Greek cooking cannot be understood without its Mediterranean influence or its ancient roots.
Think of Greece and what comes to mind first is usually blue seas, luminous skies, little white houses and very old ruins. That’s fine.
The same way modern Greece is a fascinating combination of old and new, Greek cuisine reflects traditional and modern inspiration. The fact that Greece is a Mediterranean country located between Europe and Asia has also shaped Greek cuisine. Finally, Greek cuisine is not only that of the main peninsula, but also the dishes of the hundred islands that are part of the country.
Greek cuisine is interesting and healthy
We will find some dishes, such as the stuffed grape leaves, have been prepared for thousands of years. Yogurt and many pastries date from Persian times. The Turks are responsible for introducing coffee and the base of wheat, wine and olive oil is characteristic from its Mediterranean roots and shared with other countries. Adding to all these influences some ingredients and cooking methods unique to Greece, we will find Greek cuisine is rich in tradition and variety.
You can easily cook Greek at home. Just select some of the Greek recipes from below, stock your Greek pantry with the local staples. Some will be already in your pantry and the others are not that difficult to find and most stores will carry them. Greece's climate and geography have always been major influences on its cuisine. Zesty lemons, savory marinated olives, fresh herbs, and the simple vegetables that grow under Greece's luminous sun are some of ingredients to appear in the country's best known recipes.
Greek recipes make use of local fresh ingredients and olive oil. Greek food is often accompanied by a little wine. That is why Greek cuisine is considered an example of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
What could be the reason to have a Greek day? Just do it to practice Greek hospitality or celebrate one of the many Holidays and festivals traditional there. Read about food in Greece, if you need a little more stimulus.
A Greek Table
The Greeks are famous for their hospitality. It is just unthinkable for them not to offer a visitor something to eat or drink. These treats are a welcome and show how happy the Greek host is for having a guest. Mind, refusing this offer of food would be considered a poor show of manners on the visitor’s side.
The guest may be offered glyko, a traditional spoon sweet which is nothing more than a thick fruit, or vegetable, preserve. Fruits such as peach, apricots, quince, or green nuts, and vegetables such as tomato, or eggplant, are made into a very sweet jam. This jam is given as present, used in cooking, and served to guests. For this purpose, glyko is usually served on a tray accompanied by both a glass of ice cold water and a cup of syrupy Greek coffee.
The midday meal if often eaten in the afternoon, about 1:00 to 2:00 P.M. and it has been traditionally the main meal of the day - although lunch is becoming a rather light affair nowadays, especially in the cities, because of work and packed timetables. Much as it happens in Spain, people need a rest after a large meal. Schools and businesses need to close while people take a long lunch break, complete with coffee and sweets.
One of the pleasures in Greece life is to stop by a taverna in the early evening and keep the wolf of the door by sipping your favorite drink and nibbling on meze while chatting with friends or play games – cards, domino or backgammon.
Meze consists of a selection of food hot or cold, sweet and savory –it could also be a main dish in small portions - including olives, chunks of Feta cheese, bread, seafood such as grilled octopus, fried eggplant or other vegetables in sauce, and dips such as tzatziki. Meze can be served as an appetizer before a meal or on its own as snack to help pass the time until the late evening meal and the taverna, often a small family-run business, is the ideal place to enjoy it.
As there is such a large variety of dishes to be offered as meze, this afternoon snack can become quite a full meal. Those who enjoyed their main meal in the afternoon often don’t need anything more than a little meze in the evening to finish their food day. Much as it happens with Spanish tapas.
Dinner is eaten late in the evening, sometimes it as late as 10, which means it can last until midnight, if it is a formal occasion. It may be something light, perhaps only a salad, for those who had a main meal earlier and enjoyed meze in the early evening. Families who make dinner their main meal in the day will sit to an appetizer of soup or meze, a salad, a main course with fish or meat, side vegetables, potatoes, rice, or pasta and dessert. Being Greece, serve wine with the meal.
Dessert and sweets
Honey is one of the staples in a Greek pantry, of course there are sweets. The Greek are master pastry makers and they love all kind of sweets – they have recipes for all sorts of puddings, cakes and ice creams. Often a large meal will be finished with a simple dessert of fresh fruit or yogurt but serving sweet and pastries with coffee –say iced coffee in the summer- is also common.
A Greek Menu
When planning a Greek menu, it is important to remember fish is present at the table more often than meat and goat or lamb are common meat in Greece as opposite to beef.
All Greek families like to come together for the main meal, either afternoon or evening one. This is the time to share conversation as well as food and let every other member know what is going on. Everyday family meals are generally very simple but nutritious and flavorful, think of avgolemono, stifado, moussaka, spanakopita, or skordalia.
Holiday and Festival Food
In the busy festive Greek calendar, there are plenty of occasions to celebrate with family and friends, and put together a Greek feast. No holiday of festival is complete without their Greek festive food. Some soups and breads are almost exclusive of holiday celebrations. Each one of Christmas, Easter, and New Year's celebrations have their own special recipe for delicious sweet bread. Not also bread, but all kinds of delicious sweets and pastries would be served during these festivities.
Oregano is the most popular Greek herb.
Feta is the best known among the many Greek cheeses.
Mount Hymettus, near Athens, is notorious for the bees and wild honey found on its slopes.