Greek cuisine

Greek culinary traditions are deeply rooted in the past. They have been formed over more than four millennia. Greek cuisine has absorbed the traditions of Italy, France, the Middle East, as well as the culinary preferences of the inhabitants of provincial cities.

The recipes for most of the national dishes are passed down from generation to generation, so Greek dishes are literally time-tested.

General characteristics

Greek culture is considered the cradle of all European civilization, and its gastronomic sphere is no exception. It was in Greece in 320 BC that the first ever cookbook was written. Later, the culinary heritage of Greece passed to the Roman Empire, and then the traditions of Greek cuisine spread throughout the European continent and beyond.

The cuisine of ancient Greece was characterized by modesty and simplicity, the same qualities are inherent in modern Greek cuisine. It was in ancient Greece that the so-called "Mediterranean triad" was formed: three pillars on which Greek cooking stands to this day. They are wheat, olive oil and wine. It is noteworthy that the ancient Greeks used meat quite rarely: the climate and relief did not favor the breeding of cattle, so only lamb and goat meat were present in the diet of the local population.

the composition without fail includes vegetables, spices and olive oil. It is noteworthy that even in the most expensive restaurants and taverns, the main dishes up to this day are dishes that were present in the diet of the ancient Greeks.

During the period of its development, Greek cuisine absorbed the traditions of the Arabic, Slavic, Italian and Turkish culinary schools, but managed to maintain its originality, becoming one of the country's attractions. Over the long millennia, the local population has developed a special approach to food and a very peculiar philosophy. The meal is considered here not just as a process of eating, but above all, as a way to have a good time.

Therefore, although in the modern world the rhythm of life is swift, among the Greeks it is not customary to rush. A day in Greece starts with a fairly light breakfast, which usually includes a cup of coffee with a sandwich or crackers. Around noon, the same light lunch follows, and around 15:00 it's time for lunch. Unlike most Mediterranean countries, meals in Greece are very hearty and hearty. Dinner is taken between 20:00 and 23:00. At the same time, the evening meal is usually lighter. Greeks usually dine in restaurants or taverns, in good company.

Characteristic features

In order to understand what Greek cuisine is, one should dwell on its characteristic features.

  1. It is customary in Greece to prepare dishes exclusively from very fresh products, and the requirements for the quality of ingredients are quite strict.
  2. Herbs and spices in Greek dishes are present in a very significant amount. Oregano, garlic, dill, bay leaves, basil, cinnamon and cloves, and mint and thyme are used by local culinary specialists more often than their counterparts from other Mediterranean countries.
  3. One of the "chips" of Greek cuisine is a very small amount of salt. Oddly enough, lemon acts as an alternative. This fruit is added to soups and sauces, it is also served with meat, fish, vegetables. Greek culinary specialists believe that lemon is much more effective than salt. It helps to emphasize the taste of the dish and make it more refined.
  4. Greek yogurt is another of the local delicacies. It is characterized by high fat content, and due to its dense texture, it is more similar to sour cream. As a rule, it is added to vegetable dishes, and is also used to make sauces.
  5. The hallmark of Greek cuisine is olive oil. An interesting fact: almost every Greek family, even living in the city, is the owner of several olive trees, which can grow even tens of kilometers from the residence of their owners. Olives, of which more than fifty varieties are known in Greece, are usually harvested from November to January.
  6. Another feature of the local cuisine is the so-called meze. Under this definition lies a wide selection of light snacks, which are prepared from vegetables, meat, fish and herbs. They are served before each meal as an independent dish.
  7. Greeks don't get too into sauces. A traditional addition to meat or fish is a mixture of olive oil and vinegar with herbs. Also popular are beaten eggs with lemon juice and "tzatziki" - a dish of Greek yogurt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and cucumber pulp with salt and pepper.
  8. The main drink in Greece is coffee. They drink it in all forms: cold, hot, with the addition of spices and alcohol.

Main dishes

The range of dishes of traditional Greek cuisine is quite wide. It is noteworthy that most of them are not too difficult to prepare, but at the same time they have a wonderful taste.

Vegetable dishes

Vegetable dishes are incredibly popular in Greece. When preparing them, culinary specialists are guided by three basic rules: the original product must be fresh, in the dish it must be correctly combined with other ingredients, and its original taste must be preserved. That is why the Greeks use minimal heat treatment for vegetable dishes.

The "kings" of Greek cuisine are eggplants. They are fried, caviar is made from them and stuffed with meat and rice (this dish is called "melitsanes" or "melizanes").

From potatoes the Greeks prepare mashed potatoes, to which they add spices and herbs, and then bake it under a cheese crust (“patata”). It is also used to make lamb and eggplant pies (“moussaka”).

Pepper and zucchini in the diet of the local population are mainly stuffed. The filling is cheese, lentils or meat, and the sauce is made with traditional Greek yogurt. In general, the Greeks stuff almost all vegetables, such dishes are known under the common name "yemista".

Among the unusual vegetable dishes, one should single out “scortalia” - a dish of sweet garlic, olive oil, ground almonds and potatoes, to which crushed crackers are added.

Cheeses

The Greeks have long been fighting the French for the title of top cheese lovers. At the same time, paradoxically, local chefs use cheese very carefully and in small quantities. At the same time, it is difficult to find a dish that does not include this product as one of the ingredients.

There is no particular variety of cheese in Greece. The popular favorite here is feta cheese, reminiscent of brynza in its texture and quite salty. Almost every region in Greece produces at least ten variants of this product, and, moreover, radically different from each other. So, there is "kefalograviera" - a hard variety of feta, which is used to make cheese chips; "manuri" - sweetish and spicy; "dermatisio" - a variety that is used for stuffing and baking. For the preparation of feta, not only sheep and cow, but also goat and buffalo milk are used, so the taste of the cheese varies. And tourists are advised to pre-take a sample before buying so that the taste is not unexpected. The Greeks themselves consider only home-made feta to be “real” cheese.

Feta is stored in brine and soaked in milk or mineral water for several minutes before serving to get rid of excess salt.

Meat dishes

The assortment of Greek meat dishes is very wide, although they are all quite simple. Among meats, Greeks prefer lamb, although beef, veal and pork are also used.

So, pansetta (fried ribs), sausages "lukanika", cutlets and meatballs are prepared from pork, and the tenderloin is smoked (this dish is called "lunza"). Beef is used to make the classic souvlaki kebab. It is stewed with orange and onion (this dish is called “stifado”), cooked with garlic sauce and white wine (“sofrito”).

Lamb is baked, stuffed with liver and cheese (“patudo”), used to make roasts and cold cuts with feta cheese.

A distinctive characteristic of all meat dishes in Greece is the use of a large amount of herbs, as well as lemon and orange slices, Greek yogurt and vinegar.

Fish and seafood

Seafood is incredibly popular with the Greeks. Local culinary experts distinguish between two types of fish: those caught by fishermen in the sea and those that are imported frozen from other countries. Greeks consider "foreign" fish to be of lower quality and are designated on the menu and on price tags with the abbreviation "kat" or the letter "k".

Seafood in Greece is served in different ways: they are fried, salted, baked, marinated and stuffed. They can act as an independent dish or as an ingredient in other dishes. Small fish are fried in oil (a dish called marides). From specimens of a more impressive size, an ear (“psarosupa”) is prepared or baked.

In Greece, the use of fish caviar was also very inventive. It is used to make taramosalata paste (caviar is beaten in a blender with parsley and onion), fried and used as a filling for pies. The Greek diet also includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp dishes, etc.

Bread and flour products

Greeks consume relatively little bread. The main requirement that locals place on any pastry is that it must be fresh.

The most common in Greece are pita breads, which are baked from wheat or rye flour. Rolls with a variety of fillings are prepared from them, or they are simply used as raw materials for chips or crackers (the cake is cut into small squares and dried).

It is noteworthy that pies are also made from the same dough that is used to make cakes, so most of the names of Greek pastries contain the phrase “pita”: “spanakopita” (pie with cheese and spinach), "creatopita" (meat pie), "tiropita" (cheese pie), etc.

In addition, Greece is the birthplace of filo dough, which is used to make baklava and strudel. The thinnest stretching dough can be compared with a sheet of paper in thickness.

Desserts

Traditional Greek desserts are reminiscent of Turkish sweets, which is not surprising given the influence that Turkish culinary traditions have had on the cuisine of this country. In summer, the Greeks feast on candied fruits, baklava and Turkish delight. In winter, local chefs prepare more "heavy" dishes. These are, for example, pies with galaktoboureko custard, sweet rice puddings “rizogalo”, as well as a variety of pastries in honey syrup: cookies, rolls, etc. The composition of the lion's share of Greek sweets, in addition to honey, also includes nuts: almonds, hazel or walnuts.

Various jams and marmalades are also popular in Greece. They are prepared not only from berries and fruits, but even from vegetables. You won’t surprise anyone here with carrot, pumpkin or eggplant jam.

Greek ice cream is famous for its taste. They sell it both by weight and in special containers.

Drinks

Meals in Greece are usually served with fruit juices, mineral water, or ordinary drinking water with lemon juice added. The subject of national pride in Greece is coffee. Its preparation is a real ritual.

The traditional Helliniko cafe is made exclusively from freshly ground Robusta grains. The obligatory characteristics of Greek coffee are the thick “kaymaki” foam and no less thick sediment that remains at the bottom of the coffee cup.

At the same time, coffee in Greece is usually drunk in its “natural” form, without milk and cream. It is believed that any flavoring additives turn this noble drink into an element of fast food, and therefore coffee with milk is usually served in mini-cafes and fast food establishments.

Greek wines are not well known outside the country. This is due to the fact that the productivity of most wineries is limited, and therefore the best varieties often do not even “leave” the region.

Retsina is a kind of "visiting card" of Greek winemaking. This is one of the oldest varieties of wine on the planet, the production method of which has remained unchanged for more than two thousand years. Retsina is a rather strong wine, which is prepared by the method of oxygen-free fermentation. This drink owes its very specific taste to the pine resin that is used to purify it. Retsina is prepared exclusively in Greece and is not exported outside the country, since its taste is very peculiar, and after opening the bottle, the wine sours very quickly, turning into vinegar.

Health Benefits

According to nutritionists, Greek cuisine is incredibly healthy. First of all, the chemical composition of most local dishes contains antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber, which favorably affect the health of the heart and blood vessels, help to remove from the body "bad" cholesterol and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes.

In addition, thanks to gentle cooking, most Greek dishes preserve the minerals and vitamins present in the original ingredients.

According to a 2003 study by scientists from the University of Athens in Greece and Harvard University, people who eat a traditional Greek diet are 33% less likely to die from heart disease and 24% less likely to die from heart disease. oncology.

Cooking Salamis (Greek fish fillet)

To prepare the traditional Greek dish salamis you will need: 500 grams of fish fillet, one garlic clove, one onion, two tablespoons tablespoons of lemon juice and the same amount of olive oil, a couple of tomatoes, the same number cucumbers, two bell peppers, two tablespoons of white wine, herbs, and black pepper and salt to taste.

Skin the fish fillets and remove the bones. Drizzle with lemon juice and salt.

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan. Heat up and fry finely chopped onion and garlic. Put the fillet in the pan, pour over with wine and sprinkle with chopped herbs. Stew under the lid for a quarter of an hour.

Cut the pepper into thin rings and fry in another pan in the remaining oil for ten minutes. Peel the cucumber, cut into slices and add to the pepper along with the halved tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for five minutes.

Put the prepared vegetables on top of the fish and simmer for five minutes. Serve hot.

Cooking pickled cheese

To prepare a traditional Greek snack you will need: 350 grams cheese, olive oil, oregano or thyme, one bay leaf, eight coriander seeds, two cloves of garlic and 0.5 teaspoon of pepper.

Cut the cheese into cubes, garlic into slices. In a mortar, lightly grind the coriander seeds with pepper. Put a bay leaf on the bottom of the jar, and then start laying out the cheese in layers, alternating it with layers of spices. After laying out the last layer, pour the cheese with olive oil so that it is completely covered with it.

Close the jar tightly and leave to infuse for two weeks.

Ready marinated cheese can be used to make toast.

Sources
  1. Matt Barrett’s Greece guides. – Greek food: the basics.
  2. Internet-magazine "Travels in Greece". - Greek cuisine.
  3. Wikipedia. – Greek cuisine.
  4. Discovery Publishing House. - Greek cuisine.
  5. U. S. National library of medicine. – Evaluation of phenolic compounds and antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of some common herbs.
  6. student file archive StudFiles. - Coursework on the topic "Assortment and features of the preparation of Greek cuisine."
  7. Health website Healthline. – 13 Greek foods that are super healthy.
  8. NutritionValue.org. – Cheese, feta.
  9. Mediterranean diet and health. – Greek food, the essence of the Mediterranean diet.
  10. GreekReporter.com. – The science behind Greek food’s amazing healthy properties.
  11. The Gerontological Society of America. – Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet: metabolic and molecular mechanisms.
  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information. – Benefits and harms of the Mediterranean diet compared to other diets.