From simple grilled foods and vegetable dishes to rich layered casseroles and delicate pastries, Greek food is a wonderful mix of dishes that appeal to all tastes. The traditions of healthy country cooking have been expanded over the centuries, and today, Greece is famous for a diverse range of family meals, holiday foods, and elaborate presentation dishes.
The list could be longer (think lemon chicken, chickpeas, and more), but this is a good start.
Sheets of wafer-thin phyllo dough are sprinkled with a sweet nut mixture to create one of Greece's most famous dishes. A wide variety of nuts can be used - alone or mixed - and this recipe calls for walnuts and almonds. The pastry is baked, then covered with a sweet syrup. Syrups can be honey-based, sugar-based, or call for a combination. However it's made, the small pieces of flaky pastry are packed with sweetness.
A staple of the traditional Greek diet, the leafy greens chosen for this dish are often gathered in the wild. Greens can be sweet like spinach (needing little cooking time) or bitter like dandelion greens (needing a longer time to cook). The greens are usually drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, then topped with fresh lemon juice. Tasty and healthy!
A favorite meze, appetizer, or snack, these small triangular shaped savories can be baked or fried. Sheets of phyllo dough are cut in wide strips, the filling is added, and they are folded up into triangles (using the same folding technique as when folding a flag). This recipe using fabulous Greek feta cheese in the filling includes a link to step-by-step photos.
This soup is a favorite with Greek families and frequently served as a first course at the holiday table. There are several variations, and the egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono) is so popular that there are some who make a quick soup in the microwave using canned soup or broth, just to have the opportunity to add the avgolemono sauce, which is the crowning glory.
This soup is perfect as a first course or as a light meal.
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are a Greek favorite, used in salads, dips, and other dishes as well as this fabulous soup.
Deceptively simple, this delicious soup is a wonderful warming dish made with chickpeas and onion (carrots optional). A dash of olive oil and lemon juice give it that authentic Greek taste.
As is usual when preparing Greek soups, the olive oil gets added at the very end. (A great choice for vegetarians and vegans as well.)
6. Classic Dips & Spreads (Melitzanosalata, Skorthalia, Taramosalata, Tzatziki)
- Eggplant Dip (Melitzanosalata)
In Greek: μελιτζανοσαλάτα, say: meh-leed-zah-no-sah-LAH-tah
- Garlic Spread (Skorthalia or Skordalia)
In Greek: σκορδαλιά, say: skor-thahl-YAH
- Fish Roe (Caviar) Dip (Taramosalata)
In Greek: ταραμοσαλάτα, say: tah-rah-mo-sah-LAH-tah
- Yogurt, Cucumber & Garlic Dip (Tzatziki) (photo)
In Greek: τζατζίκι, say: dzah-DZEE-kee
This dish of layered tubular pasta, cheese, and meat sauce is topped with a thick and creamy bechamel sauce to create a dish that's more extravagant than some of the simpler Greek fare. Along with moussaka (below) and Greek au gratin dishes, the pastitsio we know today is the result of embellishments added to Greek cuisine in the early 20th century, when cream sauces became popular.
One of the most famous Greek desserts, galaktoboureko is a delightful milk and egg custard wrapped in thin sheets of phyllo dough and baked to a golden brown. It's a traditional Greek sweet, soaked in a light lemony syrup after baking. A true special occasion dish.
A quick and simple appetizer dish, the original Greek version is not flamed (with the addition of ouzo or brandy), but certainly can be - in the best Chicago tradition where that version originated.
The cheese is dredged in flour and seared to a golden brown. Saganaki is traditionally served with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Several varieties of cheese work well when making saganaki, which takes its name from the sagani, the traditional two-handled frying-and-serving pan in which it's made. If you can't find a sagani, a small paella pan or even a small cast-iron frying pan work just as well.
Salads carrying the simple name "Greek salad" are sold all over the world, in Greek and non-Greek restaurants. Often, the name "Greek" just means that there's some feta cheese and possibly some Kalamata olives thrown into the mix, but in this traditional recipe, the most notable feature is that there is no lettuce of any kind.