Excellent natural ingredients are at the heart of Greek cuisine. Crisp Greek salads, delicious grilled fish, spitted meat and exquisite fruit have good, fresh favor, and you can always dine in a pleasant, outdoor setting.
Try out the more interesting specialities a well: garlic-yogurt-cucumber dip (dzadziki), garlic mashed potatoes (skordalia), fried octopus, goat’s milk cheese (feta) steeped in olive oil and brine, and the obligatory resin-flavoured wine (retsina).
Greek cooking is simple and at times imaginative, using a few basic ingredients and herbs for flavouring. Olive oil, lemon, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cheese and such herbs as oregano are typical features of the culinary landscape. There may also be Turkish or Arab influences.
Most restaurants of all categories, in Greece itself will serve these dishes:
Soupa avgolemono: this is the Greek’s best-known soup: eggs and rice, chicken or meatstock, flavoured with lemon juice.
Delightfully refreshing, it can be served just before the last course (to settle the stomach). A similar sauce is made with eggs and lemon, and usually appears with other dishes.
Dzadziki: a yoghurt dip with garlic and finely sliced cucumbers. It’s served cold, usually with other mezedes (appetizers) and bread.
Taramosalata: this spread is made with Tamara (grey mullet roe), which is beaten into a pink paste with mashed potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice or sometimes moistened bread. Greeks eat it on bread chunks or on lettuce as a salad.
Dolmades: these are grape leaves filled with mined meat (often lamb) and/or rice, and seasoned with herbs and grated onion. They’re often served hot with an avgolemono sauce.
Keftedes: meatballs, usually of minced beef and lamb, with grated onion, oregano, crushed mint leaves and cinnamon, either baked or deep-fried in oil. Regional variations are stewed in tomato sauce and herbs.
Moussaka: one of the most popular Greek dishes. Alternate layers of sliced aubergine (eggplant) and minced meat baked with a white sauce and grated cheese.
Kolokithia gemista me rizi ke kima: this is a marrow (zucchini) filled with minced meat and rice.
Finally, Kotopoulo psito (stisouvla) is spit-roasted chicken.
Practically every restaurant in the country serves the reliable Greek ‘village’ salad (salata choriatiki) of slieed cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, radishes and olives, topped with feta. If you prefer, you can have a separate order of any of these ingeredients. In many taverns, you dress your own salad with olive oil and a dash of vinegar (Greek usually dispense with the latter).
Fresh fruit is a real delight. Peponi (a melon tasting somewhere between cantaloupe and honey dew) and karpouzi (watermelon) are mouth-watering, as are the oranges, figs (best in August), peaches and seedless grapes. You can order a bowl of mixedfruit of any number of people – it should come peeled, cut and ready to eat.
The ubiquitous feta is the most distinctive Greek cheese, but hard yellow types – kasseri, kefalotiri, kefalograviera or kapnisto – available in many restaurants and shops are good for snacks. Better restaurants may have imported cheeses.
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