Find out about the wonderfully fresh and flavorful Mediterranean ingredients that make Greek cuisine a favorite around the world.
The people of Greece share a passion for food and drink that dates back to ancient times, and that passion is reflected in their rich culinary traditions.
The Flavors Of Greek Cuisine
The temperate Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing olives, and olive oil is an indispensible ingredient in Greek cuisine.
Garlic, spices and herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and mint are widely used, as are the lemons that also grow abundantly throughout the region.
Given the country's chain of islands and lengthy coastline, fresh fish and seafood are frequent staples of the Greek menu.
Lamb, which is often served roasted with garlic, lemon and herbs, is the predominant meat, but there are also many dishes that feature poultry, pork and beef.
Greek cuisine also includes a number of vegetables, and eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes and green peppers are among the favorites. Avgolemono, the most famous of Greek sauces, is an egg-lemon sauce that can be served over meat fish and vegetables.
Also popular is a tomato sauce delicately flavored with cinnamon and a delicious thickened garlic sauce (skorthalia) often served with hot or cold seafood.
Feta cheese, a slightly salty soft, crumbly cheese made from goat's milk, is frequently added to salads and combined with meats and vegetables. Kaseri is another popular cheese, similar to cheddar in both texture and taste.
Phyllo (filo) dough is the Greek all-purpose pastry dough. It can be used in savory dishes like the traditional baked spinach and feta cheese pie (spanakopita) or in desserts like Baklava, which consists of layers of pastry and ground nuts drizzled with a spiced honey syrup and baked.
Greek Wine and Spirits
Greece also produces some fine wines, from light dry Riesling styles to Burgundy style reds and Muscat dessert wines, but the traditional Greek country wine is a dry white wine flavored with pine resin called Retsina.
Ouzo, the most popular liquor in Greece, is a clear spirit made from a combination of pressed grapes, herbs and berries, including aniseed, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel and hazelnut. It is usually served as an aperitif but sometimes can be mixed into cocktails to lend a predominant licorice flavor.