You hear people say it all the time... "I have always wanted to travel to Greece! It's just so beautiful there and Greek food is amazing!"  And of course, its true! Greece is a beautiful country full of history, culture, and especially mouth-watering food.  

Greek communities all over Massachusetts often gather to host festivals where all can come and enjoy the food, music, dancing, culture, and history of Greece.  

Saint Athanasius the Great church in Arlington, MA recently hosted a Greek food event where families of the church spent hours making classic and authentic Greek dishes that can be found in any Greek home.  I went as a Greek myself, to taste test some of these dishes and report on the best ones I tried. 

Dish #1: Feta Cheese

Tali Costopoulos

The first dish is a simple but tasty feta cheese dish.  In Greece, feta cheese is rarely crumbled.  It is most commonly served as an entire block, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and kalamata olives.  The Greeks will break apart the cheese and enjoy it as an appetizer or over a bed of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and peppers- which is an authentic Greek salad.  Nope- contrary to popular belief, Greek salads don't have any lettuce! 

Firstly, the presentation of this particular dish was beautiful.  There is something entrancing about the symmetry and and earth-toned colors.  The first bite was salty, firm and moist, which is exactly what you want in a high quality feta cheese.  Paired with an olive, you experience another dimension of salty flavors.  Despite this appetizer being only three ingredients, feta cheese with olive oil and olives is the perfect introduction to a full course Greek meal!

Dish #2: Lamb Shank

Tali Costopoulos

The next dish was a Greek-style lamb shank. It was marinated in Mediterranean spices and braised in red wine and tomato sauce. After a lamb shank is braised, the meat should melt off the bone like butter and that is precisely what this lamb shank did. The meat is juicy, sweet, and melts in your mouth with the tangy taste of tomato sauce. Paired with rice pilaf and the lamb shank tomato sauce gravy, the dish is complete.  

Dish #3: Moussaka

Tali Costopoulos

A very popular Greek, feel-good dish is called Moussaka. It is pronounced 'moo-sah-kah'. This dish is made from eggplants, potatoes, ground beef, bechamel sauce, tomatoes, and spices. It is structured similarly to a lasagna, but has a completely authentic taste. There are very few dishes that highlight eggplants, but this dish deserves the spotlight. Each Greek has their own spin on it, but moussaka usually fills your mouth with the sweetness of the bechamel sauce and the savory layers of eggplant and beef.  

Dish #4: Galaktoboureko

Tali Costopoulos

If you are at all familiar with Greek food, you know that the Greeks know how to make the best honey-filled desserts. A very popular dessert Greeks pride themselves on is called Galaktoboureko. It is pronounced "gala-kto-pour-eekoh". Loosely translated, it means milk-borek, or a milk-based custard pastry made with fillo dough. The main ingredients are milk, cream, sugar, fillo dough, butter, and honey. 

Galaktoboureko should be soft but tender on the inside and flaky on the outside. The inside custard should taste very sweet with a hint of cinnamon, while the outside should be flaky and drizzled with a honey syrup and hint of lemon. The sweetness of the milk and honey is amazingly overwhelming and will make you feel like you are actually in a Greek pastry shop! 

Greece not only has an incredible palette but is overflowing with wonderful music, inspiring history, and lively culture.  The Greeks are profoundly hospitable and will always want to share with you their mouthwatering dishes.  Now you can name four of your new favorite Greek dishes the next time you head to a local Greek festival! OPA!