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How to Read a Greek Menu, Greek Food Dictionary
Famous Greek food dishes like Moussaka, Baklava, and Souvlaki share many characteristics with the food of Greece’s neighbors in the Mediterranean. Like any cuisine they make use of the foods that grow well in their climate.
In 320 B.C. Archestratos, an ancient Greek poet and humorist wrote the first cookbook in history. Greece has influenced all of the major western cuisines starting with Imperial Rome and branching out from there as cuisines developed. Many Greek dishes reflect their Ottoman history with dishes that have roots in Persia, Turkey and Arabia.
Surrounded by the sea Greeks have always made wonderful use of seafood. No part of Greece is more than 85 miles from the sea but with the demands of current increased populations seafood is getting very expensive everywhere. Stick with farm raised fish and you can make delicious Greek dishes. Octopus, squid, shrimp, lobster and fin fish are all taken from the Mediterranean. One of the more popular ways of cooking fish is on a grill (karvouna).
Olive oil predominates and has an ancient history; stone mortars have been found dating back to 5000 B.C. Greeks will use a few herbs, mostly oregano and parsley to the point that there is a word for cooking with olive oil and oregano: Lathorigano. Rosemary, basil, dill, sage, and thyme are all used but sparingly. Lemons and garlic are used in great amounts.
Lamb, poultry, goat, rabbit and pork are the traditional meats while beef is more of a modern dish being mostly imported. Cooking on a spit or grill is very popular and this is the method that many of us think of as Greek cooking. If all you know of Greek food is the Gyro, well that's Greek fast food. (See Souvlaki below) There is far more to this ancient cuisine.
The basic grain in Greece is wheat (Sitari) and they make some excellent pasta dishes such as: Pastitsio (or "Greek lasagna"), and Kotopoulo Yiouvetsi (Chicken with Orzo pasta). Barley is also used to a lesser extent.
Lettuce, mostly romaine, has been grown for thousands of years forming the base of Maroulosalata (Greek Spring salad) and Horiatiki (We call this Greek Salad)
Dairy: The list of Greek cheeses is small, especially compared to France and Italy yet Feta is one of the finest and most widely consumed cheeses. The important cheeses are Feta, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, Graviera, Anthotyros, Manouri, Metsovone and Mizithra. Greeks make extensive use of yogurt (Yiaourti) The sauce on your Gyro was probably Tzatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce
A thru K
Amfissa: Olive, black and round with a nutty-sweet taste
Anthotyros Unpasteurized cheese. Made either dry or fresh. Dry Anthotyros is a matured variety of Mizithra. It is made with milk and whey from sheep and/or goats. Good for grating. Fresh Anthotyros is semi-hard, dry and white, sweet and creamy taste and has no rind.
Arni sti Souvla Lamb on the Spit
Avgolemono: One of the most famous Greek dishes this is an egg and lemon mixture cooked in a broth used as a sauce or a soup base. Avgolemono should be removed from the heat before the eggs are added so the soup has a creamy consistency, may be thick like a cream soup or thin like a broth
Baklava: The most famous Greek dessert, made of layers of filo pastry, chopped nuts, and a honey-flavored syrup
Black Olives Small, wrinkled, dry-cured olives with a very strong flavor; from the island of Thassos
Bourekakia: Filo pastry puffs made with various fillings
Cracked green Olives Made by cracking unripe green olives, placing them in water for several weeks to remove their bitterness, then storing them in brine
Diples: Thin strips of dough tied, folded, or twisted into bows or loops and deep-fried, then dipped in a honey syrup and topped with chopped nuts
Dolma, Dolmades (pl): Technically any vegetable that can be hollowed and filled would be a dolma but usually it refers to grape or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice or meat.
Eleopsomo Olive bread
Ellinikos kafes Greek coffee
Endosthia Innards, Offal
Fasolada Bean soup made with white beans, olive oil, and vegetables, sometimes called the "national food of the Greeks"
Fasolakia Green beans, Beans
Fasolakia mavromitika Black eyed peas
Fenikia Oblong, honey-dipped cookies covered with chopped nuts
Feta is a brined cheese. Since 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin product. Feta is made from Sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk. An aged crumbly cheese, commonly with a slightly grainy texture. Salty and tangy depending on age it goes from mild to sharp. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads. 396 calories in 1 cup crumbled. 22.4 g saturated fat.
Fila, filo, or phyllo: Paper-thin pastry dough essential for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It takes skill to make filo as it is tissue thin and usually tears for the amateur. Available frozen treat raw dough very carefully. Most recipes call for each layer of dough to be brushed with butter
Galatoboureko: A custard-filled dessert made with phyllo topped with a light honey/sugar syrup
Giouvetsi: Greek word for casserole, or baked in the oven
Graviera Do not confuse with French Gruyere, Graviera is a hard slightly sweet sheep’s milk cheese
Green Olive large and crunchy with a mild flavor.
Gyro Thin slices of barbecued meat seasoned with herbs and spices, served with lettuce tomatoes and onions on pita bread, and topped with tzadziki sauce. Gyro refers to the sandwich while the roast meat on a spit is called Souvlaki
Haloumi: A semisoft cheese, not very salty; usually made from sheep's milk
Horiatiki Greek salad: Tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, feta cheese and olive oil.
Horta Wild greens
Kadaife: Shredded dough similar to phyllo that is rolled with chopped nuts and cinnamon and topped with a honey/sugar syrup.
Kakavia Greek fish soup or stew made on Palm Sunday with whatever was just caught so it will have a variety of fish.. Often compared to Bouillabaisse and the Greeks will say it is better and easier to make.
Kalamata: Famous Greek olive a large, black olive with a meaty flavor named after the city of Kalamata, Greece, These olives are usually preserved in wine, vinegar or olive oil. Kalamata olives enjoy PDO status "Protected designation of origin".
Kalamata Olive Oil from the Kalamata region this deserves a higher regard as it is frequently exported to be a part of the more famous blended Italian and Spanish olive oils
Karidopeta: Single-layer, dark, moist nut cake (made with coarsely chopped walnuts or almonds) topped with honey and sugar syrup.
Kasseri: Sharp creamy farm cheese.
Kefalograviera: Mild Gruyère-type cheese; made from either sheep's or cow's milk , sometimes sold as Kefalotiri outside of Greece.
Kefalotiri Is a hard, salty yellow cheese made from sheep milk and/or goat's milk in Greece and Cyprus, Depending on the mixture of milk used in the process the color can vary between yellow and white. Aged between a month and a year becoming sharper with age. Flavor reminiscent of Gruyere this is usually grated the way we grate Parmigiana.
Kolokithoanthoi Squash blossoms.
Kotopitta Chicken pie.
Kokoretsi Lamb organ meats grilled on the Spit The ingredients are sliced and seasoned. and threaded onto a long skewer then wrapped with the intestine to hold them together. All the inside parts of the lamb, like liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, spleen, suet and intestines are used.
Kotopitta Chicken pie
Kotopoulo Yiouvetsi Chicken with Orzo pasta
Koulourakia: also Koulouria Crisp, golden-colored, subtly sweet cookies shaped by hand; sometimes covered with sesame seeds.
Koufeta Candy Coated Almonds.
Kourabiedes: Crescent shaped butter cookies topped with powdered sugar
Kseri karpi Nuts
L thru S
Loukoumades: Deep-fried fritters and dipped in boiling honey; served warm
Manouri: Soft unsalted cheese; made from sheeps or goat's milk whey; served with fruit
Marinato - marinating the meat or fish prior to cooking
Marmalada Jam, Marmalade
Maroulosalata Romaine (cos) lettuce salad, with fresh dill and spring onions dressed with olive oil and vinegar (or lemon)
Mayeritsa Traditional Easter Soup, lamb soup eaten after midnight Easter Saturday when Lent is over. Mayeritsa is made using various organ meats that usually go to waste such as lungs heart, intestines and liver. This was meant to prepare the body after avoiding meat for lent to feast on lamb roasted on a spit for Easter.
Melitzanosalata Eggplant salad
Melomakarouna: New Year cookies: Oblong, honey-dipped cookies covered with chopped nuts
Metsovone a semi-hard smoked stretched curd cheese produced in the region of Metsovo (Epirus, Greece). Metsovone has been a European protected designation of origin since 1996. Made from cow's milk or a mixture of cow and sheep or goat milk
Mezethes: Small savory appetizers
Mizithra: Is an unpasteurized fresh cheese made with raw ewe and or goat milk and whey The fresh form is soft white, moist and almost sweet called simply mizithra and is eaten as a dessert cheese with honey, the sour version is xynomizithra. If it is aged, it becomes anthotyros.
Moussaka: Casserole made with eggplant and chopped meat, and topped with a custard sauce in layers
Moustalevria Fresh Wine Must Pudding
Moustokouloura Wine Must Biscuits, Must is pressed grapes before they are fermented
Orzo: Tiny melon seed-shaped pasta
Ouzo: Colorless alcoholic drink flavored with anise.
Pasta Flora: Lattice-topped tart filled with apricot purée
Pastitsio: Greek lasagna, a casserole of macaroni with chopped meat and cheese topped with a custard sauce
Pilafi: Rice boiled in broth and flavored with onion and spices
Psari Plaki Plaki means 'spread out' or 'flat.' So we might call this planked fish
Ravani: Yellow cake made with farina or semolina and topped with a light sugar/honey or orange-flavored syrup
Retsina: White or rose wine flavored with pine resin
Rigani: Oregano, an indispensable herb used in countless dishes
Rizogalo: Creamy rice pudding with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top
Saganaki Pan fried cheese named after the pan it is cooked in
Skordalia: garlic sauce
Souvlaki: Meat roasted on a huge vertical rotisserie may be beef, lamb, pork or some combination with filers added. The cook slices pieces off as they become cooked and serves it on pita bread as a Gyro. This was the fast food of Greece until the hamburger arrived and pushed it aside. In a high end souvlaki shop in Greece you can get chicken souvlakis and even swordfish souvlakis
Spanakopita; Spinach fila pastries
Sto fourno Baked
T thru Z
Tahini: Crushed sesame seed paste
Tarama: Fish roe from gray mullet
Taramosalata: Fish roe spread
Tigani Frying pan
Tiropita: Appetizer triangles of phyllo stuffed with Greek cheese
Tsatziki: Cucumber yogurt dip
Tsoureki Easter Sweet Bread
Varvara, A creamy pudding made out of wheat, sprinkled with walnuts and cinnamon and sometimes pomegranate seeds.
Vasilopita. Is aNew Year's Bread which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of doughs, depending on regional and family tradition