We won't bore you with a lesson in history, suffice to say that the ancient Greeks areresponsible forthe establishment of much of what we now consider to be our cultural foundations - arts, philosophy, science and so on. Oh, and we were the first civilization to extract oil from olives…
Geographically, Greece benefits from a huge coastline - 1/5 of the country is made up of islands, and on the mainland the sea is never more than 85 miles away.
As a result, fish and shellfish are abundant, and very popular. The sun tends to smile on Greece too, and so vegetables are delicious and ripe.
Lamb is the most popular meat, and is cooked in so many different ways it makes the mind boggle - roasted, braised, marinated and grilled, baked, broiled and stewed… Visitors unfamiliar with Greek food are often surprised by laderes, a dish of meat or seafood, such as octopus or squid, that is braised in large quantities of olive oil until very tender and then served at room temperature, floating in the golden oil.
The cuisine's intense flavors echo the intensity of the Greek sun. Herbs and vegetables that grow well in a brilliantly sunny land are common, such as oregano, thyme and mint, and eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes and fava beans. Though there is an abundance of fresh herbs, dried herbs such as oregano and thyme, which have a more concentrated flavor than American varieties, are common in Greek dishes.
Interesting ingredients abound. Alongside the ubiquitous feta are many other delicious cheeses - anthotiros, formaella, galotiri, graviera, kefalotiri and manouri to name but a few. They are often made from ewes' milk, which imparts a lip-smacking freshness to the flavor.
Pulses and rice are also popular, and many dishes involve vine leaves (dolmades) stuffed with all manner of tasty fillings - pine nuts and currants for example.
How to start..
It is common to start a meal with a range of appetisers (mezedes), similar to those served in the Middle East and North Africa, or Spanish tapas. This is usually rather informal, and isn't really considered to be a part of the meal proper.
Whether dining at home or in restaurants, Greeks enjoy their meze (also called mezethes or mezedes), an assortment of appetizers that always accompanies a beverage.
Greeks are known for their open-armed hospitality, and a drink, whether the potent anise-flavored liqueur ouzo or the pine resin-flavored wine retsina, must have meze, even if it's just a dish of Kalamata olives and a bit of sheep's milk cheese.
If you make it through to the main course the possibilities are almost endless.
Moussaka and kleftiko are the best known; the former being the classic dish of spiced minced lamb and aubergine baked with a cheese topping, and the latter being basically chunky pieces of lamb (usually shoulder) baked with thyme, oregano and garlic.
Other delights often feature offal (calf's liver and sweetbreads are popular), rabbit and pork - usually either pot-roasted or braised.
Flavourings include any of the above, plus dried fruits, yoghurt, lemon and so on...
As far as puddings are concerned, the Greeks like them sweet. Pastries and baklava are commonplace, as are poached fruit and syrup-soaked sponges. That said, sorbets and ice creams are cropping up more often these days.
From fresh inland streams to deep blue Meditteranean waters,
fish and seafood is a favorite food.
Baked, broiled, grilled, poached, smoked, fried, or steamed...
Appetizers, spreads, salads, or main course...
Seafood can be healthy and delicious.