Since we returned from our hosted group trip to Greece, Sandy and I have been hard at work planning our own and our clients’ next adventures. But I keep dreaming of Greece… A big piece of this amazing country that has stayed with me is the gastronomy we experienced there. And while we did have amazing olives, feta cheese, and souvlaki, our food and drink experiences went far beyond our USA-based knowledge of Greek cuisine. Everywhere we went on our trip, we were treated to the local specialties – PDO wines, artisan cheeses, endemic liquors, ridiculously fresh seafood, unique vegetable varieties, and delectable confections. The pride that the farmers, restaurateurs and winemakers took in producing, preparing and serving their unique and traditional dishes was truly inspiring.
And the food and drink of Greece provided an opportunity to truly immerse ourselves in the local culture. Breaking bread with the community you are visiting creates a bond and an appreciation like very few other experiences. One of my favorite memories of our Greece trip was when the local villagers in Erborio, Santorini eagerly invited us into their church festival and shared with us their “care package” of fennel-infused bread, fava bean hummus, and olives with sardines. Our guides in both Santorini and Naxos brought us to places and people we never would have found on our own, such as that church in Erborio, the vineyard and farm in Naxos, and the bakery in a tiny town where the marble truck driver stopped for his “drive-thru” coffee pick-up.
Below are a few recipes for Greek foods that we enjoyed while in Athens, Santorini and Naxos. Whether you are planning a trip to this amazing country, reminiscing about a past trip, or just want to add a taste of the Mediterranean to your culinary explorations, these recipes are for you! Click on each image or the hyperlink in the caption to get the recipes.
Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)
Keftedes are traditionally made as an appetizer or snack (meze) and served with tzatziki sauce. They can be prepared in a ball shape or in a patty. The typical preparation is with beef or lamb, but they can be made with various vegetables as well (see below). One of our traveling companions came to Greece with a goal – to find the best keftedes in Greece. He says that his favorite ones of our trip were created by Chef Alex at Santorini Secret Hotel’s farewell dinner for our group.
Domatokeftedes (Tomato Fritters)
On Santorini, the soil is a combination of volcanic rock and sand of different types, and they don’t get much rain. This would seem to be difficult conditions in which to grow luscious tomatoes, but somehow it happens in Greece. Our tour guide told us that the Santorini tomatoes are very small but also very distinctive in flavor, and that is why one of Santorini’s most notable traditional dishes is domatokeftedes. These fritters combine feta cheese, Santorini tomatoes, and fresh herbs that are mixed into a batter and fried to crispy deliciousness!
This is one of those “typical” Greek dishes that I was looking forward to having in Greece, and I was not disappointed. The best moussaka I tasted was actually at Anhydrous Winery in Santorini, where we had a tour, wine tasting, and wine-paired lunch. With its multiple layers of vegetables, cheese, and meat, moussaka is time-consuming but worth the effort, and you can make a traditional version or one with just eggplant, potato and onion.
Galaktoboureko (custard pie)
When we think of Greek desserts, baklava is probably the first thought of many Americans. But not our traveling companion Laura. She knew all about galatoboureko and its simpler cousin galatopita, and she introduced the rest of us to this sweet delight at our pre-trip dinner. While in Greece, Laura asked in each place where the best galatoboureko or galatopita could be found, and in Naxos our hotelier Emma suggested Yia Yia’s (Grandma’s) Cafe in the tiny town of Chalki. Our tour guide Kiriaki agreed, and she made sure we stopped there for take-out. We bought so much that we ate it every night and even had more to take with us on the ferry to Santorini!
Portokalopita (Orange-Honey Cake)
Since we’ve returned from our trip, one way I’ve kept the Greece vibes going is through reading. (Sandy and I love literary travel! See Sandy’s blog post from last week and mine from last year.) I’m reading a book right now called Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch. The setting of the story brings back visions of Santorini’s whitewashed cliffside homes and churches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and ancient ruins. It also connects me with Greece’s gastronomy. The main character in the book waxes poetic about the “Sunshine Cake” that her Greek dad used to make for her, and the description took me right back to the delicious honey-soaked, orange-infused cake that was served at almost every place we visited.
In addition to these delectable dishes, in Greece we were treated to fresh seafood, locally-raised pork, wines found only in Naxos and Santorini, and many other gustatory delights. I hope you’ll try some of these Greek specialties above at home and that they will inspire you to plan a trip to Greece or another destination where you can immerse yourself in the culture through culinary experiences. Whether you consider yourself a connoisseur or just enjoy gastronomic adventures, we can help you plan an unforgettable exploration!
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