by Deborah Manos
Live longer – be healthy. Eat like a Greek. The Mediterranean diet has been studied and found to be the healthiest way of eating on the planet. Here’s a listing of the unique flavors that may peak your curiosity and stimulate your imagination. If you are traveling to Greece make sure you eat your way through the country! If you are nearby Citrus County Florida then come to our Taverna and sample some of the different foods listed below. Of course, we do not have all of these things, but what we do have we are sure you will ENJOY!
FETA: A traditional brined curd cheese that fits in with every dish. It is eaten in various forms – plain, with olive oil and herbs such as oregano, best with freshly baked bread, in a salad, with tomato, or in cheese pies.
HORIATIKI: This is the real deal – The Greek traditional salad. It can be the entire entree course where fresh picked tomato still warm from the kiss of the sun, meets up with juicy flavorful cucumber, green pepper, onion, feta cheese, olive oil and traditional Greek herb, oregano.
TZATZIKI: Yogurt, cucumber and lots of garlic. I suggest that everyone in your travel group eat this together – garlic is well…garlic!
SOUVLAKI PITA: The ultimate souvlaki. Pork, lamb or chicken wrapped in a pita bread (flat bread) with tomato, onion, tzatziki and for an added twist, especially in Athens, they will add French fries with it.
KALAMAKI: Delectable chunks of pork, chicken or beef cubes grilled and sprinkled with salt, oregano and lemon.
GYROS: In America we serve a mix of lamb and beef meat, but in Athens it’s pork meat roasted vertically on a spit and cut into thin slices with a long sharp knife. It is served with grilled pita bread, tzatziki sauce and wrapped.
MOUSSAKA: Ultimate Greek comfort food: Layered aubergine(eggplant), ground beef and tomato oven-baked with a thick topping of bechamel (to die for) sauce.
DOLMADAKIA: Fresh grape leaves blanketed with rice and ground beef and spices. Tangy goodness. Usually served with a coating of olive oil and lemon or special lemon cream sauce.
MEZETHES: An all around term for small portions of tasty Greek goodness. These are not really appetizers per se – think tapas for Greeks.
FAVA: Healthy yellow, big, fava beans sprinkled with lemon, olive oil, and chopped onions.
HORTA: Dandelions, spinach, or any other field greens that have been boiled and covered with olive oil and lemon with a slice of feta on the side. Why people live over 100 years.
SAGANAKI: Kasseri cheese, battered in flour and fried till crisp. Often ignited with brandy and the flame extinguished with a slice of lemon. Opa! Watch the flames!
SPANAKOPITA: If it’s made correctly it can be Heaven in your mouth. Warmed layers of buttered filo dough, baked to golden brown with Spinach and traditional feta cheese and dill layered within.
TARAMOSALATA: Fish roe mixed with boiled potatoes or moistened breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon juice served with pita wedges.
PASTICHIO: More Greek comfort food. Baked large hollow pasta noodles with a ground-meat filling, a hint of cinnamon or cardamom with a rich, creamy Bechtel sauce topping.
SCORDALIA: hmmmm Garlic!! This is a wonderful appetizer. It is also used as a topping for fried fish or vegetables such as eggplant or zucchini squash. My favorite is with pita wedges. It consists of a thick garlic and potato puree, or garlic and bread puree. This is guaranteed to keep colds, virus and vampires away.
OUZO: Rarely straight, instead served mixed with water and a cube of ice. Paired with the meze, and a perfect companion to grilled octopus and calamari. Ouzo is a protected designation-of-origin product, which means it comes from one area only. Drink ouzo, then its time for a nap afterwards. Just the way it is.
TSIPOURO: This belongs in the “men only club.” It’s strong distilled liquor similar to ouzo. Powerful stuff.
FRAPPE: Not a Starbucks item – this is THE summer beverage in Greece. Its like a cold coffee-chocolaty smoothie with lots of sugar and served over ice.
FREDDO: (a stronger Frappe) Espresso done a la Frappe, with foamed cold milk and crushed ice. Jet fuel.
ELLINIKOS: Finely ground Greek coffee that is boiled in a pot (briki) and served hot with lots of bubbles. Comes straight, semi-sweet, sweet or very sweet. To be enjoyed slowly. Very strong flavor. If you’re lucky someone in the cafe will be able to “read” your coffee grounds and predict your future. Similar to reading tea leaves. Or do it yourself – invert your cup after drinking. Flip when you think the timing is just right. View the grounds and look for images that you visualize in the cup. Whatever it means to you – that’s your future! Yes, this is more jet fuel.
KOULOURI: Cookie like dough – not too sweet and covered in sesame seeds. Think Biscotti only not so hard and much buttery better.
BOUGATSA: Another dessert straight from the gods. This is filo dough smothered in sweet semolina custard, and sprinkled with powered sugar.
LOYKOUMADES: Little fried balls of dough dredged in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. These go down too quickly.
BAKLAVA: This is the most iconic dessert in Greek cuisine. Thin filo pastry layers filled with chopped walnuts (I have seen pistachio nuts used too) and cinnamon then drenched in a mix of honey, and sugar water.
KANDAIFI: Much like baklava having the same filling and syrup but instead of layers of filo, they shredded the dough to resemble shredded wheat sold in America. Easy to eat with fingers – usually no fork is required.
GALAKTOBOUREKO: The first place winner in the contest to be the best dessert ever. Soft, scrumptious custard baked between layers of filo and then soaked with lemon-scented honey syrup.
FYSTIKI: Roasted pistachio nuts from Aegina. No red residue on your fingers, just healthy clean food.
AMYGDALOTO: Powdered blanched almonds, confectioner’s sugar and rose water.
KOURABIEDES: We called these “wedding cookies” when I was growing up. They are made with flour, butter and crushed roasted almonds generously dusted with powdered sugar. My yiayia’s kourabiedes melted in your mouth. No chewing necessary.
PASTELI: As kids this was our “candy bar” – sesame seeds and pure honey.
YAOURTI MELI: Yogurt with honey combined with peaches or watermelon makes a yummy breakfast. Also served as a dessert, with honey and chopped walnuts.
LOUKOUMIA: Made from starch and sugar, this is similar to Turkish delight, usually flavored with rose water or mastic.
GLYKO KOUTALIOY (SPOON SWEETS): The most popular version is sour cherry (vissino).
Te header picture is a picture of my breakfast at the Bacchus Pension in Ancient Pisa, Peloponnese. Grapes, fresh cantaloupe and watermelon, bougatsa, yaourti meli (yogurt and honey), hard boiled egg, snuck out from under the hen that morning, with fresh squeezed juice and cold spring fed mineral water from the local springs.
The number one rule of Greek food is that the taste should be simple, fresh, and “explosive” so be prepared to send your taste buds on an adventure to never forget.