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Traditional Greek Cuisine and where to get it Page 3

Yemista OR GeM-EEsta

The name comes from the Greek verb, 'yemizo'-I stuff or fill) and includes stuffed peppers, tomatoes, eggplant/aubergine,, or zucchini/courgette, the stuffing consisting of rice and herbs. Yemista can be made either in the oven or on top of the stove (in a 'katsarola'). Plain rice or kreetherakia and ground Beef/meat is a common stuffing.

Cooked vegetable dishes

These fall in both the larger category of 'mayeirefta'(cooked food) and of 'ladhera' (foods cooked with a lot of 'ladhi', which is olive oil), and include 'bamyes' (okra), peas and artichoke hearts, briam (similar to ratatouille), the delicious large white beans called 'yigandes' (yigas meaning giant), baked slowly in a tomato sauce, 'koukia' (broad beans, called fava in the west, though 'fava' in Greek means split pea paste, so best ask for 'koukia' if that's what you want).

There's a wonderful 'casserole' dish (oven baked) with the Turkish name 'Imam Bieyulduh', an imam being a Muslim priest.

This dish is made with sliced aubergine/eggplant baked with onion, garlic, and a lot of olive oil. Then there is the wonderful 'fasolakia', made with green beans, oil, onion, and tomato.

These are only a few of the 'casserole' dishes widely found on Greek menus, best view through the 'vitrina' , or glass through which customers to tavernas can view and select the food they want to order, often doing so right on the spot, with foreign visitors needing no Greek to point to the tasty looking dish as the waiter writes down the order. Viewing ones' food before eating it, especially when delectably displayed, is one of the great joys of eating out in Greece, and serves as one of the finest of all appetizers.



Bean soup, usually made with small white haricot beans.

Avgo lemono soup

A soup made broth (often chicken broth) with rice, egg and lemon.

Lentil soup

Lentils are 'fak-ess' in Greek.


Fish soup, made with the fresh catch.


For Greeks, the word 'salata' includes a lot of dishes known in English as 'spreads' or 'dips', some of which are 'melitzanosalata' (aubergine/eggplant salad, from the Greek word for this vegetable, 'melitzana'), made from a puree of this vegetable, or 'taramosalata', made with fish roe, 'skordhalia', a garlic dip often served with baked fish, made from garlic, olive oil, and bread or potato as a thickener; tzatziki, a yogurt and cucumber dip.

By now, menus in most places frequented by tourists, often list these dishes are 'appetizers' or 'starters' on the English part of the menu, having learned that the word has a different meaning in English than in Greek.

The salads that more fit the English connotation include the famous 'horiatiki salata' (village, or 'country' salad), made with chunks of tomato, cucumber, red onion, and (more expensive if added), a slab of feta cheese and a few olives, the whole drizzled with olive oil and vinegar (ksidi in Greek) and salted to taste.

Whoever thought up the horiatiki salata was definitely a genius, as there is nothing better on a hot summer day as a complement to whatever main dish one is eating, assuming of course that the ingredients are very fresh and ripe. A green salad, made with 'marouli', or lettuce, is also popular in Greece.

Though the main lettuce available is green Romaine (with 'butter lettuce' having made its appearance at many markets in recent years), this is quite delicious, cut as it usually is in thin strips, and often mixed with some thinly sliced green onions. Sometimes some fresh dill will be also added, or sometimes 'roka' (roquette, arugula). Oil, vinegar and salt are the usually dressing. During the winter, shedded cabbage and carrot salad are very popular, served with the same dressing, though with the second two salads, some prefer lemon.


The general word for boiled greens in Greek is 'horta'. Greeks are great lovers of boiled greens, and a lot of greens in the dandelion family (basically, chicory), both sweet and bitter, are grown in Greece, dressed with lemon,oil and salt. These greens have long, thin, tapered leaves of a dark green color.

There are also many wild varieties of greens, including those in the dandelion family, which are traditionally gathered by women during the rainy winter months (at least in the parts of Greece where the ground doesn't freeze and isn't blanketed in snow). Tavernas will always have the cultivated chicory-type horta in spring and winter, and in winter will often also have wild greens, which local people gather and sell at the markets.

A very popular and mild green for boiling, grown during the summer in Greece, is called 'vlita', a leafy amaranth variety. The flavor of this green is quite unique, and it is very easy to grow, though the leaves must be harvested while still soft and tender. The flower, like other amaranth varieties, are lovely maroon colored tassels, which fill the fall garden with splashes of color. There is also wild vlita growing in open fields everywhere, also quite edible and tasty. One recipe for vlita given orally to this author includes chopped garlic mixed with the boiled greens along with the usual oil and salt, and vinegar rather than lemon. Local Greek vinegar, by the way, can be very tasty, as it retains a lot of the tannins strained out of commercial bottled vinegar.

Vlita can be used to make a pita (pie) in lieu of spinach, and is called 'vlitopita' rather than 'spanakopita' (the accent in both cases falling on the 'o'). The greens are first boiled and drained , then chopped and mixed with sautéed onion (and perhaps garlic), feta or other cheese, maybe some parsley, and baked in either pastry dough or filo.


In Greece, meat used to be eaten less frequently than it is today, and fasting was also practiced more, not only at Paskha (Easter), but at other regular intervals during the year. Locally raised meat in Greece tends to be very delicious. Local sheep and goats tend to have a lot of freedom of movement during their lives, though hobbled in some places (with ropes between front and back feet, on one side or both, to prevent their climbing walls and thus breaking out of pasures) though by no means always and everywhere. Pigs raised for the meat market have more space in smaller, local operations, though cattle are in tethers in some areas.

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