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Mediterranean Cuisine

Updated on May 9, 2020

The spectrum of traditional Greek cuisine is very wide and indigenously rooted in thousands of years of history being at the same time heavily influenced by the countries. Much of the cooking in Greece relies on fresh ingredients, olive oil, herbs and spices. Requiring much more than rudimentary skills, at its best, Greek cuisine becomes an art form.

The traditional eating and meeting point in Greece is the tavern. When in tavern you may start with saganaki (fried chesse) as a starter, continue with psarosoupa(fish soup) and horiatiki the famous Greek salad topped with feta cheese and olives and as a main dish have either fish such asbarbounia(red mullet) or  mousaka( aubergine and minced lamb or beef, topped with a béchamel sauce and baked). Most traditional taverns serve now much more than fresh fruit as dessert and you may have kataifi(flaky pastry bowl covered with honey and cinnamon) and pastry of all kinds.
Among the other places in which to eat and drink are the ouzeri and the tsipouradiko. Each dispenses ouzo or tsipouro and it is customary to nibble at a selection of local specialties mezedakia pikilia.

I will try to show you a traditional Greek dishes and Mediterranean fusion cooking equally fresh and tasty but with a modern touch. Each Greek island has his unique traditional delicacies.

Tomatokeftedes or psefokeftedes  (tomato balls)is a traditional dish of Santorini. It is a very popular appetizer on the island and its preparation is similar to the preparation of meatballs. Usually come in a small dish with 4 to 5 tomatokeftedes in it.
Tomatokeftedes are very tasty not only because they are done with fresh vegetables but because they are cooked with “waterless tomato”. They come in a different species, and it comes in a two varieties. There is the original type, where the rounded sides of the tomato are fluted vertically, like fruit, and there is the “Kos” type that does not have any flutings. They are smaller than normal tomatoes, but somewhat larger than the real cherry tomatoes. Grown under burning sun preserving the humidity in the air they are very very tasty.

The plan bears more tomatoes than a normal tomato plant, grow fast and early in the year and most of all doesn’t require water. The small tomatoes contain a large amount of vitamin C and lycopene.Lycopene is a carotenoid with twice the antioxidant activity of beta-carotene (the precursor of Vitamin A contained in carrots, pumpkins etc.) and ten times that of alpha-tocopherol (a generic name for Vitamin E). It is a preventive agent for all kinds of cancer, especially the so-called epithylial cancers - cancers of the skin and some membranes – and it is only lycopene, out of all carotenoids, that can help to prevent breast cancer. It also works in potential cases of atherosclerosis by protecting plasma lipids against oxidation.)
The same lycopene have in Mediterranean olive oil. So the combination of the small Santorini tomato with olive oil in the recipes below should lead to both a tasty and a healthy meal.

Fried Cheese (Saganaki)

Serves 4 persons!

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 gr. any hard cheese, kefalotyri, Parmesan, Gruyere or Greek Cypriot haloumi
  • 50 gr. butter
  • lemon juice of 1/2 lemon
  • black pepper

METHOD
Cut the cheese into 1 cm thick slices. Heat the butter in a frying pan and put the slices in.
Turn the heat down a little and let it cook for 1-2 minutes until it bubbles. It should not turn brown,
but should look creamy and sticky. In Greece the cheese is usually cooked in small frying pans, so they can be taken straight to the table.
Sprinkle a little lemon juice on top and some black pepper and offer it with fresh bread.

Fish Soup - Psarosoupa

INGREDIENTS - for 6 servings

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus several tablespoons for drizzling over cooked fish
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 large leek, tough greens and root trimmed, and sliced thin
3 carrots, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 1/2 quarts water
3 pounds large fresh white fish (bass, grouper, snapper, or cod), cut in half
3 potatoes, cut into large chunks
Salt, pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon, plus extra for seasoning cooked fish

METHOD

1. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large soup pot and add the celery, leeks and carrots. Saute over medium heat, tossing to coat, until softened, about 8 minutes.

2. Pour in 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) water, and add the peppercorns. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer the vegetables for 25 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a platter. Add the fish to the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the flesh starts to fall away from the bone.

3. Strain the soup, reserving the broth and the fish separately. Add the potatoes back to the pot, together with the remaining vegetables and simmer another 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt, pepper,and lemon juice, and just before serving add remaining raw olive oil to soup.

4. Remove the bones from the fish and place the flesh on a platter,drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, and pepper.

Moussaka with Eggplant

Moussaka me Melitzanes: Moussaka with Eggplant

In Greek: μουσακά με μελιτζάνες, pronounced moo-sah-KAH meh meh-leed-ZAH-nes
Moussaka can be any dish of layered vegetables and ground meat, and dishes with the same or similar names are prepared in several areas of the world. Other Greek versions call for artichokes, potatoes, and zucchini, or a combination, but this is the classic known worldwide. Moussaka is generally served in large portions.
No one ever said it was easy, but it's worth the effort!

Preparation time 30 mins to 1 hour - Cooking time 1 to 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 75ml/6fl oz olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 675g/1½lb beef or lamb mince
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 x 400g/14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh, soft thyme leaves
  • 175ml/6fl oz white wine
  • 4 medium eggplant, cut into 1cm/½in slices
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 4 large potatoes cut into circles of 1cm/½in slices


For the Béchamel Topping:

  • 85g/3oz unsalted butter
  • 85g/3oz plain flour
  • 900ml/1½pt milk
  • 85g/3oz parmesan, grated
  • 115g/4oz gruyère, grated
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg


Method:

  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole dish. Add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft, but not colored. Brown half the meat in a frying pan and add to the onion. Add the garlic and break up the meat with a wooden fork until it has a loose texture. Brown the remaining meat.
  • Stir the chopped tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves and thyme into the casserole. Add the rest of the browned meat and de-glaze the pan with white wine. Pour straight into the casserole dish, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 1 hour.
  • Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. This draws out any bitter juices.
  • Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and stir in the flour. Take off the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously until the sauce thickens. Simmer over a gentle heat for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in 55g/2oz of the parmesan and 55g/2oz of the gruyère cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  • Half fried the potatoes until goleden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper. Set aside until ready to construct the moussaka.
  • Rinse the eggplant and pat dry. Dust them with flour and fry in batches in the remaining olive oil until golden on both sides, about 8 - 10 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Set aside until ready to construct the moussaka.
  • The white sauce should now have cooled enough to whisk in the egg and egg yolks.
  • Cover the base of an ovenproof dish (30 x 20cm/12 x 8in) with a layer of potatoes then add a third of the mince then cover with half the aubergine slices. Repeat the layers, ending in the last of the mince, then pour over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and gruyère. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 50-60 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Allow the moussaka to settle for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
  • Serve the moussaka with a chunky tomato, cucumber, parsley and mint salad and crusty bread.


This dish can be prepared in advance until the point before it goes in the oven. Allow an extra 15 minutes in the oven if cooking from cold.

Lamb Kleftiko

Ingredients

• 4 medium sized Lamb Shanks
• 1 large red onion quartered
• 10 garlic cloves (crushed)
• 3 tomatoes cut in 4's
• 3 medium sized potatoes peeled and quartered
• 1 large carrot
• Feta cheese cubed
• 1 tbsp oregano
• 1 tbsp Mint
• Olive oil
• Salt & Pepper to taste
• 1 teaspoon rosemary

METHOD

• Preheat oven 250C
• Get a large stew pot and combine all the ingredients until the meat is evenly coated. Any deep pot is suitable for cooking the Kelftiko, but the best is to wrap everything in a cooking paper just make sure that it can be tightly wrap.
• Braise in the oven for about 3 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.

Tomatoballs - Psevdokeftedes

Santorinian traditional appetizer. If you visit Santorini you will find this dish in every restaurant or tavern. Don't miss it is worth trying. Put in mind that they are made with small waterless santorinian tomatoes, very beneficial for your health.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 kg. cleaned and chopped Santorini tomatoes or plum tomatoes
• 2 courgettes grated and drained
• 100gr chunks of feta cheese
• 2 beaten eggs
• 2 minced onions
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 spoon dried or fresh mint
• 1 tbs chopped parsley
• ½ tsp dried oregano
• Salt and ground black pepper to taste
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• Olive oil for frying


METHOD : In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Add flour and work the mixture until it thickens. In a large heavy skillet, heat enough olive oil for frying. Drop heaped teaspoon at a time and drop the mixture into the hot oil; fry until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with a slice of lemon.

Comments

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    • milenaamr profile imageAUTHOR

      milenaamr 

      10 years ago

      I am glad you like the recipes. By the way Lamb Kleftiko is really a special dish and the presentation is very attractive.

    • profile image

      Maria 

      10 years ago

      Lamb Kleftiko looks yummy:D

      Thanks for such an amazing recips.

    • profile image

      mioluna 

      10 years ago

      I adore Mediterranean cuisine. Thank you for so great recipes milenaamr.

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