What do you think about when someone mentions Greek food? Gyros and souvlaki? Spanakopita? A Greek salad at your local diner? Just like any cuisine, there are a few ambassadors that pave the way, introducing us to the key flavors and ingredients that make that food special. Maybe gyros introduced you to cool and creamy tzatziki. Did that bite of spanakopita at your town's Greek Festival start a life-long love affair ? (That's how it happened for me). Or perhaps it was the Greek salad at your local diner that solidified your preference for feta over all other cheeses.
It's pretty easy to swoon over Greek food because the flavors and dishes are so pleasing (can you ever really go wrong with lemon and oregano on your chicken and potatoes?). So this month we decided to cook from the Greek cannon, chasing all the flavors and dishes that made us swoon in the first place.
What We're Cooking and Why It's Great
So what exactly are we cooking? Well, we took a big-picture approach, first considering the recipes we craved on a regular basis. That's how the classic diner Greek salad, along with a bracing Greek vinaigrette made the cut. Tzatziki is on the list for similar reasons of universal appeal. Personally, I always feel like it's the thing they never give you enough of when you're at a restaurant. Making it at home solves that problem all together.
Next we thought about the icons. What are the dishes that truly capture the spirit of Greek cuisine — from its prodigious use of herbs like rosemary, dill, and oregano, to the power and versatility of lemon? That's how we got to avgolemono, a chicken soup with eggs, lemon, and rice; lemon roasted chicken and potatoes; and the classic spinach pie, spanakopita.
So much of what we consider the flavors of Greek food comes from the particular combination of ingredients common in the Greek pantry. Lemon, oregano, red wine vinegar, garlic, and briny pops of feta or kalamata olives — these are components that help you bring the flavors of Greek food into your everyday cooking. Inspired by such a notion, we created a few weekday-friendly meals that take advantage of those combinations.
There's lemon and oregano roasted shrimp, a mayo-free tuna salad with lots of olives and juicy tomatoes, and roasted chicken that's first brined with salty feta cheese. Speaking of feta cheese, we're pretty partial to it, so we put together a few tips on buying the best Greek feta of your dreams.
And of course, we couldn't forget about Greek yogurt, the island's most popular export of recent years. While Greek yogurt really refers to a style of strained yogurt, the moniker has come to mean a yogurt that is thick, tart, and high in protein. For the American markets, it paved the way for the numerous regional yogurts you find on most grocery store shelves today. Aside from sharing some of our favorite kitchen wisdom about Greek yogurt, there are recipes that take it beyond the standard morning cup with berries and granola. I can't get this honey yogurt olive oil cake out of my head for obvious reasons.
At the end of this month, our goal is to have a better sense of the flavors that make Greek food so endlessly appealing, to have tried a new recipe or two, learned a new technique, and found a new cookbook to gush over. It's not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but rather a showcase of what delights and inspires us when it comes to the food of Greece. Maybe it'll be enough to inspire you to continue cooking with the flavors you encounter here long after the month is over.