Greek Cuisine: When Appetizer Becomes A Meal In Itself
June 23 (Wednesday) World Cuisines - European Cuisines
Whether you sing, dance or eat, sharing merriments with Greeks onboard ship makes me forget domestic problems back home. Cooking along with my Greek chief cook was a very humbling experience if you want to excel in the galley or kitchen. It's always a celebration to them. My eight years of working with them were full of love and hate memories inside the vessel, especially in the galley. You can imagine the shouting, laughing and whining when food preparation, cooking and servicing occupy most of our time everyday. Anyways, it's worth an experience to me, that I'll never forget if ever I retire in seafaring.
To be promoted as cook in a Greek ship with Greek masters and other senior officers made me want to go home. Why? Because if you're not used to shouting and throwing of glasses (when they dance while drinking ouzo) and enduring their tantrums, you'll not succeed in your seafaring career. So, understanding them was my first goal in order to mingle with them and learn European culture, especially in Greek cuisine. So, theoretically, I studied every technique of my first Greek cook and supplied it with information coming from the Greek cookbook I own.
The usual provisions we have onboard ship range from meats (lamb and pig carcasses), choice cuts of beef, pork, chicken; cheese products, olive oil and olive fruits in brione solution, lots of herbs & spices, fish, fresh and frozen vegetables, phyllo leaves, frozen dough, flour and canned Greek foods (like dolmadakia or stuffed grape leaves and pitted olives).
Appetizers as simple but nutritious meals
Serving Mezethes or appetizers is a sign of hospitality, just like in other world cuisines. In Greece, it is always consist of wedges of Greek cheese, black olives, Greek meatballs, squid rings, crusty bread with cucumber dips, among others.
Famous appetizers we usually cook or prepare onboard ship are:
1. Tatziki or yogurt-cucumber sauce is delicious as a dip, or as an accompaniment for cooked vegetables, meat or fish. The preparation is simple and I’m sharing it with you, fellow hubbers.
You just need: 1 large cucumber, peeled, minced or grated and drained
2 cups of plain yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, crushed through a press or green onion chopped
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Mix well and refrigerate. To make it extra-thick sauce, place it in a cheesecloth lined sieve over a bowl. Do not stir; let the yogurt drain overnight at room temperature.
2. Humus or Revithia Tahini is a combination of chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) usually available in Greek groceries and Middle Eastern food stores. You just add minced garlic, fresh parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Process in a blender until smooth.
Featured dips are also considered appetizers in itself.
3. Taramosalata is made with tarama (carp roe caviar) used as spread or dip. You just mix all the ingredients (sliced bread crushed small onions, olive oil and lemon) and process in a food processor or blender.
4. Skordalia is a garlic dip good for bread stick. We usually prepare the sliced bread first, usually softened in water for 10 minutes then drained it. The garlic and almonds are processed in a blender or food processor. Combine the drained sliced bread in a processor plus lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Cheeses, Meat, Seafoods, Stuffed Rice, Vegetable Salads, Fries & Patties as appetizers
5. Saganaki or Fried Cheese is a delightful appetizer that is a meal in itself. You can make it as saganaki flambé by pouring a jigger of warmed brandy and light with a long matchstick then serve with lemon wedges.
6. Kalamarakia Tiganita or Squid Rings is a popular appetizer in Greek tavernas served with lemon wedges or Skordalia Sauce.
7. Dolmadakia or Stuffed Grape Leaves is internationally known that it is often canned and exported. The stuffing is usually uncooked long grain rice. It can be served cold on cocktail picks or warm with Avgolemono Sauce or Egg-Lemon Sauce.
8. Loukanika or Spicy Pork Meatballs are often mixed with orange zest, herbs and spices.
9.Keftedakia (Keftedes) or Greek Meatballs are good appetizer with a glass of ouzo.
10. Greek Salad or Salata Horiatiki is a visual treat well as a tasty low-calorie delight. It is usually consists of tomato wedges, sliced cucumber, red or white onion rings,Kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese with Greek salad dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and crushed dried oregano).
11. Kolokithokeftedes or Vegetable Patties make a complete meal with Tzatziki sauce.
12. Greek Cheeses or Tiria are delicious in cooking, as seasoning for sauces, in salads and as appetizers. I usually put five or more kinds of Greek cheeses in the ship's refrigerator every night because most of the Greeks nibble cheese in the evening for good sleep.
FETA is the most common Greek cheese usually made from goat’s or sheep’s milk. It is white, semisoft and flaky cheese eaten as table cheese or in salad or used in cooking.
KASSERI is mild in flavor, creamy in color and Cheddar-like in texture . It is the most-consumed table cheese in Greek cuisine.
KEFALOTIRI is hard, salty, plae, yellow cheese (usually 8 to 10 kilograms) used mostly for grating over pastas (spaghetti, etc.), baking casseroles and sprinkling into pites.
GRAVIERA or KEFALOGRAVIERA is a Gruvere-type cheese used also for grating and serving with pasta or eaten as table cheese. It is an excellent choice fo making Saganaki.
MIZITHRA is used either as table cheese or making sweet and savory pites. There are two kinds: the soft, unsalted used for making pites while the semihard and lightly salted is used as table or grating cheese. Cottage cheese or ricotta may be substituted for the soft mizithra.
MANOURE is a soft, white, unsalted cheese that is similar to mizithra and its functions.
Note: If other hubbers know other Greek appetizers not mentioned in my Hubbalicious hub, please supply me with added information and ideas to benefit other readers, too. Thanks!
My Greek Cook's Routine Onboard Ship
My work as a cook trainee onboard a Greek tanker ship was my baptism of fire in working overseas. The normal schedule was 6 am to 1 pm then 2 pm until 6 pm and overtime (cleaning of provision rooms or victualing) .
The first week saw the three of us in the ship’s galley (cook, steward and me- cook trainee) busied ourselves cooking meals (both Greek and Filipino dishes) and serving it to the Greek and Filipino officers and crew.
The routine of my Greek cook enabled me to memorize the popular Greek food, ranging from appetizers, phyllo savories, pasta & grains, soups, seafood, poultry and meat dishes. Also included were the sauces and desserts.
Famous Restaurants and Tavernas in Greece
To showcase the uniqueness and originality of their cuisine, Greeks preserved their famous meals since time in memoriam, ahead of Napoleon Bonaparte's era. When my second vessel, CV Irenes Horizon anchored in Pireaus, Greece (in 2002), we prepared the most adored Greek dishes to please the son of the owner of the shipping company (that is Tsakos Energy Navigation or TEN and Tsakos Shipping and Trading, S.A.). The three of us in galley (cook, 2nd cook -that's me- and steward) served guests with prepared appetizers, salads, the famous moussaka (baked eggplant), cakes, pizzas and other Greek sweets like the best baklava and galaktoboureko (custard pastry). But of course, we served ouzo (Greek liquor with anise) and other white and red wine that were available.
We had a great time, and I'm sure, fellow hubber will love Greece when they happen to visit the mainland city of Athens, the Crete island and more.
You will also love the tavernas serving Greek cuisine, that is synonymous to the Greeks'way of life.
Greek wine history by Henry Constatinescu
The Famous Greek Moussaka by Eva Papayiannis c/o ThursdayForDinner
Since the migration of Europeans in America, the Greeks were among them who explored the new land of endless opportunities. The Greek named Don Theodorous was among them when they land the shore in 1528.
Since then, European dishes, including Greek cuisine flourished in the key cities and counties of North America, especially USA and Canada.
With the young generation frequenting fastfood centers, takeout orders are now being administered in the Greek-owned restaurants like the Pappas and Olympia Cafe. Our Greek port captain in Houston, Texas (2002, 2005, 2007) used to order combo meals plus drinks at Pappas. Olympia Cafe was the recommendation of our agent-driver when our ship discharged its cargo in Savannah, Georgia (2002).
Nevertheless the million of Greek-Americans in the US don't need to homesick because they broought the Greek culture in the "land of milk and honey".