Greece and its sun-kissed isles offer a tantalizing cuisine that is fresh and fragrant, served with warmth and vitality. The Greeks’ zest for the good life and love of simple, well-seasoned foods are reflected at the table. Theirs is an unpretentious cuisine that makes the most of their surroundings.
It is a cuisine bathed in history and enhanced by the cultures of its neighbors for centuries: Turkey, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
This land of blue skies and sparkling seas offers a variety of fresh ingredients close at hand. Olive trees flourish, providing a flavor-packed oil to bathe other foods. Vineyards thread the rolling hills, and the grape crush and ferment produce excellent wines. Fragrant lemon trees produce the tang that pervades Greek cuisine.
About a fifth of Greece consists of islands, and no part of Greece is more than 85 miles from the sea. These seas are blessed with a variety of fish, shellfish and harbor-side tavernas where the fresh fish are served grilled, baked, and fried and often whole, with the head still on.
Lamb is the principal meat served. For everyday meals, lamb is braised and stewed in casseroles with assorted vegetables and skewered and broiled. Pork, beef and game are marinated, grilled and baked. Chicken is broiled or braised. Good meat and vegetable combinations are endless, often embellished with the golden lemon sauce, avgolemono, or a cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce.
Moussaka, layered with eggplant or zucchini and a garlic-infused meat sauce with a custard topping, is the ubiquitous casserole dish. Pilafs are flavored with spices and nuts. Fillo pitas, composed of the wafer-thin pastry and layered with chicken and mushrooms, spinach and feta, or lamb and leeks, are a delight.
An abundance of fresh vegetables inspires imaginatively cooked and marinated vegetable dishes and salads, often flavored with regional mountain-grown herbs: garlic, oregano, mint, basil and dill. Fresh feta, Romano and Kasseri, in particular, are used lavishly to accompany homemade whole-grain bread or salad or to grate and top vegetables or pasta.
Undoubtedly baklava is the most famous pastry, a multi-layered confection, ribboned with nuts and oozing with honey syrup. A visit to a Greek pastry shop reveals the versatility of fillo dough in dozens of different fillo pastries, many of Turkish derivation. The honeyed fillo pastries and buttery nut cookies compose a separate late afternoon meal accompanied by thick Greek coffee.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup red onions, sliced in rounds
1 green pepper, chopped
1 plum tomato, chopped
feta cheese (to your liking)
1 cup favorite Greek oil dressing
Cut chicken into chunks and stir-fry in olive oil until cooked. Add olives, red onion, and green pepper; fry until softened. Add spaghetti, dressing, feta cheese and tomato. Stir fry until thoroughly heated and well combined.