Greek cuisine is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, with a rich history of influences from various cultures and regions. Greek food is characterized by its use of fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients, as well as its abundance of herbs and spices that add color and flavor to every dish. Whether you are looking for a hearty casserole, a refreshing salad, or a sweet pastry, you will find something to satisfy your taste buds in Greek cuisine. Here are some of the common ingredients and flavors that are used in Greek cooking and some of the dishes that you should try.
Olive oil is the most essential ingredient in Greek cuisine, as it is used for cooking, baking, dressing, and drizzling over almost everything. Olive oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree, which grows abundantly in Greece thanks to its Mediterranean climate. There are many varieties of olive oil, ranging from mild to robust, depending on the type of olives, the region of origin, and the extraction method. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, making it a healthy and delicious choice for any dish.
Olives are another staple of Greek cuisine, as they are often served as a snack, an appetizer, or an accompaniment to salads and main courses. Olives come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, depending on the variety and the curing method. The most famous type of olives in Greece is kalamata, which are large, dark purple olives with a meaty texture and a fruity flavor. Olives are usually stuffed with herbs and spices, such as garlic, oregano, or red pepper flakes, and marinated in vinegar or oil. Olives are a good source of fiber, iron, and healthy fats.
Feta cheese is the national cheese of Greece and one of the most popular cheeses in the world. Feta cheese is a white, crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. Feta cheese has a tangy, salty flavor and a creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Feta cheese can be eaten on its own or added to salads, pies, sandwiches, omelets, pasta dishes, and more. Feta cheese is high in protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners in Greece and one of the most versatile ingredients in Greek cuisine. Honey is produced by bees that collect nectar from various flowering plants in different seasons and regions. Honey has a distinct flavor and aroma that depends on the type of flowers that the bees visit. Honey is used in many dessert recipes, such as baklava (a layered pastry with nuts and honey syrup), kataifi (a shredded pastry with nuts and honey syrup), or loukoumades (fried dough balls dipped in honey). Honey is also used to sweeten yogurt, tea, or coffee. Honey is rich in antioxidants, minerals, and enzymes.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are essential for adding flavor and aroma to Greek dishes. Some of the most common herbs and spices used in Greek cuisine are:
- Oregano: Oregano is a fragrant herb that has a warm, earthy flavor. Oregano is often used to season meat dishes, such as souvlaki (skewered grilled meat), gyros (sliced roasted meat wrapped in pita bread), or keftedes (meatballs). Oregano is also sprinkled over salads, cheeses, or breads.
- Mint: Mint is a refreshing herb that has a cool, minty flavor. Mint is often used to flavor sauces and dips, such as tzatziki (a yogurt-cucumber-garlic dip), or dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Mint is also added to salads or desserts.
- Dill: Dill is an aromatic herb that has a slightly bitter flavor. Dill is often used to flavor fish dishes,
- Basil: Basil is a sweet herb that has a floral flavor. Basil is often used to flavor tomato-based dishes, such as pastitsio (a baked pasta dish with meat and bechamel sauce), or briam (a roasted vegetable dish). Basil is also added to salads or sandwiches.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a warm spice that has a sweet, spicy flavor. Cinnamon is often used to flavor meat dishes, such as moussaka (a layered casserole of eggplant, meat, and bechamel sauce), or stifado (a stew of meat and onions). Cinnamon is also used to flavor desserts, such as rice pudding or apple pie.
- Cumin: Cumin is a pungent spice that has a nutty, earthy flavor. Cumin is often used to flavor legume dishes, such as fasolada (a bean soup), or revithia (a chickpea stew). Cumin is also used to flavor meat dishes, such as soutzoukakia (spicy meatballs in tomato sauce).
- Coriander: Coriander is a citrusy spice that has a lemony flavor. Coriander is often used to flavor vegetable dishes, such as lathera (vegetables cooked in olive oil and tomato sauce), or fava (a puree of yellow split peas). Coriander is also used to flavor sauces and dips, such as skordalia (a garlic-potato dip).
such as psari plaki (baked fish with tomatoes and onions), or spanakorizo (spinach rice). Dill is also added to soups or salads.
Some of the dishes that you should try
Greek cuisine offers a variety of dishes for every occasion and preference. Some of the dishes that you should try are:
- Greek salad: Greek salad is a simple and refreshing salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta cheese, oregano, and olive oil. Greek salad is a perfect side dish for any meal or a light lunch on its own.
- Tzatziki: Tzatziki is a creamy and tangy dip made with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, and olive oil. Tzatziki is a great accompaniment for grilled meats, breads, or vegetables.
- Moussaka: Moussaka is a hearty and delicious casserole made with layers of eggplant, ground beef or lamb, tomato sauce, and bechamel sauce. Moussaka is baked until golden and bubbly and served hot.
- Baklava: Baklava is a decadent and crispy pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and honey syrup. Baklava is cut into diamond-shaped pieces and served as a dessert or a snack.
- Yogurt with honey and nuts: Yogurt with honey and nuts is a simple and satisfying dessert or breakfast made with thick Greek yogurt, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with walnuts or pistachios. Yogurt with honey and nuts is a healthy and tasty way to end your meal or start your day.
Greek cuisine is a celebration of the flavors and ingredients of the Mediterranean region. By trying some of the common ingredients and dishes of Greek cuisine, you will discover a world of taste and tradition that will delight your senses.