The mineral-rich soils of Greece produce some of the tastiest fruits and vegetables in the world, and make up the core of traditional Greek dishes.
The Traditional Greek Diet
Cucumbers, green peppers, olives and tomatoes are fundamental to the Greek culture, and frequently enjoyed in salads like horiatiki salata and the classic Greek salad. Karpoozi (watermelon) and peponi (honey-dew) are common melons often used in the Greek diet.
Pomegranates have high-antioxidant levels and are closely linked to the Greek diet. Other popular fruits include apples, apricots, avocados, berries, figs, nectarines and pears.
Beans, lentils and chickpeas are the protein staples of Greek culture. Hummus, made from chickpeas, is a popular Mediterranean spread eaten with pita bread as an appetizer. Meats like beef, goat and lamb are reserved for special occasions. Nuts such as almonds, chestnuts and walnuts are consumed for their protein values, in place of meat.
Dairy in Greece, which the Mediterranean diet incorporates in moderation, includes cheeses and yogurts. Greek yogurt is different from traditional yogurt recipes, as it is strained using a process that removes the whey to create a sour taste.
Tahini, a sesame-based paste, is often made into a yogurt and enjoyed with dishes like falafel. Native Greek cheeses include feta, graviera and kopanisti.
Traditional Greek Dishes
Traditional Greek dishes are at the heart of a balanced Mediterranean diet, and many popular Greek recipes are now considered international:
- Dolmades: Boiled grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and sometimes vegetable.
- Falafel: Ground chickpeas or fava beans shaped into a patty or ball, and fried.
- Louloudakia: Stuffed zucchini flowers either deep-fried with cheese, or boiled and then stuffed with rice and herbs.
- Moussaka: Casserole made by layering eggplant or other vegetables with a spiced-meat filling. This is then topped with a creamy white sauce.
- Spanakopita: Spinach-pie pastry made with egg, onion and feta or ricotta cheese.
Modern Infusions of Mediterranean Greek Cuisine
As the Mediterranean diet has picked up international recognition, Greek cooks have begun to experiment more freely with modern techniques.
- Calamaraki tyganito: Fried squid served with garlic aioli and fresh vegetables.
- Greek Tapas: “Mezze” is traditionally a selection of small, bite-sized Greek dishes. Greek tapas can include anything from vegetable and falafel bites to cheese-infused pitas.
- Kolokythakia Tiganita: Fried zucchini chips served with skordalia, a garlic-based puree.
Pairing wine with Mediterranean dishes is a good way to maximize your enjoyment of traditional Greek cuisine.