Greek cuisine tends to be flavorful and healthy as it makes use of a wide variety of vegetables, grains, fish, meat, wine, olives, herbs, lemon juice, yogurt, cheese, pasta (specifically hilopites—similar to tagliatelle), fresh bread, and a whole lot of olive oil. It has been around for about 4,000 years and has been influenced through the years by various cuisines including Ottoman, Middle Eastern, and Italian cooking.
However, beyond these facts, Greek cooking has a lot more going for it. So, to help you gain a deeper insight into and appreciation for it, below are some interesting facts about Greek cooking from The Black Olive—your authentic Greek restaurant serving the best of this celebrated cuisine in the Baltimore area.
1. Greek cooking is a type of Mediterranean cuisine.
Some people use the terms “Greek” and “Mediterranean” cooking interchangeably. And while Greek cuisine is certainly Mediterranean, the latter term encompasses other cuisines in the region known as the Mediterranean. Therefore, we can safely say that Mediterranean cooking includes flavors and inspirations from all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. These nations are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Malta and Cyprus.
2. The Greek diet is known to be healthy.
The fact that the Greek diet (and the much larger Mediterranean diet) is known to be healthy stems from the extensive use of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fruits, legumes, olives and olive oil. There is also the lower consumption of poultry, red meat and sweets although Greek cuisine does have dishes that feature these ingredients.
One fact that can attest to how healthful the Greek diet is, is that Ikaria Island in Greece is included among the five official blue zones (or “longevity oases”) in the world. This means that more people in these regions lead active lives beyond the age of 100. Aside from regularly consuming extra virgin olive oil (18 kilograms per person per year!), the Greeks also take a small glass of red wine with a meal (lunch or dinner) on a daily basis. This promotes heart health and delays aging.
3. Pies are a fixture in Greek cooking.
The Greeks have had a love affair with pies since ancient times, eating them for breakfast, dessert, or as snacks. This originated from their practice of filling these pies with seasonal or abundant-at-the-moment ingredients, while flour (which is the base for pastry-making) was and still is available for the greater part of the year.
4. There are Greek foods you simply must try.
Greek food is flavorful, tasty and interesting. So while you’re at it, make sure you try the following healthy Greek dishes:
- Shrimp saganaki: This dish features shrimp, feta, tomatoes, garlic and onions cooked in a saganaki, which is a traditional Greek cooking pan.
- Souvlaki: Vegetables skewered together with pieces of meat (lamb, pork, chicken, or beef) and grilled are best enjoyed with yogurt and pita bread.
- Briam or tourlu: Briam is nothing more than a healthy combination of select Mediterranean vegetables roasted together, coated with olive oil and tossed with sweet onions and garlic.
- Moussaka: A hearty eggplant casserole with thin slices of aubergine or eggplants, juicy flavor-packed meat sauce and béchamel sauce.
- Dolmades: A popular and nutritious appetizer comprising rice and spices (and sometimes with lean ground lamb tossed in) stuffed in grape leaves and simmered in broth.
- Loukaniko or loucanico: A type of Greek sausage that is usually flavored using fennel seed, orange peel, leeks, and various dried herbs and seeds. For added flavor, loukaniko is sometimes smoked over a fragrant open fire. This sausage is a bit on the fatty side, so be sure to share it with your fellow diners when enjoying it as an appetizer.
There are many more Greek dishes you’ll surely be inspired to enjoy. To sample the best of Greek cuisine, do drop by The Black Olive and taste the wonders of Greece.