Tradition and Innovation Happily Coexist in Greek Cuisine

Greek fare is inspired by local products of Athens

By ; published Monday, August 13th, 2012
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Greek food is based on local products and has been influenced by Asian cuisine to a certain extent. Olive oil, fish, lamb, dairy products, vegetables, chick peas, onions and garlic are main ingredients. Spices also abound in many recipes. Traditionally, desserts tend to be on the syrupy side, but there are also many prepared with milk and cream.  The young generation of talented Greek chefs have reinvented local cuisine with great success, adding a lighter touch but respecting local produce and old recipes, like Athens restaurants 2mazi and Giantes.

Giantes
Photo Credit: Giantes

Probably the most famous Greek specialty is tzatziki, made with strained, creamy yogurt, chopped cucumber and garlic. Tzatziki is an appetizer and is usually accompanied with fried zucchini or aubergines. Choriatiki salad also features highly in preferences and is a big salad with tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, onions and feta cheese, with lots of olive oil.

Aubergines are very popular in Greek recipes and are prepared in a variety of ways; moussakas is made with layers of fried aubergines and mincemeat, covered in besciamel sauce and baked in the oven. Stuffed tomatoes and zucchini are also a traditional specialty and exist in two varieties: with mincemeat and without. The stuffing usually includes rice, onions, parsley and other aromatic herbs.

Jimmy and the Fish
Photo Credit: Jimmy and the Fish

Fish exists in great variety in big cities, like Jimmy and the Fish at Pireaus, and especially on the islands. Cooking and preparation depends on the size. Bigger fish are usually boiled or grilled, while smaller ones, like red mullet, are usually fried. Local cuisine can differ greatly depending on district and climate, and many places are famous for their individual specialties.

Special menus also accompany the most important holidays, with lamb on the spit being a must at Easter, and in most areas pork or cockerel at Christmas. Famous traditional Greek sweets are loukoumia (jelly-like cubes in various tastes and covered in sugar), kourabiedes (baked biscuit-like pastry with almonds and covered in sugar), tsoureki (a light sweet bread with a unique aroma), galaktoboureko (crisp pastry filled with a thick mixture of cream), chalvas (made with tahini) and preserved fruit in many varieties.

Melilotos
Photo Credit: Melilotos

Most restaurants in Athens serve traditional Greek food such as Omorfo, some prefer the classic recipes (like Oikeio), while other restaurants including Melilotos interpret them creatively, adding their own ideas and inspiration. Wine is never absent from a Greek table and exists in many excellent varieties from all over the country, while ouzo (made with anise) is a heady mixture to be consumed in small quantities, usually with fish snacks.

 
 

  About Nelly Paraskevopoulou:

Nelly missed Greek food when living in Italy, and tried to compensate by teaching friends how to make tzatziki and stuffed tomatoes, but they never tasted the same! She reached the conclusion that local cuisine tastes better in its country of origin.

Read more about Nelly Paraskevopoulou here.
 for all of Nelly's articles and photo galleries
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