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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Cuisine of Greece

The sun reflecting off of crystal clear waters, the beauty of the islands, Greek music and food. Greek cuisine is typically Mediterranean. It has characteristics similar to the cuisines of Southern France, Italy, the Balkans, Anatolia and the Middle East. Present in almost every dish is olive oil which is produced from the trees prominent throughout the region. Wheat is the basic grain. Important vegetables include tomato, aubergine (also called eggplant), potato, green beans, okra, green peppers, and onions. Honey is mainly flower-honey from the nectar of fruit and citrus trees like lemon, orange and bigarade trees, thyme honey and pine honey from conifer trees. Matic (harvested for its aromatic resin) is grown on the Aegean island of Chios.

The flavorings that are most used in Greek cuisine consist of oregano, rigani, mint, garlic, onion, dill, sald and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs and spices may include basil, thyme and fennel seed. In the northern parts of the country sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves are combined with meat and used in stews. Some typical ingredients are lamb, pork, kalamata olives, feta cheese, grape leaves, zucchini and yogurt. Nuts and honey dominate desserts.

Because the terrain is more favorable to the breeding of goats and sheep beef dishes are rarer. Fish dishes are common especially in coastal regions and on the islands. There is a great variety of cheese which is used in Greek cuisine including Feta, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, Graviera, Anthotyros, Manouri, Metsovone and Mizithra. There are dishes that make use of phyllo pastry.

The most popular types of fish and shellfish include tuna, mullet, bass, halibut, swordfish, anchovies, sardines, shrimp (prawns), octopus, squid and mussels. This fish and seafood is enjoyed in many ways: grilled and seasoned with garlic and lemon juice, baked with yogurt and herbs; cooked in rich tomato sauce, added to soups; or served cold as a side dish.
Chicken is also eaten regularly, as are game birds such as quail and Guinea foul.

Wine is consumed regularly in Greece, but mainly with food, and in moderation. Ouzo (an aniseed flavored spirit) and beer are also popular alcoholic beverages. Strong black coffee is one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages.

Typical Greek food is simple, colorful and packed with robust flavors. There are Greek dishes which have been influenced by Turkish cuisine. Contemporary cookery makes use of olive oil, grains and bread, wine, fish, and various meats, including poultry and rabbit. According to legend Klephtico (or Kleftiko) slow cooked lamb (or other meat) can be translated as "stolen meat". The Klephts who didn’t have flocks of their own, stole lambs or goats and cooked the meat in a sealed pit to avoid having the smoke seen.

There are dishes which can be traced back to ancient Greece such as trahanas (tarhana) dried foods based on a fermented mixture of grain and yoghurt or fermented milk, usually consumed as soup., skordalia a thick puree (or sauce/dip/spread/etc.) in Greek cuisine made by combining crushed garlic with a bulky base—which may be a purée of potatoes, walnuts, almonds, or liquid-soaked stale bread—and then beating in olive oil to make a smooth emulsion. Vinegar is often added, lentil soup (mercimek), retsina a Greek resinated white (or rosé) wine that has been made for at least 2000 years. Its unique flavor is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo Pine resin in ancient times., pasteli; to the Hellenistic and Roman periods: loukaniko is simply the normal Greek word for pork sausage, usually somewhat dried.

There is a variety of sausages in Greek cooking, but perhaps the best-known is flavored with fennel seeds and orange peel, sometimes smoked; another popular flavoring is greens, especially leeks and Byzantium: feta cheese, avgotaraho a Mediterranean delicacy of cured fish roe. Sometimes called the poor man's caviar, botargo is the roe pouch of tuna or grey mullet, or sometimes swordfish. It is massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets, then dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. The result is a dry hard slab, which is coated in beeswax for keeping.

It is usually used sliced thinly or grated. There are also many ancient and Byzantine preparations which are no longer consumed: porridge as the main staple, fish saucenuc mam, salt water mixed into wine, etc.

There are dishes which come from the Ottoman cuisine tradition revealing Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots such as moussakas (musakka), baklavas(baklava), tzatziki(cacık) a Greek meze or appetizer, possibly of Turkish origin, also used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros. Tzatziki is made of strained yoghurt — in Greece and Turkey usually sheep's-milk or goat's-milk yoghurt — to which are added cucumbers (either pureed and strained or seeded and finely diced), garlic, salt, cracked black pepper and usually olive oil, dill, sometimes lime juice and parsley, or mint. Olive oil, olives, and herbs are often used as garnishes as well, yuvarlakia, keftedhes, gyros (doner kebap).

Many dish names come from the Ottoman cuisine tradition and their names reveal Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots such as moussakas (musakka), baklavas(baklava), tzatziki (cacık), yuvarlakia, keftedhes, gyros(doner kebap) a Greek fast food. It is a kind of meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie. By extension, gyros may refer to the pita sandwich it is often served in, with various salads and sauces. The most common fillings are tomato, onions, and tzatziki sauce. It is speculated that grape-leaf dolmathes (yaprak sarmasi) were made by the early Byzantine period.

Some dishes have been influenced by Venetian (Italian) cuisine, such as pastitsio a layered baked dish. There are variations throughout the regions of Greece but typically the bottom layer is bucatini or other tubular pasta with cheese and egg as a binder; the second layer is ground meat (beef, veal or lamb) with tomato and cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice; the third is another layer of pasta; and the top layer varies from an egg-based custard to a flour-based Béchamel or a Béchamel with cheese known as Mornay sauce in France. Grated cheese is often sprinkled on top and a dusting of cinnamon and/or nutmeg makes the dish classically Greek, makaronia me kima, though pasta with meat together is considered in culinary circles as an "eastern" tradition, found mostly in Greece and Anatolia and Asia Minor.

Fast-food is becoming popular in Greece and Europe and local chains such as Goody’s are opening up. However Greek people still rely on the rich and extensive dishes of Greek cuisine. In addition, some traditional Greek foods, especially souvlaki a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer., gyros, pita/pites, for example tiropita a Greek layered pastry food, made with layers of buttered phyllo and filled with a cheese-egg mixture. and spanakopita a filling of spinach, feta cheese (sometimes in combination with ricotta cheese for value), green onions, egg, and seasoning. The filling is wrapped in layers of phyllo pastry with butter and/or olive oil, either in a large pan from which individual servings are cut, or rolled into individual triangular servings (savory or sweet stuffed phyllo dough) are often served in fast food style.

Dining out is common in Greece. The Taverna and Estiatorio are widespread, serving traditional Greek home cooking at affordable prices to both locals and tourists.


In Greece this would be served as a main (vegetarian) course. You don't have to eat meat every day.
by evelyn/athens
3 lbs large zucchini, washed, sliced into thin rounds
2 lbs large potatoes, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ricotta cheese, crumbled (or anthotiro, if you can get it)
1/2 lb mizithra cheese, grated (you can sub Parmesan)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced (1 tblsp. dried)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (170C).
2. Put the zucchini, potato and onion into a deep bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper to taste (careful! the cheese will have lots of salt don't use too much), all the grated cheese, mint, garlic, olive oil, and toss to coat all slices.
3. Pour this mixture into a greased (olive oil) 13 X 9" pyrex baking dish (this doesn't have to be pretty- it won't show much when baked and sliced- taste is everything!).
4. Press down with palms of hands to compact somewhat. Carefully pour 1/4 cup water over top.
5. Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. (if boureki appears to be too dry during baking, you can add up to 1/4 cup more water - but careful, the zucchini and potatoes will also release liquid during baking).
6. Allow to cool 15 minutes before cutting into.
Bekri Meze

• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 cup dry red wine
• 1 cup tomato juice
• Tabasco sauce
• Oregano
• 600gr Pork fillet
• Spice
• 1 teaspoon mustard
• Salt
• Pepper
• 1/4 cup olive oil
1. Cut pork into small chops.
2. Place chops in a deep bowl.
3. Add 1 teaspoon of mustard and mix the pork with it so that the mustard covers all pieces. (add more mustard if needed).
4. Squash garlic and saute the pork along with the garlic in a deep frying pan, using some olive oil.
5. Increase the heat to full and add 1 cup dry red wine, stirring lightly.
6. Allow the wine to boil till it evaporates.
7. Add tomato juice, and a few drops of tabasco sauce (10 - 20 depending on your taste).
8. Add a pinch of spice and a pinch of oregano and allow some time for the mixture to boil until the sauce thickens a bit.
9. Serve while hot.

Serves aprox. 4
Goes well with rice or french fries. By Rasma Raisters

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