I can honestly say that one of the main reasons we vacation in Greece is the food. The Mediterranean diet is our favorite, and Greek cuisine is the sharpest manifestation of it.
I have always believed that the cuisine of each country or region is an essential component of its culture, and Greek cuisine is one of the best examples in that direction. You ask why? Because it has a history of over 4000 years. Faced with numbers like that, I can only share some of my thoughts on this amazing cuisine, through appetizing pictures, which I hope will determine you to taste the amazing Greek dishes, the first chance you get. Trust me, it`s totally worth it!
Greek cookery, historically a forerunner of Western cuisine, spread its culinary influence – via ancient Rome – throughout Europe and beyond. Moreover, it was a Greek, Archestratos, that wrote the first ever cookbook in the year 320 B.C. Ancient Greek cuisine was characterized by its frugality and was founded on the “Mediterranean triad”: wheat, olive oil, and wine, with meat being rarely eaten and fish being more common. If you ask me, not much has changed throughout the years. Over the centuries Greek cuisine has evolved and absorbed numerous influences and influenced many cuisines itself. Many dishes are part of the larger tradition of Ottoman cuisine and their names reveal Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots, like moussaka or tzatziki.
History lesson is over, I feel like I`m losing you. Today, the most characteristic elements of Greek cuisine are olive oil, which is used in most dishes, a big variety of cheese (feta is the most common) and yogurt, fresh vegetables (tomato, eggplant, okra, green peppers, and onions), local honey (orange, thyme and pine), garden grown spices (basil and oregano are highly spread), fresh fish, but also lamb meat.
From where I stand, the Greek Taverna is the symbol of Greece, the place where you can best observe the spirit of this amazing culture. Greece is studded with tavernas, coffee shops and all sorts of bakeries, where the locals greet tourists with open arms and huge smiles. Usually a family business, these are distinguished through the ability of the host to turn clients into friends. In my book, the generic Greek citizen spends his days at a coffee shop with his friends and his evenings at a taverna, surrounded by his big and noisy family. The table is full of Greek cuisine dishes, served with either ouzo or cold wine.
If it`s something I learned from all the vacations I spent in Greece, is that the best Greek cuisine dishes are cooked at the local Tavernas. I`m sure you know what I`m talking about. Sea side placement, gingham table cloths (white and blue is the combo of choice, and my personal favorite), serving a large variety of fish and seafood, cheese dips, fresh vegetables and yogurt with honey and nuts. Sounds familiar? Let me refresh your memory!
These amazing images are shot in Lygia, at the Seven Islands Taverna, a lovely place, where Greek cuisine gives the best it has to offer. The owner Marjon, who is Dutch, has the gift of every Greek taverna owner nevertheless, and somehow makes every single customer feel special. The atmosphere is warm and homey, demanding that you visit everyday. One of the many assets of this taverna is the view, since is located right on the beach.
The menu is very appealing, with an impressive variety of fresh fish and seafood, prepared with local olive oil and a lot of Greek cuisine meze, which translates into appetizers and/or dips of all kind. At least that`s what I think. The most popular meze are Melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), Spanakopita (spinach, feta cheese and onion pies) and Taramosalata (roe salad).
Our favorite meze/dip is Tirokafteri, a spicy cheese spread, a recipe so delicious that I plan on sharing it with you guys really soon.
Also, Greeks seem to like beetroot and I must say I have to applaud this initiative since I adore it!!!! The dish displayed here is called Pantzarosalata. They prepare it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Yummmyyyy!
Also from the cheese meze category, I must admit that I fell in love with the Saganaki Feta recipe from the Seven Islands Taverna. Fried cheese with olive oil, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and spicy peppers. What a treat! This article is getting harder and harder to write.
As for the main course, The Seven Islands Taverna is the place where I had the best sardines on the island, realy fresh, served with olive oil (Duh!) and lemon.
Gabi ordered octopus, which was fresh and really well cooked, obviously. I think I mentioned how awesome this place is, right?
For the side, we split a serving of Horta, which is huge by the way. That is the name of the dish displayed below. It is made from boiled Vlita, a plant that grows on the island, and seasoned with olive oil and lemon. Its taste is similar to spinach. We loved it. The french fries where the real deal and they were fried in olive oil. In case you were wondering, we did not eat them. Ohhh… Fine, you got me! I ate a couple. At first. Then I ate half the serving. In my defense, they were delicious!!!
So, if you`re ever in Lefkada, don`t hesitate to go to Lygia and eat at the Seven Islands Taverna. You won`t regret it! You will eat delicious Greek cuisine dishes, made with fresh and natural ingredients, in a lovely atmosphere. Also, Marjon will give you some great tips on what to do in your vacation and more importantly where to buy food and stuff. She told us about this amazing bakery where she bought the desserts for the tavern, that became a daily pit stop. Don`t know the name, it was Bakery and something in Greek, but it looked like this:
Are you still with me? Good, because I am not finished!
One day, as we were traveling through the interior part of the island, a lady from the olive oil museum from the Sivros village (yes, there is an olive oil museum and I`m going to tell you all about it), recommended us to eat lunch at the Tomato Taverna. Once we got there, we were welcomed by this stunning view.
In the classic Greek taverna style, the owner was also the chef and serving at the tables and she recommended us the house specialties. We had Saganaki Feta, which was amazing, but also some eggplant prepared in the oven, with feta cheese and spicy peppers, topped with parsley, something out of this world. The dishes had an unique flavor, a little spicy and very strong scented.
She then said we should try the Greek salad. That was odd, but I said to myself that the lady looked like she knew better. I wasn`t wrong. I can honestly say that I ate the best Greek salad ever that day. She told us that her secret is that she grows her own vegetables and spices in the garden.
I wasn`t satisfied with the answer, obviously. The food had a really unique flavor, something I have never tasted before. I pushed my luck and asked what spices or herbs she used because it is amazing. She then revealed her secret: a herb that she had crossed herself in the garden, a mix between oregano and something else she could not name. I think she realized I was really into it, so she gave me a bag of this amazing spice. She was very kind. Nevertheless, I still don`t know its name, even though I asked everyone I thought might know! Maybe you can help!
So, if you happen to know the name of this super herb, leave a comment below!
Also in Lefkada we ate at T`Aloni Restaurant in Chortata. The place is not really a tavern, more European, but the food was really good. I had a Rocket Salad, a blend of argula, Parmesan, dried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Gabi had oven beef with vegetables.
We also found and ate fresh Greek cuisine dishes in the Sivota Bay, at Taverna Spiridoula, where they served fresh fish and seafood, from the area, in an impressive variety. We had the most amazing and huge seafood salad and Tirokafteri. For the main course we had a fish platter with grilled vegetables.
To wrap things up, the Greek cuisine is just as the nutritionists, and gourmands say: extremely healthy and really delicious! The dishes are prepared with fresh and nourishing ingredients, seasoned with unique flavors, after ancient traditional recipes, give the Greek cuisine a strong personality. The cheese, extra virgin olive oil, spices and herbs, freshly gathered vegetables, Greek yogurt, local honey made of thyme and pine, the cold white wine and the fish caught just before the sunrise, are the symbols of the Greek cuisine, that you will fall in love with at the first bite. I know we did.
I want to know if anything caught your attention, from the recipes I showed you today, so leave a comment below and I could prepare them for a future post. Who knows, maybe we can establish a Greek Food Category. Also, if you know other delicious recipes, share it with us!
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