Guys, I think that it is time to talk about Greece. Not only is it an idyllic haven for sun worshipers and beach bums but also a country steeped in history and culture. White-washed villas with deep blue shutters, narrow cobbled streets and clear skies, its hard to not fall in love with the genuine charm of the typical Greek Island towns. There is literally something for everyone from the Mainland to the farthest islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas and that includes us, the foodies.
Recent studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet could have links to the lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease that are observed in most Mediterranean countries. This is thought to be due to the large quantities of fresh produce consumed, low processed food intake and all that damn good olive oil. So I guess you could say that eating your way through Greece is actually good for your health and delicious (in moderation, maybe).
Greek food is Summer to me, and for the past 6 years I’ve had the absolute pleasure of travelling around a few of the Greek Islands and had a chance to try some of the traditional, local dishes. Everything is freshly prepared, especially the seafood (omg), you can see why there are so many health benefits from eating like a Grecian, the dishes are simply prepared but with such quality ingredients. So here are 10 of my favorite dishes that I recommend to anyone that has the grand opportunity to visit this pocket of sunshine in the corner of the Med.
This traditional Greek dish is usually the first thing that pops into your head when you think about Hellenic cooking. Sort of like a lasagna with ground meat in a tomato sauce and eggplant layers rather than pasta. The oven-baked meal is then topped with a savory custard which is then broiled in the oven to brown the top, legit to die for.
A typical appetizer that is so addictive you may not have room for your entree. The dish consists of lightly breaded and deep-fried zucchini, eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms depending on your preferences.
A super rich rabbit stew that is filling, comforting and perfectly balanced. Beef or lamb can be substituted for rabbit but no matter the meat the red wine and tomato based broth ensures that it is tender. Cinnamon and pearl onions are also slow cooked in the stew for a few hours and then served piping hot with soft boiled potato.
Don’t let the fact that this dish is squid put you off. The meat is tender and should almost melt in your mouth if breaded and deep fried properly. Ask for the rings rather than the tentacles if you find that too much but they taste just as good, they just look a lil creepy to some.
Vegetarian but still craving a Greek classic that isn’t Moussaka? You’ve found it my friend and it’s called Briám. A baked ratatouille with layers of thinly sliced potato and zucchini which are first lightly cooked in olive oil. Then eggplant, tomatoes, onions and sometimes feta are added to the dish before baking.
Its 5am (Greeks love to party til the small hours, especially with Ouzo which guarantees an amazing night followed by a horrible hangover) and you’re looking for some authentic drunk food, you’ve found Gyros. Think shredded chicken or pork, tzatziki, french fries, salad, mustard and ketchup all rolled up in a beautiful soft pita bread. Sober you will also enjoy this thoroughly, but drunk you will fall in love and never want to leave.
Commonly known as stuffed vine leaves these little parcels of joy can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Fillings vary from island to island and season to season; whatever tastes good is probably going to be stuffed inside the leaves with different herbs and spices.
8. Gigandies Plakai
Usually referred to in English as Giant Beans, these are white beans which have been soaked overnight, they are then slow cooked for about 4 hours in rich tomato sauce with peppers and oregano. Order this with bread because the sauce the beans are cooked in tends to be life-changing and you’ll want every last drop, believe me.
9. Horiatiki (Greek Salad)
Of course we had to include Greek Salad, what would this list be without it? Sure it sounds simple, throw some feta, red onion, tomato, cucumber and olive oil in a bowl and sprinkle on some oregano, hey presto authentic af. You could do this at home and it would be pretty damn good but the Greek vegetables make all the difference. I’ve already preached about olive oil but fresh Greek produce is something special, sweet tomatoes, cool cucumber and don’t get me started on the feta. You have to try a Greek Salad in Greece, its a totally different dish I promise.
Greece’s version of the doughnut, Loukoumades are essentially small deep fried balls of dough drenched in honey and cinnamon, typically served with sesame seeds as a garnish. When I say drenched I really mean swimming in a pool local Greek honey, you need a serious sweet tooth to manage more than a few.