This past summer was spent traveling through Greece with over 50 Greek relatives. We watched our cousin get married by the ocean, hopped between islands and hiked through a gorge. We reconnected with our extended Greek family and visited the village of which we all originated. Most importantly, however, was the deeply delicious and authentic Greek food. For those who are not so well versed in Mediterranean cuisine, let this be your guide.
The classic Greek salad is not always what you find in the states. Rather than including a leafy green, Horiatiki (the Greek word for the traditional salad) includes fresh veggies like tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Oftentimes, you will find a huge slab of feta cheese on top, covered with Greek spices like oregano. The salad is then topped with Greek extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and vinegar. The best part about eating authentic Horiatiki in Greece is the freshness of all the individual ingredients. The Greek culture maintains that food should be eaten in its season so you will find the local people enjoying their beloved Greek salads most during the summer months.
This is another popular dish that can be considered the Greek version of lasagna. The layered dish includes minced lamb or beef, pasta noodles and a layer of creamy béchamel sauce. Béchamel sauce is a white sauce made using the simple ingredients of flour, butter, and milk. The dish is layered with pasta noodles, then meat, more pasta noodles and finally sauce is layered and baked to a golden perfection. Tomato and cucumber can be served on the side as well. The Greek people also enjoy moussaka, which is a similar dish but includes eggplant instead of pasta and is cooked a bit differently.
As Greece contains over 6,000 islands, seafood is a staple part of the diet for many Greek people. This piece of grilled octopus was served with tomato and atop of a black rice. Oftentimes fresh octopus can be seen hanging from lines and drying in the sun. Depending on how authentic the experience, some restaurants allow guests to choose their octopus. Although octopus is not as easily accessible as some of the other traditional Greek dishes they are most definitely a dish to try when traveling through the islands.
A Greek Breakfast
This dish is a local scrambled egg plate called Kayianas. The combination is fantastic and in this case, I topped my eggs with some creamy local Cretan cheese called mizithra. The eggs contain tomatoes olives and a variety of herbs that include mint, oregano, and parsley as a topping. The mizithra cheese is made using sheep or goat’s milk or a mixture of the two. It is creamy and delicious. Aside from my eggs and cheese, I enjoyed adding some grilled mushrooms to my plate. The Greeks add oregano and garlic to many dishes and these grilled mushrooms are no different.
This dish includes several Greek favorites. The Greek salad can be seen in one corner and includes the classic elements of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cucumber, olives and great cubes of feta. At the bottom of the plate are Greek green beans also known as Fasolakia. Fasolakia is when green beans are stewed in a tomato and olive oil sauce. Sometimes additional vegetables, oftentimes potatoes, are added. The dish is hearty and fulfilling while being free from dairy and meat. At the right portion of the plate is roasted lemon potatoes. This side dish is included in many Greek meals. You may see the crispy, well-seasoned potatoes accompany a plate of lamb or a nice fish fillet. On the very other side of the plate is a small piece of salmon that is also well-seasoned. The typical Greek diet is one that is heavy in fresh vegetables and includes a great array of seafood.
Elizabeth is a longtime writer and current documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles California. Knowing the greater story of all who cross her path is her inspiration. She’s deeply passionate about food and health and enjoys cooking, exercise and being active in nature whenever possible. You’ll likely find her on a hike, in a documentary screening or at the local Farmer’s Market.