Greek cooking has endured for centuries, if not millennia, not because it is tasty, but because it is nutritious and uses fresh, in-season produce.
In this Mediterranean country, people eat fresh and seasonal food. People favour fish (the country is surrounded by water), little meat, mostly lamb, or goat, use olive oil, cheese, and bread.
The mysterious Minoans were among the first residents of Greece and brought with them (2700 B C) domesticated sheep, and goats, and farming practices still being used today for grain. They soon acquired a taste for almonds, yellow pulses (chick peas etc), and discovered grape vines that were growing wild.
Eventually, they earned how make wine, and in time, taught Romans how to grow grapes and make wine.
They also discovered the fruit that sustains millions around the Mediterranean Sea.
Ancient Greeks were accomplished traders and travelled far and wide in the then known world introducing viticulture in what is now France, Spain, the Levant, North Africa, and as far away as India.
Then came Romans (146 BC) introducing the phylo dough, and Ottoman conquerors introduced rice and rose water? Later (1800’s) tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and beans were introduced by Columbus and others who brought them from the Americas.
For Greeks, meze (small dishes of olives, feta cheese, marinated artichoke hearts, cold cuts, preserved meats, stuffed pastries) plus bread come to the table first, along with beer, wine and ouzo.
Thre grilled or pan-fried fish may be served, followed by a meat stew, or simply cooked white beans or chick peas possibly with a few small pieces of lamb.
The meal finishes with fresh fruits, or occasionally with baklava or loukmades.
If you look into her refrigerator of a Greek home, you will be hard pressed to find much in it as housewives like to shop daily for two reasons – to buy what happens to be the freshest produce or fish, and to gossip with their friends or other family members. News travels fast in small villages.
Greek food preparation is time consuming.
Think of galaktobourikas, hortopita, spanakopita, stuffed vegetables, stews, stuffed vine elaves, pilaff style rice and you understand how long it takes to cut vegetables, prepare stuffing, then frying, roasting, and grilling.
One could claim that locavore philosophy originated here, not by design, but by necessity and tradition. If a vegetable is not in season, no self-respecting housewife will think for a moment to substitute with the canned version of same, or urge merchants to import from another region or country,
Greek food relies on fresh herbs more than on spices – flat leaf parsley, dill, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, bay leaf just to name a few.
Here are a few less know Greek specialties – roasted lamb with rosemary, wild greens in fried eggs, kakavia, meat balls with tomato sauce, eggplant puree flavoured with chopped parsley, stuffed grape leaves, mussels in tomato sauce, lamb and beef kebabs, cured ham, sea urchin rose, chicken cooked with cracked wheat, onions stuffed with cheese and mint, pork sausage flavoured with orange and leek, hitipiti, cheese-stuffed cuttlefish, are just some.
Here is Greek menu that features truly regional specialties:
Pestrofa Kapnisti me Anitho
Smoked Trout in Dill and Scallion Marinade
Small Olive Pies
Hot Pepper and Feta Spread with Country Breads
Thrakiotiki Salata de Glystrida
Thracian Salad with Purslane, Tomatoes, and Cucumbers
Lavraki me Dendrolivano
Baked Sea Bass with Rosemary
Gigantes Sto Fourno me Meli Kai Anitho
Giant Beans Baked with Honey and Dill
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.