Recovering from study abroad nostalgia is extremely difficult. I spent a month studying abroad in the beautiful island of Cyprus in the middle of the Mediterranean. I spent 5 days of the month in Athens, Greece as well as some of the Greek Islands. Besides the enchanting scenery and beautiful people, the food is fantastic. Talk about fresh seafood on every corner, a cool bowl of tzatziki alongside some hot pita bread and of course, the gyro.
As I started the school year, I had to remind myself that I wouldn’t be receiving the same pleasure of a gyro here as to one abroad. As of lately, I started noticing that it is very simple to recreate some of my favorite Greek dishes on a student meal plan.
Here are a few ways to recreate a village Taverna that I experienced while studying abroad at our one and only, Cafe 101, as I look back my culinary highlights of my time in Greece.
Tzatziki Yogurt Dip from Cafe 101
Varying along Greece and Cyprus, Tzaziki starts with a base of strained Greek Yogurt and cucumbers. It is common to mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, mint or dill. Get a cup of Fage 0% yogurt, slice some cucumbers, oregano, salt and olive oil. Substitute this as a simple and healthy garnish on top of a salad or a sandwich over ranch or blue cheese dressings.
Tzatziki Yogurt Dip from Greece
The difference in an eatery with a sign “taverna” over “restaurant” is that in a “taverna”, you’ll be in a smaller, more intimate establishment with a more rustic cuisine. So how do you know which one would give you more authentic Greek food, you ask? My vote is either, but a taverna would be authentic.
In a small but old village in Athens called Plaka, I went to this taverna with a reasonable menu that didn’t include anything with an American influence. My roommates and I opted for the tzatziki of course, but what we got was very different than what we tasted at other establishments. This one had chunkier cucumbers, more garlic, and spice, and was served to glisten with olive oil. Everyone’s got their style and opinion to say their dip was better, but this one tickled my tastebud’s the most. The tart flavor of the yogurt was overpowered by the fresh herbs, cucumbers, and delicious oil.
Gyro from Cafe 101
Turn your gyro into a produce-filled sub! Highlight the flavors of a Greek salad by adding tomatoes, black or kalamata olives, red onions, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Since gyros are made with various shaved meats, the closest replacement to the shaved meat you can find at Cafe 101 is sliced grilled chicken. Head over to the grill for a piece of grilled chicken and dice it into thick cubes in the style of a kebab.
Gyro from Greece
When I was abroad, I couldn’t figure out the difference between the souvlaki and kebab. No need to question anymore. Souvlaki is chunks of meat rolled in a pita with tomatoes, onions, and usually a tzatziki sauce whereas a gyro, or yeero, consists of french fries, tomatoes, onions, oregano, and a cheesy sauce.
Greek Fries from Cafe 101
Accompanying many Greek dishes, fries or “chips” are served. Typically topped with oregano and coarse sea salt, it only makes sense to dip them in a bowl of tzatziki sauce. Head over to the grill for a plate of fries. You can find the feta cheese by the salad bar and the oregano/garlic powder at the pizza station to jazz up those fries!
Greek Fries from Greece
Fries are an international delight. They vary in dipping sauces and texture, but they’re a great addition to any meal. I for one, consumed one too many, but the fries pictured were from a restaurant on a mountain from the highest point of Athens, also, the first time I had fries with a lot of oregano on them.
Fun fact: American and Greek oregano are VERY different. The smell and taste of the Greek oregano are not nearly as pungent and more subtle in flavor in relation to the American oregano, which is the strong taste you’d find in pizza sauce.
Cafe 101 vs. Greece
Sure it’s not straight out of a Cypriot or Greek kitchen where the chef has a thick mustache, and because you’re charming, brings you a tasting plate, but a craving is a craving. Cafe 101 contains enough ingredients to recreate these quick and delicious Greek recipes without traveling abroad. But if you have the opportunity, GO!