GASTRONOMY

Greek Gastronomy

Greek Gastronomy is famous worldwide. it is not only ambrosial but also very healthy. It is recommended by the most expert top dietitians.

 

 

As it has been closely linked with the long history of Greece, Greek cuisine has gone through a lengthy and perfecting process of trial and error. Today it masterly combines tradition with modern concepts. The traveler to Greece immediately feels the uniqueness, serenity, magic and complexity of the place, always evolving, always reflecting the newest culinary trends.

 

Millions of tourists come every year eager to taste good food prepared only with the best quality virgin olive oil or try the delicious olives, so commonly found in the Greek landscape. They savour the particular cheeses of the Greek countryside: feta, kasseri, Gruyere, manouri, myzithra, metsovone. They relish wholesome meats and poultry and enjoy the freshest fish and sea food. fruits and vegetables are a chapter on their own. They come in a great variety of fresh full flavoured and aromatic produce that make up a significant part of the Greek diet. Visitors will also indulge in a filling bite of rose spoon sweet or thyme honey. They smell the unique aroma of tsipouro, ouzo and mastic. They delight in a bite of fish roe, a farmhouse loaf of bread, a ”dakos” salad and in the particular taste of the saffron crocus threads from kozani. They taste the famous Greek white, rosé or red wine, produced according to revered old recipes. Tasting Greece offers a rare experience with distinguishing recipes, emblematic products and original preparation techniques. The challenge before anyone is to discover its appetizing and unforgettable tastes.

 

Greece, is the country which invented the symposium and which was home to the Epicurean philosophers. The first book on cooking was written in 330 BC by Archestratus, in order to remind that a country’s cuisine is a measure of its civilization. Greeks in Ancient years, were pioneers in the art of cookery, Authentic Greek cuisine, unique and full of vitality, just like the people of the land, marries the taste and the aroma of the fresh products coming from the Greek land and the blue sea that surrounds it.  The Greek cuisine is characterized by frugality based on simple ingredients, virgin olive oil, honey, succulent fruit, crispy fresh vegetables, fresh fish and naturally exquisite wines made with grapes ripening under the magnificent Greek sun. International studies have recognized the value of the Greek cuisine. Launched in the early 60’s by the World Health Organization, the Seven Countries Study set out to examine the eating patterns of people from seven different countries: Greece, Italy, Serbia, Holland, Finland, the USA and Japan. This long running study which lasted for 30 years showed that people living in the Mediterranean countries, Greece in particular, had lower mortality rates compared to the rest of the participating countries.

 

Greek traditional cuisine and gastronomy, the winemaking tradition, the great variety of Greek dishes that changes with season and geography, the culinary habits passed down from generation to generation constitute elements of the overall Greek culture and each region individually (Cretan diet, island cuisine, Macedonian cuisine etc).

 

Greece, a Gastronomic destination

Food has long been an intrinsic part of the Greek culture, from harvesting the family groves and foraging for wild greens to gathering snails after rain. More than a mere necessity, for the Greek people, food is an element of their identity, bearing the mark of local traditions, customs and culture. The agricultural calendar still dominates life in rural areas, where traditional agricultural activities are social and cultural events. In Greece, there is an authentic gourmet trail through some dramatic mountain ranges, bucolic villages where little has changed over time and fertile meadows where locals have been producing delicious olive oil and wine for centuries.

Travelling through the Greek countryside, visitors encounter a dazzling assortment of delicacies. Small, independent, honest producers compose an informal network of scale farmers, monastic communities, women’s cooperatives and small industries where tradition and technology coexist in harmony. Greeks are still making their own wine, traditional cheeses, cured meats, handcrafted marmalades, fresh yoghurt, aromatic honey, raki, wood fired bread and even artisan pasta in myriad shapes and flavors. Hard working people cultivating ancient family plots, monastic communities following time honored traditions, young people turning to sustainable agriculture this is the modern legacy of the Greek countryside. The versatility of the Greek culinary ecosystem originates and flourishes in the small plots of people entrusted with the safekeeping of food-making secrets passed down through generations.

Foodies tired of eating and drinking the same things again and again turn to quality-oriented artisan food producers of high quality, fresh, local organic food and products that draw their identity from the Greek landscapes and tradition. You will be delighted by the taste of the fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, as well as of fruits in Greece, such as peaches, apricots cherries, melons and watermelons. The Greek mild climate is ideal for the outdoor cultivation of the Greek traditional products, which especially in summer are a real refreshing pleasure! The herbs used in cooking are mostly collected on the mountains and in the countryside. They come in a wide variety, the most often used in the Greek dishes being oregano, thyme, chicory, rosemary to name but a few and they are famous for their scent and special taste, some of them for their healing properties too.

 

Greek culinary specialties

Greek cuisine is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Mediterranean cookery, drawing influences from Italian, Balkan, and Turkish origins. Preparations are simple and high quality ingredients are always used. Greek Olive oil, is a primary ingredient that is rarely left out of any Greek recipe.

Some of the most savory and world renowned Greek specialties are moussaka, layers of eggplant and ground lamb in a tomato sauce flavored with cinnamon and red wine and avgolemono, chicken with rice, eggs, seasoning, and lemon juice. Fish, seafood, and grilled meats are also widely eaten. Appetizers often include keftedes, or spicy meatballs, or tzatziki, a yogurt, cucumber, and pickle sauce. Among the most famous of Greek pastries are baklava, which is layers of honey, vanilla, and nuts.

 

Greek salads, of course, have risen to international fame due to their freshness and easy preparation. Perhaps the most recognizable food in the country, Greek salads traditionally contain olive oil, tomato, cucumber, and feta cheese. Greek olives are also a common addition.

Two classic beverages contribute to authentic Greek gastronomy: retsina and ouzo. Retsina is a special wine prepared with pine resin harvested from pine trees, and ouzo is an aniseed liquor that turns cloudy when added to water.

 

 

 

Greek diet and it's natural ingredients

 

Olive oil and olives: Greek olive oil is of excellent quality and accompanies almost all Greek dishes. The international scientific community considers it a basic health factor. The therapeutic properties of olive oil, but also of the leaves and fruits of the olive tree, have been praised by many, and Hippocrates, the famous doctor of ancient Greece and “father” of modern medicine, was the first among them. New and innovative cultivations produce rich varieties of quality olive oil and delicious olives. All over Greece, olives bitter or sweet, green, black or brown, small or big, in olive oil, salt water or vinegar, are widely consumed and are some of the tastier of the world.

Vegetables, pulses and fruits: Due to the mild Greek climate, most vegetables, pulses and fruits are cultivated in natural ways and they therefore maintain their flavour and their aroma. Being a basic part of the Greek diet, they promote health, occupy a highly regarded place on the table and they are simply delicious. You will be happy and content after tasting a Greek tomato, cabbage, carrot, parsley and onion. At the same time, you should not forget the rich flavour and aroma of fresh Greek fruits such as peaches, pears, apples, apricots, cherries, oranges, tangerines, grapes, melons, watermelons, etc.

Flavourings: Herbs, which almost every Greek gathers from the countryside and the hills, are renowned for their tang, aroma and curative properties. As you taste some of the many different Greek dishes, you will be mesmerized by the amazing aroma of oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary.

Meat: The fact that in Greece the sheep and goats are free-ranging and the pastures are especially green and lush, Greek meat is of exceptional quality, has a unique taste and offers refined and healthy choices. Among Greek meats, “souvlaki” (kebab) and “gyros” (doner kebab), both usually served with pitta bread, have won over everyone who has tasted them. The first places on the Greek menu also hold: grilled (cooked over a fire) veal / lamb/ pork chop (“brizola”) and small lamb rib chops (“paidakia”); grilled large meatball (“bifteki”) and fried meatballs (“keftedes”); spit-roasted lamb (“psito arni souvlas”); stewed goat (“gida vrasti”) and baked kid {“katsiki sto fourno”) or succulent kid in the pot (“katsiki sti gastra”); veal steak or rabbit stew in red sauce; suckling pig on the spit (“gourounopoulo souvlas”); chicken (“kotopoulo”), especially grilled. Other meat specialities worth trying are “kokoretsi”, made of lamb offal and cooked for many hours on the spit, “kontosouvli” and “exohiko”, both also have to be spit-roasted for many hours, but it is worth the wait.

Fish and seafood: Mediterranean seafood is much tastier than those from the ocean. The Aegean and Ionian Seas are crystal clear and rich in fish. Just-off-the-sea and the taste of the salty sea still lingering, Greek fish (“psaria”) and seafood (“thalassina”) constitute a basic part of the Greek diet. And it couldn’t be any different in a country surrounded by sea and islands. Fresh fish prepared in the traditional way, cooked on a fire, grill or wood-burning oven, is considered to be a true delight, while “psarosoupa” (fish broth) and “kakavia” (a bouillabaisse-like stew) are made in many different ways since every region makes its own original recipes. Grilled, fried, cooked or raw, Greek seafood (octopus, squids, shrimps, lobster, crabs, mussels, oysters, clams, etc.) are exquisite. Greek chefs feel proud of themselves for their creations combining them with lemon, vinegar, white wine, parsley and garlic, or cooking them with ouzo or tsipouro. It’s also well worth sampling lobster (“astakos”) in some islands: it’s a local delicacy, a real culinary delight, often served flaked into pasta (macaroni) as “astakomakaronada”. 

Cheeses: Greek stock farmers and cheese makers collect ewe’s, goat’s and cow’s milk and convert it into excellent cheese applying their own traditional techniques. Greek cheese, unique in its kind, can be a key ingredient or provide a tasty touch in a delicious dish, or can be a course on its own. Raw, fried, roasted or melted, Greek cheese is a succulent authentic experience. Certified as an exclusively Greek product worldwide is “feta” cheese. It is the main ingredient of most Greek pies that are a distinct part of Greek gastronomy and tradition, as well as of the so-called Greek salad (“horiatiki salata”) served in all Greek restaurants and tavernas.  Hard or soft, salty or piquant, “feta” has a distinct place not only on the everyday Greek table but also in the menus of the best gourmet restaurants in the world. Cheesemaking, though, does not end with “feta” production. Other particular cheeses of the Greek countryside are: piquant Cretan, Naxos or Tinos graviera (Gruyere); kasseri from Lesvos or Xanthi; kefalotyri or kefalograviera; fresh anthotyro or manouri; tangy “kopanisti” from the Cyclades; “kalathaki” (white, soft cheese) from Lemnos; “metsovone” (semi-hard smoked cheese) from Metsovo (Epirus); and traditional myzithra (unsalted soft or salted hard).

Wines: Wine, the nectar of the ancient Olympian gods, has a primary place on the Greek table supplementing and promoting the richness of the Greek cuisine since antiquity. Nowadays Greek wines are deservedly considered among the best in the world for their unsurpassed taste and their wide selection. Greek producers embrace the indigenous varieties and do not hesitate to fuse them with international ones, creating a whole new and exhilarating experience. Greek wine has a strong personality that does not go unnoticed. Famous varieties include white wines such as Moschofilero, White Moschato, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Robola of Kefalonia, Zitsa of Epirus, the traditional Greek fresh white wine “Retsina”, and rose or red ones such as Aghioritiko from Macedonia and Nemea (Peloponnese), Xynomavro from Thessaly, and numerous others. Acclaimed sweet wines such as Mavrodaphne from the Peloponnese and Kefalonia or Samiotiko from Samos complement the end of any meal with style.

Honey: According to ancient Greek myths, honey was one of the basic foods of the Olympian gods and Zeus was honey-fed by the nymph Melissa (Honey Bee). Whichever region it is collected from, it reminds you of Greece. Thyme honey brings to mind the mountain peaks of the countryside; flower honey the smells of the spring in central and western Greece; orange honey the endless orange groves of the Peloponnese; pine honey the forested slopes of Arcadia. Especially nourishing, invigorating, antiseptic and necessary for good health, honey really does wonders. In recent years it is also used in many Greek recipes that contain meat or seafood creating new “exploding” tastes. The best Greek honey is reckoned to be the pure-thyme variety from the more barren areas of the mainland and the islands.

Sweets: Most regions in Greece argue about who came first with the magical idea for spoon sweets (jam). Orange and rose sugar in the Peloponnese, citrus fruits and bitter orange in Epirus, quince in Macedonia, cherry and morello in Thessaly, small apple and small walnut in Pelion, pistachio in Aegina, small tomato and small aubergine on the islands, all compete in taste and aroma. Made only with fruit, sugar and some drops of vanilla, spoon sweets are healthy mouthwatering traditions.

Original mastic: Mastic is tough but also unique and a valuable treasure found only on the beautiful eastern Aegean island of Hios or Chios. A small taste of Chios mastic is enough to heighten your senses and take you on a culinary journey. Chios mastic, which recently made an impression on the foreign markets, has been successfully used since antiquity for pharmaceutical purposes for its healing properties, for the preparation of cosmetics and perfumes as well as in cooking and confectionery. It is a natural resin coming from the trunk of the mastic tree and owes its production to the volcanoes in the nearby sea area; hence, its “explosive” aroma.

 

 

 

Greek gastronomy has already won a place at the top of contemporary world gastronomies.

Greek diet is famous worldwide; it isn’t only tasty but also very healthy, recommended by most expert top dietitians.

Greek cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes that can fully meet the gastronomic requirements of vegetarians and meat & fish lovers alike.

Nowadays Greek cuisine, combining tradition with modern concepts, follows four basic rules: good quality and fresh ingredients, correct use of natural flavorings (herbs) and spices, use of the famous Greek olive oil, and simplicity.

Tasting Greece offers a rare experience with distinguishing recipes, representative products, and original preparation techniques.

Travelers to Greece come eager to taste good and healthy food prepared with the best-quality virgin olive oil, try the delicious olives abundantly found in the Greek landscape, savor the particular cheeses of the Greek countryside, and enjoy the wholesome meat and poultry as well as the freshest fish and seafood. Vegetables and fruits are a chapter on their own. They come in a great variety of fresh full flavored and fragrant produce that make up a significant part of the Greek diet. Visitors will also indulge in the particular taste and aroma of the traditional Greek liquors “ouzo” and “tsipouro” or “raki”, as well as of the famous Greek white, rose and red wines produced according to revered old recipes.

 

Greek traditional liquors

Ouzo: It is said that ouzo was first produced in antiquity and was famous and much appreciated in the Byzantine times. After the liberation of Greece, in early 19th century, it was exclusively produced in Lesvos Island. Nowadays it is certainly Greece’s national drink, has a slight anise flavor and can also be drunk either mixed with cold water or on the rocks.

Tsipouro and tsikoudia: Both are the original Greek drinks not produced in any other part of the world. Tsipouro (in mainland Greece) and tsikoudia (in Crete) are similar to ouzo, simple spirits of up to 48% alcohol, distilled from grape-mash residue left over from winemaking, usually in mid-September–mid-October. The best tsipouro is produced in Thessaly, Macedonia and Epirus, while tsikoudia, also called ‘raki’, is much stronger than tsipouro and is the local drink all over Crete.

Ouzeris, tsipouradika and mezedopolia: Especially in the towns all over Greece, there are drinking establishments called “ouzeri” (same in the Greek plural), “tsipouradika” (plural) and “mezedopolia” (plural) that specialize in ouzo, tsipouro or tsikoudia and a marvellous variety of “mezedes”.

Mezedes: Some of the most amazing “mezedes” (hors d’oeuvres), also called “orektika” (appetizers), are. Tyropitakia and spanakopitakia (small cheese and spinach pies); oktapodi (octopus) cooked over a fire, garides (shrimps) cooked with tomato and feta cheese, fried gavros (small sardines) or marides (fry/brown picarel), gigantes (white haricot big beans) in tomato sauce, mavromatika (black-eyed white haricot beans) in vinaigrette, kolokythakia tiganita (courgette/zucchini slices fried), melitzanes tiganites (aubergine/eggplant slices fried), tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic dip, melitzanosalata (aubergine/eggplant dip), and many other local delicacies that should definitely be tried at least once.

Desserts: It is also well worth trying the desserts offered in a Greek restaurant or taverna. Fruit is always available in season: in summer, melon (peponi) and watermelon (karpouzi), often on the house; in autumn and winter, apple (milo) and pear (ahladi) with honey and cinnamon, as well as baked quince (cydoni psito) with some sort of syrup. Sweet dishes usually offered for dessert (often on the house) are yogurt with quince jam or honey and sweet semolina halva (simigdalenios halvas).    

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