts. Tzatziki sauce is made with fresh yogurt and cucumber for a cool and flavorful accompaniment. The difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt has been strained of excess liquids call whey. This results in a thicker healthier yogurt as whey is a natural sugar.
Kalamata Olives Έλληνες γιαούρτι (Élli̱nes giaoúrti)
Olives have been cultivated by the Greeks for thousands of years. They come in a variety of colors (black, green, red, and yellow) depending on their stage of ripeness. Kalamata olives are typically dark-purple and almond shaped. They can be served as an accompaniment to a meal, as a garnish, or the main ingredient in a delicious dish. Interestingly, olives need to be cured before eaten as they naturally have an intense bitterness.
Greek Olive Oil- ελαιόλαδο (elaiólado)
Olive oil is technically fruit juice and is made from pressing olives. The first press results in the highest quality oil, extra virgin. This staple dates back more than 6000 years to countries in the Mediterranean and has become the healthiest food in the world. Use it as a garnish, in a salad dressing, or as a substitute for other fats. Nothing matches this authentic Greek taste.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Fassolatha– fassolatha (fahsohlahtha): A warm and ancient soup to help you recharge and fill up. Legumes vegetables, herbs, and olive oil show the flavors of Greece blending into perfection.
Souvlaki- σουβλάκι (souvláki): A quick and elegant dish to impress or to feast upon. Tender marinated pork, grilled with succulent tomatoes and onions served with a side of tzatziki sauce makes for the perfect taste of Greece.
Galaktoboureko– Γαλακτομπούρεκο (Galaktompoúreko): A delicious mouth watering Greek dessert made with the famous phyllo dough. Lemony custard served between light and flakey pastry.