Olives Yogurt Greek Food Thessaloniki’s

GREEKGOURMETCOVER(02).TELIKO 8/3/03 5:53 PM Page 1
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SPRING 2006
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www.kerasma.com
Kerasma is run under the aegis
of the Hellenic Ministry of Economy
and Finance and the Hellenic Foreign
Trade Board (HEPO).
Olives / Yogurt / Greek Food and Health / Thessaloniki’s
Cuisine / Xinomavro Wines / Chios Mastic / Asparagus /
Sweet Florina Red Peppers / 30 + Kerasma Recipes
www.greekgourmetraveler.gr
www.kerasma.com
Contents
ISSUE 2 SPRING 2006
Letter from the President of HEPO
4
Letter from the CEO of HEPO
5
Letter from the Greek Finance Minister
7
Letter from the Editor
9
Greek Food and the Traditional Mediterranean Diet
10
By Dr. Antonia Trichoppoulou
Rainbow Coalition: A Spectrum of Greek Olives for Every Taste
14
By Diane Kochilas
Oh, So Rich in Possibilities: Greek Yogurt
22
By Daphne Zepos
Chefs Talk: Four International Chefs Cook with Greek Yogurt
28
By Diane Kochilas
From the International Kitchen: Greek Yogurt Recipes
30
Spears of Desire: Greek Asparagus Rising
36
By Orestes Davias
Asparagus on the Plate: Recipes
42
By Diane Kochilas
Northern Greece's Crimson King - The Sweet, Red Florina Pepper
44
By Orestes Davias
A Diva in the Vineyard - the Xinomavro Grape
48
By Konstantinos Lazarakis
A Taste of Thessaloniki
58
By Rachel Howard
Tears of Joy: Chios Mastic
66
By Diana Farr Louis
Wild and Sweet: The Timeless Appeal of Greek Honey
74
By Susanna Hoffman
Kerasma: Treat Your Taste with Great Recipes for Olives, Florina
Peppers, Honey, Xinomavro, and Desserts from Greece's Top Chefs
3 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
80
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT OF HEPO
We, here in Greece, recognize the impressive range of our native gastronomy.
Inherent in our cuisine is a continuum of nutritional wisdom passed down through
the millennia and embodied within the country's distinct regional table.
Our culinary evolution begins in the fields, in the uniqueness and variety of ingredients that spring from the fecund Greek earth. It's these very ingredients, authentic and local, that render Greek cuisine innately healthful and delicious. Even a
simple Greek salad, known the world over, becomes unsurpassable when it is prepared with excellent Greek extra-virgin olive oil and authentic Greek feta. The Greek
mainland and islands are home to a countless range of local ingredients, such as
honey, herbs, capers, saffron, myriad cheeses and more: unique Greek ingredients
that combine to create unique Greek dishes.
Our chefs find their muse in the products of their native land, as well as in Greek
culinary traditions and the cuisine's innate healthfulness, and they create dishes
that are inspiring both for home cooks and professionals all over the world.
The Greek diet is at the heart of the Mediterranean diet.
Greek gastronomy reflects an entire philosophy, a way of life that's joyful, direct,
human, and spontaneous. Our “big” small treats, meze and kerasma, and the
warmth and hospitality of sharing food with friends and loved ones, define what
the Greek dining experience and Greek cuisine are all about.
This notion of sharing and offering, called kerasma in Greek, is what we convey in
this and every issue of the GreekGourmetraveler.
This second issue of the GreekGourmetraveler coincides with the first
International Kerasma Conference on Quality Greek Food, Wines & Spirits, taking
place in March, 2006, in Athens. An international group of food and wine journalists and retail food representatives will be in Athens to savor and share more than
a few Greek treats. We hope they discover our rich traditions and our modern Greek
culinary creations, but more than that we hope they experience the Greek way of
life for themselves.
The conference, the magazine, the whole Kerasma campaign are just the start. We
invite the world to accept our invitation. Come join us. Contact us. We're offering
something new, different and dynamic. Savor a Greek treat. We're sure you will like it.
Panagiotis I. Papastavrou
President
HEPO
4 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
LETTER FROM THE CEO OF HEPO
When I took over as CEO of the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board, I had arrived fresh
from three years as business developer of ALPHA BANK (sponsor bank of the
Olympic games) on the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee. I had
experienced a fascinating, inspiring time in Greece's modern history and witnessed
the transformation of the country from its provincial perch to world-class player
on the international stage, as Greece organized one of the most memorable
Olympic Games in history.
The whole country was ebullient with pride and a great sense of accomplishment,
but also with a newfound goal: to become more international in its outlook, more
extroverted. Through
the Olympics, Greece suddenly propelled itself out of decades of cloistered centricity and became part of the modern, vibrant world order. It was an exciting time.
My mission here at HEPO is to bring the same largesse of spirit that characterized
those magical Olympic days into the more prosaic world of Greek food, wine, and
spirits exports.
Greeks have always loved their heritage, and cuisine is an essential part of who we
are. Greeks replanted their culinary traditions far and wide, from the colonies of
antiquity to the neighborhoods in Western Europe, North America, Australia and
elsewhere, where generations of immigrants settled during the last century. We are
the keepers of the Olympic flame but also of the more homespun fires of the
hearth, which have kept our food traditions alive. Now, our cuisine is alight with
the sparks of innovation, as chefs all over the world discover and experiment with
our products and enjoy our food, wines, and spirits.
I came on board at HEPO on the heels of the Olympic fervor, just as Greece was
basking in its newfound worldliness, with a mission to harness to the country's
brimming internationalism and pride and usher the food and drinks industry into
the limelight. HEPO with the Hellenic Ministry of Economy and Finance is organizing a long-term campaign to accomplish that, first with our branded GreekMediterranean gastronomy concept, “Kerasma,” which means treat or offering, as
a way of sharing our traditions with the rest of the world, but also with a series of
international programs, new marketing strategies, food and press conferences, and
publications that aim toward catapulting Greek cuisine into the global arena.
It's an exciting time.
Panagiotis Drossos
CEO
5 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
LETTER FROM THE MINISTER OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE,
MR. GEORGE ALOGOSKOUFIS
In a country like Greece, where tourism accounts for almost one-fifth of the gross
domestic product, good cuisine is crucial. Visitors—last year there were some 14
million travelers to Greece—base a large part of their overall experience on how
well they dine. In Greece, whether one finds oneself casually enjoying simple country food in a local taverna or haute cuisine in one of our many fine restaurants or
hotels, the dining experience is always imbued with welcoming Greek hospitality
and warmth.
Luckily, we Greeks have strong culinary traditions, rooted in a deeply held sense of
place and based on the excellent quality of our raw ingredients. The same sunny,
warm climate that attracts so many people to our islands and mainland each year,
also nurtures the millions of olive trees that are tended to with family pride, producing the oil and olives that are the heart and soul of the table; the rich and varied flora that feeds our strong apiary traditions is also the reason why our cheeses,
especially feta, and our yogurt are renowned all over the world. The same sunny,
Mediterranean climate gives Greek fruits and vegetables their intensity, making
them viable, sought-after exports all over Europe and elsewhere. These are but a
few of the things that have made Greek cuisine famous for its healthfulness.
The Greek Ministry of Economy and Finance, together with the Hellenic Foreign
Trade Board, is on a mission to share the virtues of the Greek table with the rest of
the world. We have embarked on a campaign called Kerasma, which means treat
and offering, to do just that. The Kerasma campaign is a multi-tiered effort to
share Greek recipes and promote Greek foods, wines, and spirits. Kerasma
embraces chefs, journalists, food industry and food - and - beverage professionals
all over the world.
George Alogoskoufis
Minister of Economy and Finance
7 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
SPRING 2006
GreekGourmetraveler
Greek Food, Wine & Travel Magazine
Editor-in-Chief
Diane Kochilas
Art Director & Designer
k2design
HEPO Liaison
Anastasia Garyfallou
Contributors
Orestes Davias, Susanna Hoffman, Rachel
Howard, Konstantinos Lazarakis, Diana Farr Louis.
Antonia Trichopoulou, Daphne Zepos
Contributing Chefs
Michael Dotson, Yiannis Baxevannis, Panos
Karatassos, Theodore Kyriakou, Lefteris Lazarou,
Stelios Parliaros, Christoforos Peskias, Michael
Psilakis, Kostas Vassalos
Photography
Yiorgos Dracopoulos, Dimitris Koilalous,
Constantine Pittas, Vassilis Stenos, Studio Nikos
Vavdenoudis-Christos Dimitriou
Food Styling
Dawn Brown, Paola Lakah, Tina Webb
Printing
Red Line
G. Kossyfologos & Associates A.E.
87 Byzantiou Street, Nea Ionia 142 34
ISSN
1790-5990
Cover
Vassilis Stenos
Publisher
Hellenic Foreign Trade Board
Legal representative
Panagiotis Drossos, CEO
Marinou Antipa 86-88
Ilioupoli, 163 46 Athens, Greece
Tel: 00 30 210 998 2100
Fax: 00 30 210 996 9100
http://www.hepo.gr
http://www.kerasma.com
8 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Information and subscription
GreekGourmetraveler, a publication of the Hellenic
Foreign Trade Board, promotes Greek cuisine, wine,
travel, and culture. The magazine is distributed free
of charge to food-, beverage-, wine-, and travelindustry professionals.
If you wish to subscribe, visit our website at
www.hepo.gr or www.kerasma.com
Reproduction of articles and photographs
No articles, recipes, or photographs published in
the GreekGourmetraveler may be reprinted without permission from the publisher. All rights
reserved. GreekGourmetraveler©Hellenic Foreign
Trade Board.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Enlightened Continuity
When I started as a food writer almost 25 years ago, I naturally turned to what I
knew: great Greek food, mainly prepared at the hands of genuine, hospitable home
cooks. Over the course of two and a half decades, the cuisine of my childhood has
blossomed, not only on its native soil but also abroad. Greek cuisine today is well
known far and wide and it's closely associated, thanks to so much press over the
last decade, with all the healthful foods of the Mediterranean. Greece is the cradle,
after all; an intrinsic part of the Mediterranean, the place where so much of what
we know as good for us—olive oil and olives, cultured yogurt, fresh, seasonal vegetables, grains, herbs, honey—first came to light. Ancient common sense and perspicacity formed the basic lessons on the benefits of a healthy diet by which Greeks
still abide.
Continuity is important in this culture. But so are distinction, variety, and innovation.
Continuity is seen everywhere on the table, especially in seminal ingredients like
olives, honey, and yogurt. Olives are still cured the way they have been for eons,
and many are still called by their ancient names. Honey, explored in this issue by
anthropologist and cookbook author Susanna Hoffman, has been an important
food in Greece since time immemorial. It still is.
Variety on the Greek table is evinced by the wealth of dozens of edible herbs and
greens, vegetables, fruits, cheeses and more, many associated with specific
regions, such as the long, red Florina pepper, whose history and nutritional values
biologist Orestes Davias focuses on.
In this issue, we touch on regionality in almost every article, but two stand out:
Rachel Howard's eating tour of Thessaloniki and the photo essay that accompanies it, and Diana Farr Louis' article on Chios Mastic.
Innovation is a big word these days in the Greek culinary world. We see new things
happening in restaurants abroad—four of them on three continents are highlighted
in this issue—but also on Greeks' home turf, especially under the Kerasma banner,
a Greek word for treat or offering. Thanks to the Kerasma campaign the country's
top culinary talent has been tapped to create and share new food ideas, expanding
the limits of the cuisine, and in each issue page after page is devoted to their
recipes. So, as always, enjoy the treats, savor them, and pass them generously
along.
Diane Kochilas
9 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The traditional Mediterranean diet meets many of the criteria
of an optimal diet: It has health-promoting properties; it is
palatable; and it is compatible with a sustainable environment.
Although the Mediterranean diet was shaped by history, climatic conditions, poverty, and hardship, rather than by intellectual insight or wisdom, it seems as if some superior force led
the Mediterranean populations to exploit fully the bounty of
nature and thus develop a prudent diet.
Greek Food
and the Traditional
Mediterranean Diet
By Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou
11 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The health-promoting properties
adults in this country was among
ed that the dogma of not mixing
of the Mediterranean diet have
the lowest in the world.
drinking with driving is respected.
Recent studies have documented
been documented in many populations, including populations out-
GREEK PRODUCTS AND HEALTH
that the combination of food
side the Mediterranean region, but
In simplified terms, the traditional
intakes is of paramount impor-
much of the convincing original
Greek diet relies on high consump-
tance, but it is obvious that the
work, from the days of Ancel Keys
tion of olive oil,
high quality of the component
on, has been done on the Greek
which in Greece, more than in any
foods is also critical.
population, giving credence to the
other country, is extra-virgin; high
Greece is justifiably proud of the
notion that the traditional Greek
consumption of plant foods,
high quality and palatability of
diet represents a distinguished pro-
including vegetables, legumes,
many of its food products, includ-
totype of the traditional
fruits, and unrefined cereals (many
ing olive oil and feta cheese, as well
Mediterranean diet. The traditional
of which form the backbone of the
as a wide range of traditional foods
Greek diet has been found to
country's agricultural economy);
that have long made the tradition-
reduce mortality from coronary
preference of fish over meat;
al Greek diet distinct. Olive oil, for
heart disease and several forms of
and emphasis on feta cheese and
example, has always been consid-
cancer and to increase longevity.
yogurt rather than other dairy
ered sacred and invaluable. In
Indeed, in the late 1960s, when the
products. Moderate consumption
Greek mythology it was considered
fast-food epidemic had not yet
of wine, mostly during meals, is
a gift of the gods. Today, medical
invaded Greece, mortality among
also considered beneficial, provid-
research has identified myriad ben-
This page: Greek Feta.
Right page: from left to right, Greek olive tapenade,
Prespa giant beans in a traditional casserole,
Kalamata olives.
12 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
eficial health properties in olive oil.
ties of many of these foods are only
The traditional Greek diet, as a pro-
The unusually low incidence of
now being recognized. For
totype of the traditional
coronary heart disease in France
instance, some of the greens pies
Mediterranean diet, finally has
(the “French paradox”) has occa-
contain very high quantities of
been recognized for its health-pro-
sionally been attributed to the high
important antioxidants, in fact
moting attributes. Now it's time to
consumption of cheese by the
much higher than those found in
get to know the food products that
French, but Greeks consume per
other foods widely reputed as
form the most important compo-
capita as much cheese as the
antioxidant-rich.
nents of this renowned diet.
French in the form of the country's
traditional feta.
Antonia Trichopoulou,
Emeritus at the Hellenic
ing the Corato award
Prepared foods and even some con-
MD, PhD, is Director of
National School of
(2001) and the IV
fections have an impressive array of
the World Health
Public Health and the
Grande Covian Award
healthful properties. Most notable
Organization
University of Athens
(2002) for her studies
among them are the savory greens
Collaborating Center for
Medical School. She has
concerning the health
pies, pasteli (a sesame-and-honey
Nutrition at the
served as President of
effects of the
brittle), spoon sweets made with
Department of Hygiene
the Federation of the
Mediterranean diet. In
seasonal fruits, sun-dried toma-
and Epidemiology,
European Nutrition
2003 she was decorated
toes, legumes and pulses such as
School of Medicine,
Societies and has
by the President of the
University of Athens,
received numerous hon-
Greek Republic with the
Greece. She is Professor
ors and awards, includ-
Golden Cross of Honor.
fava (yellow split peas), and more.
The surprising nutritional proper-
13 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
An unctuous, cloying scent permeates the winding back roads
of the Greek countryside during the short, slate-skied days of
winter. It's the smell of years of olive harvesting and processing come to life again as farmers and producers gear up for
their busy season.
Rainbow
Coalition
a Spectrum of Greek
Olives for Every Taste
By Diane Kochilas
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Dawn Brown
Ancient olive grove
at the Monastery
of Vatopedi,
Mt. Athos.
15 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Mills start churning up for the
food of both sustenance and pleas-
October for table olives and contin-
months of work ahead, and vast
ure. Greece produces about
ues for about two months,
quantities of table olives are trans-
120.000 tons of table olives per
depending on the type of olive and
ported, sorted, and finally steeped
year. The table olive is one of the
the place it is cultivated. Green
in the various solutions (from plain
country's most important agricul-
olives, essentially less ripe than
water to salt brine to vinegar to
tural exports.
their darker counterparts, are har-
olive oil) that will help transform
I've experienced the olive harvest
vested first; next come all the
them from a bitter inedible fruit to
many times, in many places all
plump black olives that are among
a pungent, delicious, nutritional
over Greece. The harvest begins in
the country's best-known snacks:
16 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
tight-skinned Kalamata olives with
CULINARY CONTINUUM
had become a very
to this day. High technol-
their pointy, nipple-like tip; juicy
The olive has shaped
important staple food,
ogy has not really
Greek life and history,
one that sustained farm-
touched the ways in
and continues to do so,
ers, shepherds, and trav-
which olives are cured or
like no other agricultural
elers alike. To this day,
seasoned. In fact, cured
product. In folklore, the
olives, together with
olives in modern Greece
olive is rife with symbol-
bread or rusks and a lit-
often go by the same
ism. Sharing olives and
tle cheese, comprise an
names that the ancient
bread is an act of friend-
important part of the
Greeks gave to them.
ship in Greece. The olive
traditional Greek
Olives had a unique
branch, of course, is the
farmer's midday snack in
place on the ancient
universal symbol of
the field.
table because they were
peace.
The ancients Greeks
both a food eaten by,
Olives have been savored
were avid cooks and culi-
but also necessary to
from prehistoric times in
nary experimenters, and
the survival of, the
Greece, although most
they devised many differ-
masses. But they were
likely they were eaten
ent ways to cure and fla-
also one of the most
uncured, plucked instead
vor olives. They knew, for
important early "appe-
off the tree, or from the
example, that in addi-
tizers." Olives came
ground, wrinkled and
tion to salting olives,
under the category of
soft.
they could also store
prosfagio, or food that
Over time, of course,
olives in olive oil or in
was meant to be con-
people worked out how
vinegar. They made salt
sumed before the actual
to cure olives so that
brines and also pre-
meal. To this day, by and
they tasted better--i.e.,
served olives in grape
large, that is still the
less bitter--and so that
must and even honey or
role that olives play on
they could be stored for
combinations of wine
the Greek table. Greeks
long periods of the year.
and honey. They used
offer them often with a
The earliest and most
aromatic herbs, such as
little ouzo, or other eau
basic way of doing this
wild fennel and oregano,
de vie, as a means of
was simply to salt them.
to season olives. Many of
whetting, but not sat-
By Homeric times, olives
these techniques survive
ing, the appetite.
Amfissas in an array of browns,
blacks and purples. Last to be
plucked from the tree is the wrinkled black variety, which matures
on the branch, can be harvested as
late as March, and is cured in
coarse salt, not brine.
Greece produces
about 120.000 tons
of table olives per
year
Left page: These tiny green Cretan olives are one of
many regional specialties.
This page: Black Kalamata olives and plump green
Halkidiki olives are two of the main Greek table
olive varieties.
17 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The weather is often somber and
damp earth over whole slopes.
roadside vines, and paddles of
melancholy during the olive season
Farmers lay them down to collect
prickly-pear-studded cactus grow
in Greece. Clouds billow overhead,
errant olives that fall to the ground.
riotously everywhere.
sometimes spraying a light rain for
A few seasonal jewels enliven the
Many Greeks, myself included,
days on end, while black net-like
short, dull days: The olive harvest is
have a few trees of their own. The
tarpaulins or pearly-grey woven
the time when pomegranates burst
olive and its production punctu-
plastic drop cloths stretch under
open on tree after tree, succulent
ates life here, even among city
every olive tree, blanketing the
winter grapes ripen invitingly along
dwellers. Despite my New York
OLIVES IN THE
onions and more. They
olives. One such dish
most delicious prepa-
(see Kerasma recipes
TRADITIONAL GREEK
are wonderful with
comes from the
rations is oftes elies—
with olives, pages 82-
KITCHEN
vegetables preserved
Ionian island of
roasted olives.
91). One interesting
For all its illustrious
in brine or olive oil.
Zakynthos, where
In the last few years,
evolution hearkens
history and nutritional
Greeks use olives in
potatoes are stewed
the olive has caught
back to the sweet-
value, the olive is used
some sauces, namely
with onions, toma-
the imagination of
savory flavor combina-
sparingly in traditional
tomato-based sauces
toes, and black olives.
contemporary chefs,
tions of antiquity:
Greek cooking.
that are served over
Another traditional
so that even in the
Olives matched with
Olives appear in a
pasta or with meats,
dish calls for chicken
contemporary Greek
dried figs and herbs
whole array of salads.
poultry, and fish.
stewed with green
kitchen olives are
seem to be a combina-
They are delicious
There are several
olives and feta. On
everywhere: In the
tion growing in popu-
matched with all sorts
breads and pies which
the mainland, olives
skillet and in the pan,
larity, in stuffed poul-
of vegetables, such as
call for olives. In some
are roasted and
in breads, pies, braised
try dishes, in breads,
fresh ripe tomatoes,
parts of the country,
served as a meze, and
dishes, sauces, stuffin-
and as a dip or condi-
cucumbers, peppers,
stews often include
in Crete, one of the
gs, dips, and more
ment.
Olive delights: stuffed with
roasted Florina peppers and
almonds; A rich helping of
Kalamata olive tapenade;
Right page: A variety of Greek
olives at market.
18 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
roots, I have come to love that
A SHORT GUIDE TO
table olives as they are
Attica. They are almost
time of year, not for its arduous
GREEK TABLE OLIVES
most commonly called
always cured as a green
Most consumers recog-
at the market.
olive, often flavored with
work but for the carte blanche that
home curing affords me. Each year
garlic and lemon
nize Greek table olives
either by their place
1. Halkidiki. It is named
wedges.
names (Kalamata,
for the Halkidiki penin-
4. Volos, Amphissa,
Atalanti, Amphissa,
sula east of Thessaloniki,
Agrinio, Stylida, and
Halkidiki, etc.) or by
where this variety flour-
Atalanti. These olives all
their curing and process-
ishes. Most people
belong to the
ing (cracked, split, salt-
encounter the Halkidiki
Conservolia variety. This
and oil solutions, and tinkering
cured, brine-cured, etc.)
olive as the classic, large
is the large, oval olive
with the herbs that eventually end
While there are dozens
Greek green olive; how-
which accounts for more
up imbuing them with flavors both
of "different" kinds of
ever, it is cured in many
than 80 percent of all
subtle and robust.
olives, only three main
different ways. When it
the table olive produc-
In the last few years, packers and
varieties are commer-
is at later stages of
tion in Greece. It starts
producers have begun experiment-
cially important as table
maturity, it is salt-cured
off a rich dark green
ing with the timeless olive, too, so
olives. The confusion
and makes for one of the
when it is unripe and
that today Greek packaged olives
starts here-these few
most succulent wrinkled
changes into a whole
come in an ever-growing gamut,
types of olives just hap-
olives in the world. These
spectrum of different
pen to come in many
are produced on a small
colors as it matures:
sizes, and from many dif-
scale, however.
greenish-yellow, green-
ferent parts of Greece, so
2. Kalamata. The king of
ish-red, mahogany, and
that they all look differ-
Greek table olives and
finally, dark, bluish-
ent and are all called by
one of the best-known
black. These are the
different names.
olives in the world.
most versatile Greek
All olives change from
Kalamatas are shiny,
olives, processed with
green to black as they
brownish-black, tight-
equal success as both a
mature, and all are bitter
skinned with a charac-
green and black olive.
and inedible unless cured.
teristic "almond" shape.
5. Wrinkled black
Depending on the variety
The Kalamata is the
olives. There are many
and the curing method,
most highly prized black
different wrinkled olives
some olives are processed
olive, and is usually slit
in the Greek larder. The
unripe, or green, while
(harakti), on two sides
best known is the
others are left to mature
and preserved in vinegar
throumba, closely asso-
and darken on the tree.
and/or olive oil.
ciated with the island of
Others still are purposely
3. Tsakistes. These gen-
Thassos in the northern
harvested late, when
erally belong to the
Aegean. These are the
their skins are leathery
Megaritiki variety and
wrinkled, reddish-
and wrinkled.
colloquially are called
brown, mealy olives that
Following is a list and
tsakistes, or "cracked."
are left to ripen on the
brief description of Greek
Tsakistes grow mainly in
tree and are salt-cured.
a neighbor collects several kilos for
me, sends them to my home in
Athens, where I dutifully set about
leaching out their bitterness,
experimenting with various brine
from classic Kalamatas bobbing in
their red-wine-vinegar solution to
unique green olives flavored with
garlic, hot pepper and coriander or
plump black olives seasoned with
wild fennel.
Greek packaged olives come in an ever-growing gamut
19 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
CURING OLIVES
small cracked green
with a little wild fen-
"floaters," a name and
served in a mixture of
Most of the ways in
olives, were prepared
nel and then left for
technique still in use
vinegar, honey and
which Greeks cure and
as early as the
several months to
today. Some old meth-
water, and sealed in
season their olives
Byzantine era. The
cure. The method for
ods have been lost to
clay jugs. Another
have come down
olives were smashed
doing this today is not
time and perhaps to
method for curing
through the centuries.
lightly with a wooden
all that different.
changing tastes.
olives that has been
Many of these meth-
tool in order to break
Another well-known
Among the most
lost to time was the
ods have survived the
their flesh. They were
method for curing
interesting practice
ancient technique
test of time
then soaked in warm
olives that dates back
was that, of the
applied to green
unchanged. First
water, which helped
to ancient times and
Hellenistic Greeks,
olives, which were
among them are the
make them less bitter,
was also prevalent in
whereby ripe black or
soaked in sea water in
wrinkled black olives,
then sealed in clay
Byzantium, calls for
wrinkled olives were
order that their bitter-
probably the earliest
jugs with layers of salt
steeping the olives in
mixed with salt and
ness leach out, then
consumed olives.
and water. Sometimes
brine. These are called
oil, left for several
kept in clay jugs filled
Tsakistes elies, or
they were seasoned
kolymbathes, or
days, and then pre-
with wine must.
Monastery of Vatopedi, Mt. Athos.
20 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
21 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Yogurt is about as ancient as milk. Its beauty lies in its simplicity; yogurt was the first and most immediate way to preserve
milk by extending its life (hence nutritional value) for several
weeks. The key is fermentation, which is triggered and controlled by the addition of two bacteria, lactobacillus bulgaricus
and streptococcus thermophilus.
Oh, So Rich
in PossibilitiesGreek Yogurt
By Daphne Zepos
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Dawn Brown
22 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The ancient tradition of preserving
ow and straw into buckets of
common belief for centuries in
milk began around 5,000 years
human nourishment. And their
Greece and the Middle East: that
ago in Central Asia and the Middle
milk turned out to be an elemental
eating yogurt will make you strong
East, where the climate is warm
fluid rich in possibility, just a step
and make you live longer. Lactic
and the land lean, making it ideal
or two away from luxurious cream,
acid bacteria have been proven to
for grazing ruminants. Harold
fragrant golden butter, and a mul-
eliminate toxic microbes in the
McGee, author of On Food and
titude of flavorful foods concocted
digestive system.
Cooking, describes it most lyrically:
from friendly microbes.”
“When our ancestors took up
In adults, yogurt has health bene-
SHEPHERDS AND THEIR YOGURT
dairying, they adopted the cow,
fits that far outweigh those of
Greek yogurt, renowned the world
the ewe, and the goat as surrogate
milk. In the early 20th century the
over for its quality, density, and
mothers. These creatures accom-
Russian Nobelist Metchnikov
unabashed, delicious sour taste is a
plish the miracle of turning mead-
proved through science what was
product of the country's pastoral
Greek strained yogurt is extremely versatile.
Toss it with olive oil (l), mix it with luscious
Greek honey, top it on fruit, or savor it in a
classic tzatziki.
24 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
traditions. Up until fairly recently,
after the milking, when the tem-
and revived with the milk of the
yogurt production was ruled
perature of the milk is the same as
following season. Today the Vlachs
entirely by farming and seasonal
the animal's and ideal for the addi-
are no longer nomadic, but some
conditions. Greece has always been
tion of the lactic acid bacteria that
continue to make a heavenly
a land of sheep and goats. Cows
turn it into yogurt. The shepherd
yogurt in wooden receptacles,
were animals of labor, used to till
would simply add a little yogurt
called tsanaka. Although not
the land and draw heavy loads, and
from the last batch as starter to
strained, the yogurt is thick and
rarely reared for milk. Sheep and
the fresh milk. He would keep the
very flavorful because the milk is
goats provided most of the milk
containers covered and warm,
boiled long enough to condense it.
Greeks consumed. Yogurt was
probably in the room where he
Another common way to preserve
always made with sheep's milk and
made his cheese. When people
the starter was to dip a cheese
was seasonal, produced from late
began boiling the milk that was
cloth in the yogurt, then dry it and
fall to early June.
used to make yogurt, they knew
carefully preserve it until the next
There were two reasons for the
they had to wait until it cooled
season.
seasonal production. Sheep pro-
back down to “sheep” temperature
In most other parts of Greece the
duce milk from the moment they
before adding the starter.
yogurt was set in terracotta bowls
lamb until the summer, when the
Yogurt, the quintessential shep-
glazed on the inside, still a popular
heat and the shortness of plants to
herd's product, was a specialty of
way to set yogurt today, and with
graze on naturally will condition
the itinerant shepherds' tribes that
good reason: The ceramic bowls
them to dry up. The heat of a Greek
roamed much of Greece. In the
are porous, thus enabling the whey
summer was never ideal for dairy
mountains of Epirus in Northern
(water content) to leak out slowly,
production. Yogurt needs to be
Greece, the Vlachs, for example,
beading up on the sides of the
kept cool once it is set, and until
were a pastoral people with a
bowl. By losing water, the yogurt
the 1950's refrigeration was rare
strong tradition of cheese making.
gets thicker, and the natural
outside cities. The storage cellars,
They made yogurt in wooden tubs.
sweating evaporates and cools the
cool enough from fall to spring,
The wood was permeable enough
yogurt. In the cellar, the yogurt
loose their chill in the summer.
to store traces of the lactic acid
continues to ferment. As it ages it
Yogurt was made immediately
bacteria, which were moistened
thickens and sours, which helps
25 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
extend its preservation.
tle taverna, the cleanest lamb
used as a condiment, stirred with
Temperature and timing are the
chops, the most fragrant retsina.
shredded cucumbers and garlic to
secrets to making great yogurt.
We visited old churches and ancient
make the well-known dip tzatziki,
The milk has to be in’oculated at a
ruins. But there was a small num-
or spooned onto savory squash and
precise degree of heat, and then
ber of food staples—country bread,
cornmeal pies, a tradition in
has to sit, unmoved, in a precisely
oranges, pistachios, and yogurt—
Greece's northern mountain
heated room (an incubator) for a
that ruled our weekend destina-
regions. In some areas it is even
specific amount of time. Finally it
tions. In my family's mind they did
served as a cool summer soup.
has to be quickly chilled.
not belong in the category of luxu-
Swirled with honey or spoon
The yogurt maker has to be exact-
ries, but in the category of essen-
sweets, yogurt is divine. Strained
ing in his technique. Fudge it, and
tials, hence it was perfectly accept-
sheep's milk yogurt was rare, and
the yogurt will be too runny or too
able to plan our weekend outings
used in lieu of cream in desserts
sour.
around the visit to the baker (he
sush as roasted caramelized quince,
baked in a wood-fired oven), the
or as a pudding with honey and wal-
GREAT WITH EVERY MEAL
orange seller (he sold the juiciest
nuts. A more regular treat, still a
Sheep's milk is far richer in protein
oranges out of his pick-up), and the
favorite with children today, is
and fat than either cows’ or goats’
best yogurt maker in Attica. Every
“yogurt skin,” scraped off the top of
milk. The yogurt it produces is
Sunday night my Dad ate bread and
the yogurt and sprinkled with sugar.
dense, creamy, flavorful. I asked
yogurt for supper, his eyes beaming
Sotiris Kitrilakis, a renowned Feta
as he reveled in the flavors that
STRAINING FOR TASTE
expert and advocate of Greek arti-
took him back to his boyhood. This,
In Europe, the health benefits of
sanal foods, how we Greeks tradi-
he never failed to say, was the best
yogurt were acknowledged early
tionally eat yogurt, and he gave me
of all meals.
last century, and yogurt produc-
a perplexed look. “But with bread,
In Greece, yogurt is an addition to
tion in the West catapulted into a
of course!” he answered, and at
every meal: scooped over rice pilaf,
huge industry. The large yogurt
that moment I remembered my
dolloped in tomato sauce; served
dairies in Western Europe are
father.
with stewed and fried vegetables,
defined by two factors: They make
Growing up, my family wasn't fully
meatballs, and grilled meats. It is
yogurt with cows’ milk, and they
attuned to the pleasures of good
used as a sauce, baked over chicken
add fruit and fruit preserves. Cows’
food. We did not scour the Greek
and certain beef dishes until it sets
milk yogurt is thin in texture and
countryside in search of the best lit-
and thickens like béchamel. It is
can be very acidic. Adding sweet-
Daphne Zepos is an internationally known
cheese expert, judge, and consultant. She is
head of the affinage program at Artisanal
Premium Cheese.
26 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
ened and preserved fruit makes the
dense, creamy mass which has lost
cheesecloth. They strain the yogurt
yogurt richer in texture and erases
most of its sourness with the
centrifugally, a more efficient,
the sour flavor. Yogurt has become
whey. Strained yogurt became
automated practice.
synonymous with a healthy, sweet
more and more popular after the
We Greeks have taken to strained
snack.
Second World War. Large modern
cows’ milk yogurt. Greek-style
In Greece, the dairy industry has
dairies devoted entire rooms to
strained yogurt has recently
also adopted the use of cow's milk
yogurt draining; Cheese cloths
exploded in the U.S. and European
which is plentiful and produced
bulging with yogurt would hang
markets. American chefs and cooks
year round. But instead of sweet-
from the ceiling, dripping the
don't restrict it to Greek or
ening the sour and thin yogurt, we
green-yellow whey into plastic
Mediterranean cuisines. It appears
use a time-old technique: We
drums. Today the titans of the
everywhere, a beautiful re-incarna-
strain it. The result is astounding: a
dairy industry no longer use
tion of a stellar ancient food.
There are many varieties of Greek yogurt, each with
its own texture and flavor. From left to right:
strained Greek yogurt; sheep's milk yogurt made in
clay; cow's milk yogurt.
27 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Because of the unique flavor and
small producer in Almyro, near
much more piquant, so much high-
texture of Greek yogurt, more and
Volos, in Thessaly. Michael Dotson,
er in acidity.” Karatassos also
more chefs outside Greece are
an American chef who heads the
speaks of the “rich and creamy fla-
using it in their kitchens.
kitchen at Evia, a Greek restaurant
vor and great acidity” of Greek
Some, like Panos Karatassos, chef-
in Palo Alto, California, came to
yogurt, and says that he uses the
owner of Kyma restaurant in
know Greek yogurt as an adult, but
“stick-to-your-spoon” variety.
Atlanta, Georgia, recalls his father,
has been using it regularly in his
Yogurt, despite its pastoral roots
also a chef, swirling Greek yogurt
kitchen for the last four years,
and longstanding link to the tradi-
into rice pilafs, a combination that
lauding the thickness and lemony
tional Greek table, is a surprisingly
he still finds attractive enough to
tang that add another dimension
versatile ingredient in the modern
use on his menu today. Theodore
to so many foods.
kitchen. “I use it instead of butter,
Kyriakou, chef-owner of London's
That tang is one of Greek yogurt's
sour cream, or crème fraiche,” says
renowned restaurant, The Real
most endearing characteristics.
Kyriakou. “It's much more suitable
Greek, also has childhood memo-
“It's so much more interesting than
in garnishes typically finished with
ries of eating yogurt, which his
other yogurts,” says Michael
butter or crème fraiche, especially
father made daily to sell in the
Psilakis, chef-owner of Oneira in
when paired with seafood, chick-
family delicatessen. Today, he
New York City. “Because most of it
en, or lamb.”
seeks out Greek yogurt from a
is made with sheep's milk, it's so
Dotson agrees: “The best way to
28 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
think about Greek yogurt is to
sweet, a preserve, and serves that
lower temperatures. If you want to
think about it in terms of crème
with roasted, salted walnuts.
cook with it at higher tempera-
fraiche, sour cream, or heavy
“Yogurt is an amazing addition to
tures, use Greek yogurt with less
cream. A world of possibilities
breads and works very well with
than 10% fat.” Karatassos, too, says
comes to mind. I use it to finish
liquidized fresh fruit or even cham-
that strained yogurt doesn't react
sauces, for a little acidity, or to
pagne and a dash of vissinada
as well to heat as non-strained. “If
enrich a sauce. I also use it a lot as
[sour cherry syrup].”
you want to mix it into a warm
sauce or a vinaigrette, use regular
a garnish for soups and stews,
sometimes infusing it with a little
A FEW TIPS:
Greek yogurt. The strained kind
savory flavor.
Strained yogurt normally breaks
tends to lump or turns grainy. It
Kyriakou says he uses yogurt as a
apart if heated to over 60 degrees
does, however, add great flavor.”
marinade, especially for meat, just
Celsius, notes Kyriakou. Some
If it does break apart, there is no
before grilling it. He whisks an egg
chefs, such as Evia's Dotson, tem-
need to panic. “Just tip the split
into three tablespoons of Greek
per it, mixing a little hot liquid into
yogurt into a mixing bowl, whisk it
yogurt, pours it over the meat
it before adding it to a simmering
with a few spoonfuls of cold Greek
before roasting, and ends up with
sauce. Kyriakou uses a different
yogurt, and when both are amal-
“a very clean, new flavor.” He also
technique: “You don't need to sta-
gamated pour them over the
mixes it with Greek tomato spoon
bilize it. Just cook it for longer at
cooked ingredients,” notes Psillakis.
By Diane Kochilas
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Tina Webb
Chefs Talk:
Four International
Chefs Cook with
Greek Yogurt
29 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Artichoke and Yogurt Salad
Theodore Kyriakou, The Real Greek, London, England
12 globe artichokes
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) red onions, peeled and grated
200 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
Flaked sea salt and black pepper to taste
500gr. (2 ½ cups) strained Greek yoghurt
1 bunch dill, chopped very finely
1. To prepare the artichokes, cut off
stops them oxidizing and going
them aside. Bring the liquid to the
the stem to leave about 3cm (1 1/3
brown.
boiling point and reduce by 70 per-
inch), and then peel the stem. Take off
2. In a heavy bottomed casserole,
cent, or until you have approximately
the outer two rings of leaves and slice
sauté the onions in the olive oil, add
150ml of water. Let the water cool
the artichokes across to separate the
the artichokes, enough water to cover
down and whisk the yogurt into the
base from the leaves. Trim it back to
them, and some salt. Place a large
water. Pour it over the artichokes and
reveal the hairy 'choke' in the center of
plate on the top of the artichokes so
sprinkle on the top the chopped dill.
the bud. Remove this carefully with a
to keep them submerged and bring the
teaspoon. Each artichoke must be
water to the simmering point. Simmer
Serve it at room temperature as a
rubbed over with half a lemon, and
for approximately 30 minutes. When
salad or with a leftover of cold
then kept in water that has had lemon
the artichokes are ready, remove them
meat(s) and grilled sourdough bread.
juice added to it. The acidulated water
with a perforated spoon and keep
30 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Sea Urchin Tzatziki
Kerasma recipes with yogurt
Michael Psilakis, Oneira Restaurant, New York City
2 cups Greek yogurt, strained in a cheese cloth overnight
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
180 gr. (6 oz) sea urchin
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine yogurt, vinegar, and sea
2. Add cucumber, garlic, shallots, dill
Note: Use vinegar to thin the mixture
urchin in a food processor and puree
and combine. Add salt and pepper to
to your preferred consistency
until smooth. Pass through a strainer
taste and refrigerate for 1 hour and
to make sure mixture is very smooth.
then serve.
This sauce is an excellent accompaniment to grilled shrimp or almondcrusted prawns
31 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Greek Yogurt Gnocchi with Wild Boar, Preserved Sour
Orange, and Snap Peas
Kerasma recipes with yogurt
Michael Dotson, Evia Restaurant, Palo Alto, CA
Serves 8
40 yogurt gnocchi (see recipe below)
750 gr. (24 ounces braised) boar (see recipe below)
26 ounces braising juices
3 tsp. fine short julienne of preserved orange (preserved lemon may
be substituted)
180 gr. (6 ounces) blanched snap peas cut in half on bias
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley for garnish
2 Tbsp. Greek extra virgin olive oil
1. In sauté pan warm all ingredients
2. Heat gnocchi in a separate pot of
3. Check seasoning, spoon mixture
except gnocchi until braising juices
simmering salted water, add to pan
into individual bowls or onto large
are reduced by 25 percent.
and gently toss to coat.
platter to serve family style, and garnish with parsley.
For Boar:
1.2 kilos (2.5 pounds) wild or
farm-raised boar
Cure:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup dried thyme
1 Tbsp. fennel pollen or ground
fennel
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
Braise:
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced leeks
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
8 cracked garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. peppercorns
1/2 bunch thyme
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 cup Mavrodaphne wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
8 cups veal stock
Sea salt
1. Mix the cure ingredients well and
4. Wipe out pan and sweat all vegeta-
5. Cover with foil and braise oven
keep in an air tight container.
bles and bay leaf in 3-tablespoons.
3000F / 1490c until tender.
2. Season boar liberally on all sides
olive oil until soft.
Remove boar strain juices twice and
with cure mix four hours before begin-
Add Mavrodaphne, reduce by half, and
proceed with recipe or pour juices over
ning recipe.
add remaining ingredients.
boar and can be kept for 1-2 days.
3. In a large pan sear boar on all sides
Bring to a simmer, skim any scum,
and place in a deep braising pan.
season and pour over boar.
32 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
For Yogurt Gnocchi:
2 cups whole milk yogurt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. melted butter or Greek extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated graviera cheese
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
½ cup flour plus additional for shaping gnocchi
Sea salt to taste
1. Place yogurt in bowl and beat in
gnocchi floats cook an additional 2-3
sprinkle with additional flour. Cut
eggs. Season, and mix butter, cheese
minutes then transfer to plate and driz-
gnocchi's into one inch lengths and
and nutmeg in very well. Fold in flour,
zle with olive oil. If gnocchi doesn't
transfer very carefully with a fork to a
check seasoning, and let rest 1 hour
hold, mix in a little more flour, let rest
lightly floured cooking sheet. Cook in
before proceeding so flour has time to
and place in pastry bag. Spread flour on
batches of 12 in simmering water in the
be absorbed.
a cookie sheet to come up about 1 ½ cm
same way as the test gnocchi. This can
2. Test by dropping a small spoonful of
(1/2 inch) and pipe 12 inch ropes about
be done a day before if wrapped well
mix into simmering salted water. When
2-cm (1/4-inch) thick on flour and
and stored in the refrigerator.
33 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Spicy Lamb Exohiko
Kerasma recipes with yogurt
Panos Karatassos, Kyma Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia
Yield: 6 servings
Braised Leg of Lamb
340 gr. (1 1/4 pounds) leg of lamb
Greek extra virgin olive oil as needed
Greek oregano and fresh thyme to taste
½ cup thinly sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Exohiko Farci
150 gr. (1/3 pound) braised leg of lamb
Oregano and thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ cup thinly sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
30 ml (1.2 ounces) lamb cuisson
10 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
250 gr. (1/2 pound) Greek kefalograviera cheese, cut in 3/4-cm (1/4inch) dice
Phyllo dough, defrosted and at room temperature
Clarified butter as needed
1. Trim the fat off the leg of lamb. Rub
3. For the farci: Caramelize the onions
down. Add the cheese to the farci and
with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano,
and garlic and hold on the side. Pull
mix well. Roll the mixture into two
and thyme. In a skillet over low heat,
the leg of lamb into bite-size pieces.
layers of phyllo, making sure to brush
pour in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and
Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and
each layer with clarified butter. Bake
caramelize the onions and garlic. Cool
thyme and dust with flour. Heat 3
until crisp and golden. Let cool and
down and rub all over the lamb.
tablespoons oil in a sauté pan until
cut when warm into serving pieces.
2. Wrap the leg of lamb tightly in plas-
hot and add the meat. Crisp. Add the
tic wrap. It needs to be air tight.
lamb cuisson, reduce, and emulsify
Braise at 85 degrees C (185 degrees F)
with the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the
for about 10 hours until tender.
onions and garlic, mix well, and cool
34 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Asparagus is the ultimate harbinger of Spring. It grows all winter long under a cold, often frozen, nest of dark, damp earth,
absorbing the soil's nutrients with zeal. As though sensing the
weather's moods, it waits for the right moment to appear. If
the weather is favorable and warm days come early, it sprouts
quickly and gains height up to one span a day.
Spears
of Desire
By Orestes Davias
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Dawn Brown,
Paola Lakah, Tina Webb
Greek Asparagus
Rising
37 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
It's on those spring days that the
sorted by length and thickness.
pan-fried omelets or is put up in
harvest is at a frenzy. Greek aspara-
In Greece, both wild and cultivated
brine and served with a drizzling of
gus farmers work with special
asparagus are valuable springtime
Greek extra-virgin olive oil.
knives, which look like chisels, cut-
vegetables, but for different rea-
The cultivated variety, on the con-
ting the tender shoots every three
sons. Wild asparagus is an object of
trary, doesn't claim a great place in
days. As the weather warms up,
desire among nature-loving gour-
traditional Greek cooking,
they harvest the shoots, every day.
mands, who will drive hours to
although contemporary Greek
The delicate nature of asparagus
spend an afternoon foraging for
chefs love to use it. They add it to
demands gentle but quick han-
the thin, long stalks. Wild aspara-
soups, combining it with delicate
dling. The vegetable is one of the
gus is mainly savored in baked and
seafood, citrus, ubiquitously great
most vulnerable in the world. It
becomes woody and tough after
just a day at room temperature or
a few hour's exposure to light or
VITAL STATS FOR GREEK ASPARAGUS
15
Number of prefectures in which asparagus is cultivated
43,000
Cultivated hectares
arid conditions. So, as soon as it is
24,000
Tons culativated in 2005
harvested, it is sent off to be
7,500
Tons, accounts for single largest regional production, in Giannitsa
processed and packed, usually in
95
Percent of Greek asparagus that is white
cardboard crates, which help main-
65
Percent of production exported in 2003
tain the moisture necessary to
95
Percent of production exported in 2005*
keep asparagus fresh. Before being
55
Percent of asparagus on German market that is cultivated in Greece
packed, the shoots are washed and
* From the XI International Asparagus Symposium and the Greek Ministry of Agriculture
Greek tinned white asparagus (this page); fresh green asparagus (opposite page).
Asparagus has for
much of its long history been a prized
vegetable
38 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Greek olive oil, sepia ink, and vari-
asparagus. In all these areas fertile
European countries, especially
ous delicate Greek cheeses, among
soil and cool, damp climate work
Germany, Belgium, and France
other things. But it's most impor-
together to make conditions par-
while the English and Italians show
tant place in contemporary Greek
ticularly conducive for asparagus
a preference for the green varieties
life is as a prized agricultural
farming. The industry is also
that Greece produces.
export. In fact, only a small per-
advanced in these areas, with
A sizeable part of Greek asparagus
centage of the Greek harvest ends
state-of-the-art processing plants
production ends up as frozen pro-
up at Greek grocers. Northern
near growing areas, to ensure
duce. Stalks that are less than per-
Europeans in particular, as well as
quick and efficient packing.
fect, either crooked or broken for
the English and Italians, value the
There are three main varieties of
example, are canned, after first
superior taste of Greek asparagus.
Greek asparagus that are commer-
being trimmed. The fresh shoots, of
It is mainly a crop of the North;
cially important: green asparagus,
course, are the most esteemed in
asparagus flourishes in cool cli-
which has a robust flavor thanks to
both the export markets and at
mates. The small town of
its abundant chlorophyll; white
home. Peak season for asparagus in
Galatades, in Verroia, and
asparagus, which gets its color by
Greece is between March and May.
Giannitsa in Macedonia; Tychero in
being kept hidden from the sun—it
Asparagus, thought to be native to
Evros, and certain villages around
is covered with soil as it grows; and
the Eastern Mediterranean, has for
Kavala, both in Thrace (northeast-
another white variety that is
much of its long history been a
ern Greece); and Agrinio, on the
tinged with a purplish-blue hue.
prized vegetable. The Egyptians
western part of the mainland, are
There is a thriving market for Greek
thought it worthy enough to serve
all known for the quality of their
white asparagus among northern
as an offering to their gods. In
39 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
ancient Greece, some varieties
to eat them to this day), and
and have always made the veg-
were known and mentioned by
Augustus apparently knew how
etable pricey.
Atheneus, in his work The
they should be cooked, quickly to
But asparagus is a prize, not only
Deipnosophists and by
preserve their crispy texture. The
for gourmands but for nutrition-
Theophrastus in his Enquiry into
French, too, embraced asparagus,
minded consumers, too. It is low in
Plants. It was eaten mostly as an
so much so that under the reign of
calories—about 22 calories per 100
appetizer, according to the British
Louis XIV, who wanted asparagus
grams (3 ounces)—extremely low
classicist Andrew Dalby in his book,
all year round on his royal table,
in fat, with no cholesterol to speak
Siren Feasts. The Romans were
the botanist Jean de la Quintinie
of, and yet high in proteins, fiber,
probably the first to cultivate it.
developed a method for growing
and minerals. It has long been
They procured most of it from their
them in hotbeds.
known for its therapeutic attrib-
colonies in the Eastern
In Greece, although asparagus has
utes, too. The ancient Greeks
Mediterranean, but when demand
been known for millennia and
believed it cured all internal ail-
outgrew supply they began to
despite the fact that today the
ments. It is known to aid indiges-
grow it themselves. It was such a
spears are an important agricultur-
tion, temper high blood pressure,
luxury item, in fact, that a thriving
al product, large-scale cultivation
and help arteriosclerosis. They say
black market sprouted and flour-
didn't begin until about 1960.
that those with gout and rheuma-
ished until the 4th century AD. The
Asparagus demands large invest-
tism should savor the spears in
Roman emperor Diocletian made
ment and it requires patience to
moderation.
the penalties for black marketeer-
grow. The first harvest takes three
One of its greatest attributes,
ing asparagus so austere, that he
years to materialize. Asparagus is
though, and one acclaimed from
effectively eliminated the illegal
also hard on the soil, absorbing so
earliest times, grew out of the
trade. Emperors across the ages
many nutrients that in a few years'
asparagus' suggestive shape and
seem to have hankered after the
time fields are virtually stripped
the speed and manner with which
delicate spears. Julius Caesar first
and need to lie fallow for a decade
it sprouts, upright and stiff. It has
tasted them in Lombardy, served
in order to be replenished. These
long been considered an aphrodisi-
with melted butter (a favored way
are among the factors that make
ac, a spear, so to speak, of passion.
40 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Roasted Asparagus Sprinkled with Feta, Olive Oil and Dill
Yield: 6 servings
1 kilo (2 pounds) asparagus, trimmed
3 Tbsp. Greek extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp. pink peppercorns, crushed slightly in a mortar
2 tsp. snipped fresh dill
½ cup crumbled Feta
1 tsp. fresh strained lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 220C (500F).
utes. Shake the pan once about
olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over the
2. Toss the asparagus with 2 Tbsp.
halfway through roasting, to keep the
asparagus, sprinkle the pink pepper-
olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in a
asparagus from burning.
corns, feta, and dill on top, and serve,
large shallow baking pan in one layer
3. Remove and transfer to a serving
garnished if desired with a wedge of
and roast until tender, abut 10-15 min-
plate. Whisk together the remaining
lemon.
42 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
White Asparagus with Kalamata Olives and Fennel
Kerasma recipes with asparagus
6 Tbsp. Greek extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tsp. fresh strained lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh strained orange juice
½ tsp. crushed fennel seeds
½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 wrinkled black Greek olives, pitted and minced
4 shelled walnuts, finely chopped
2 tsp. chopped fresh chives for garnish
2 pounds white Greek asparagus*
1. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar,
3. Remove and drain. Pat dry. Arrange
* You can do this with Greek canned
lemon juice, fennel seeds, orange zest,
on a platter or individual serving dish-
asparagus, too. Remove from tin,
salt, and pepper.
es, sprinkle with the chopped olives
rinse, and drain well. Prepare the
2. Place the asparagus on a steamer
and walnuts, and drizzle with the
dressing as above and serve in the
rack in a deep pot and steam, covered,
dressing. Serve immediately.
same manner.
for about 10 minutes, until tender.
43 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Grilled or roasted, the famed red peppers of Florina, in
Northern Greece, impart a wonderful, sweet fragrance, one of
the telltale signs of the rustic cooking of Macedonia. Their
robust flavor, ruby-red color, and glossy sheen make them one
of the most renowned local products. Their perfume floods the
market every September and October. Mountains of long red
peppers inundate Greek supermarkets, both in the environs of
Florina and afar, from one corner of the country to the other.
By Orestes Davias
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Northern Greece's
Crimson King:
The Sweet,
Red Florina Pepper
45 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The cultivation of peppers has a
greengrocers and at farmers' mar-
One of the best local dishes made
long history in Northern Greece. As
kets. It didn't take long for the pep-
with rehydrated red Florina pep-
far back as the Ottoman presence,
per to acquire national recognition
pers calls for stuffing them with
regions within Macedonia were
all over Greece.
rice and herbs. In the days before
well-known for the quality of their
Over time, more lucrative crops
refrigeration and food industry
peppers. Whole villages were devot-
lured Florina's farmers away from
production levels, such a stuffed
ed to the cultivation solely of hot
the region's eponymous pepper,
red pepper was one small way local
peppers; others concentrated on
however. Despite the regional
cooks brought a bit of summer's
growing the sweet varieties. Sweet
association, most of Greece's
bright warmth into the cold, blus-
and hot peppers were never plant-
piperies Florinis, as the Florina pep-
tery days of a typical Macedonian
ed in the same fields because they
pers are known, come from other
winter. It was often used in rich
cross-pollinate easily. Preserving
regions within Macedonia and
braises and stews, with veal, beef,
the variety's integrity has always
Thrace: Serres, Drama, and
rabbit and all manner of freshwa-
been important. Up until the 1960s,
Komotini are the real Florina-pep-
ter fish and shellfish culled from
in fact, specific areas within
per capitals today. In Florina itself,
local rivers and lakes.
Macedonia were lauded for the
a large, bustling town that acts as
Ironically, raw Florina peppers have
quality of their peppers. One such
a hub for the farmland that sur-
a very subtle, almost bland, flavor.
region, Aridea, known as Karatzova
rounds the city, most peppers are
It is no surprise, then, that the pep-
until the early part of the 20th cen-
planted more for nostalgic reasons
pers are seldom savored raw.
tury, is still renowned for its long,
or personal consumption, rather
Instead they are either fried—one
thin, bright red hot pepper. There is
than commercial importance.
of the best-known local dishes all
even a town within the municipali-
But farther to the East, in the
over northern Greece calls for fry-
ty called Piperia—Pepper.
regions mentioned above, the pep-
ing them and serving them with a
The sweet, red pepper of Florina
per business is in full glory. For a
little extra-virgin olive oil and red-
with its inebriating aroma, was
frenetic three or so weeks every
wine vinegar—stuffed and pickled,
probably first cultivated in the
September, northern Greek farm-
or grilled. One traditional pantry
region, which lies west of
ers fill crates and sacs in seemingly
item in northern Greek kitchens is
Thessaloniki along a large lake,
endless supply, making sure to get
a home-made stuffed red pepper,
sometime in the 1930s, about the
their colorful crop into every last
filled with shredded cabbage, car-
same time that an experimental
corner of Greece. The Florina pep-
rots, parsley and herbs and put up
nursery in the area began test
per is unusually sturdy despite its
in heady Greek wine vinegar.
planting various pepper varieties.
thin skin and ships well.
But it's when the pepper meets the
Local botanists improved the vari-
At least some farmers and local
grill, that its true aromatic poten-
ety for size and flavor. Cultivation
cooks uphold the traditional ways
tial develops. It's no surprise that
was hampered during World War II,
of yore, stringing the peppers up
grilled red peppers are a local spe-
but beginning in the 1950s again
garland-style and sun-drying them.
cialty in almost every northern
the region embraced its pepper
It's common to see strands of pep-
Greek taverna, and no surprise that
with newfound interest. Large-
pers dangling from balconies and
the grilled pepper has won the
scale cultivation made the pepper
balustrades in village homes and
hearts and minds of the food
commercially viable and important.
tavernas alike. To savor the sun-
industry. In 2005, grilled red pep-
Local farmers and wholesalers
dried, traditional pepper requires a
pers, preserved in either olive oil or
would load up their trucks and sell
little patience. They simply need to
brine, topped 5,000 tons. About
the peppers all over Macedonia, to
be reconstituted in a little water.
40 percent is consumed locally,
46 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
within Greece, but the pepper,
pepper's potential. Taking their cue
the Piperia Florini is preserved in
with its excellent texture, heady
from some local preparations,
Greece's excellent extra-virgin olive
aroma and innate versatility is an
there is a whole array of red pepper
oil, flavored with whole pepper-
important export, too. About
sauces and tapenades, sometimes
corns, bay leaf, basil, and other
3,000 tons, were exported in 2005
mixed with other vegetables,
fresh and dried herbs. The roasted
alone. Greek food manufacturers
sometimes with cheeses such as
pepper is so flavorful it inspires all
seem particularly enamored of the
feta or manouri. Whole and grilled,
sorts of preparations.
Orestes Davias is a biologist whose life has always been ruled by the plant kingdom.
Red Florina peppers in all their glory (clockwise):
roasted, in olive oil; roasted red pepper tapenade;
stuffed; fresh red Florina peppers.
47 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Greece has the potential to become one of the world's leading
wine-producing countries. Most Greek producers agree that
the best way to move ahead is not by mimicking the wine
styles of other successful countries, but by exploiting the possibilities of Greece's indigenous grapes. Quite a few native vines
are capable of greatness, of producing wines with a purity of
character that could only be Greek. One of these is the
Xinomavro grape of Northern Greece.
Xinomavro
a Diva in the Vineyard
and in the Glass
By Konstantinos Lazarakis, MW
Photography: Constantinos Pittas
48 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The Xinomavro variety is one of the
great red Burgundies, or to the
Sauvignons or Syrah/Shirazes pro-
great divas of the Greek vineyard. It
Italian Nebbiolo grape and its
duced around the world. On the
is capricious, demanding, and diffi-
benchmark wines of Barolo and
globalized palate, if a red wine is
cult to deal with, both in the vine-
Barbaresco. Like Xinomavro, none
very dark, indeed opaque, intense
yard and in the winery. The style of
of these varieties is appropriate for
on the nose with bright, sweet-
most traditional Xinomavros con-
making large-volume, everyday
fruit aromas and loads of buttery
tradicts the current international
wines. Attempts to do so usually
new oak, and full, ultra-rich,
image of what a modern, commer-
result in featherweight, character-
extracted but velvety on the
cial wine with wide general appeal
less wines that range anywhere
palate, then it must be good.
should be. However, bucking the
from charming, to easily quaffable,
Modern-style wines dictate that
trend is part of Xinomavro's
boring, thin, and aggressive. But
power, opulence, and high alcohol
charms. The grape is capable of
the best examples are unquestion-
are desirable, while low-key finesse
producing wines of stunning char-
ably among the top wines of the
and high acidity should be dispar-
acter and individuality and extraor-
world.
aged.
Xinomavro wines offer a fascinat-
dinary complexity, with a seamless
combination of intense extract and
ANTIDOTE TO GLOBAL TASTES
ing antidote to this homogeneity.
sheer finesse.
Nowadays consumers are attract-
Xinomavro is tremendously prom-
One could compare Xinomavro to
ed by a certain style of red wine
ising, but it takes effort to realize
the more famous Pinot Noir, to the
expressed in the many Cabernet
the grape's potential. As a vine,
50 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Xinomavro forces the grower to
that figure in order to yield grapes
primary flavors are expressed.
adapt to its requirements, rather
with good sugar levels and expres-
For example, as with Pinot Noir,
than the other way around. It
sive aromas tied with ripe tannins.
more and more producers are trying cold-soaking the grape-skins
requires specific soils, climates,
and cultivation techniques in order
VINIFICATION TECHNIQUES
with the juice before the start of
to achieve proper ripeness at har-
Ripeness and tannin levels are key
the alcoholic fermentation. At this
vest time. The vine's age is particu-
factors when vinifying Xinomavro.
stage, water is the main extracting
larly important, as is its clonal
This variety has an angular and
agent. This process means not
selection. Some of Greece's bright-
firm tannin profile that can be
extending the maceration on skins
est viticultural minds have been
aggressive if not handled properly.
after the end of the fermentation,
working on identifying promising
Xinomavro's color can be low, with
when alcohol is the far less selec-
Xinomavro clones and have
a tendency toward browning.
tive extraction force. Xinomavro's
achieved a number of outstanding
Oenologists are studying the par-
complexity can be underpinned by
results. Finally, the plant responds
ticulars of Xinomavro and conse-
some elegant notes, but excessive
very badly to high yields. While
quently creating “Xinomavro-spe-
amounts of new oak can destroy
Merlot in Greece can produce per-
cific” winemaking practices that
the grape's character. Many pro-
fectly acceptable fruit, whilst pro-
allow winemakers to extract color
ducers now are working with more
ducing 12 tons per hectare,
without adding harshness and
pungent American oak barrels
Xinomavro must go below half
have more refinement in the way
rather than the more widespread
51 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
and subtle French oak. A blend of
firm tannin structure, giving more
produces the most age-worthy
the two maturation techniques
extract and density than body and
Greek dry reds. Many bottlings
gives stunning results.
broadness.
develop for at least five years, good
For some, Xinomavro can be too
examples need more than a decade
XINOMAVRO WITH FOOD
angular, but, in fact, it is the ulti-
to reach their peak, while 30-plus-
Xinomavro wines almost never
mate food wine. It is present but
year-old wines are superlative.
have very deep color or bluish
never cloying on the palate and the
tints, and tawny hues are appar-
interplay of the flavors of food and
FOUR APPELLATION REGIONS
ent, even when the wine is still in
wine, or protein and tannin, can be
Xinomavro is the major red grape
barrel. The nose is usually intense,
fantastic. The tomato and prune
variety of Northern Greece and,
even high-pitched, although bottle
aromas and flavors complement
together with the Agiorgitiko of
aging couples these “soprano”
many dishes with tomato sauce,
Peloponnese, the undisputed
notes with more “contrabass
such as the Greek soutzoukakia
large-acreage quality leader in
phrases.” One of the criticisms
(meatballs in a sauce) or even
Greek red wines. Greek wine legis-
often heard about the Xinomavro
pasta with tomato sauces. The
lation acknowledges the variety's
variety is that it lacks vibrant,
high acidity and firm tannins make
supremacy. Xinomavro is included
fresh, sweet-fruit notes, and leans
Xinomavro incompatible with salty
in four appellations; only the sweet
instead more towards dried prune,
foods but work beautifully with
wine appellations dedicated to the
cherry-tomato, and very often
high-acid dishes, for example, pork
Muscat varieties exceed that num-
strawberry facets. But why should
with lemon sauce. The acidity and
ber. The four Xinomavro O.P.A.P.s
anyone miss the fruit when there is
tannins in Xinomavro cut through
(Onomasia Proelefseos Anoteras
so much more going on in the
the oiliness and fat of certain
Piotitas, or Appellation of Origin of
wine? Sweet, exotic spices and
meats, especially lamb. One could
Superior Quality, which is the
finely powdered Mediterranean
even go as far as matching the
equivalent of the V.D.Q.S. in
herbs are matched with haunting
lighter versions of Xinomavro with
France) are, from north to south:
nuances of leather and wet earth.
oily and rich fishes, especially tuna.
Goumenissa, Amyntaion,
The palate has a crisp acidity and a
Most of all, Xinomavro arguably
Naoussa and Rapsani.
52 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
53 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Goumenissa is located 50 kilome-
where cool weather frequently hin-
the flavor profile of the variety sur-
ters north of Thessaloniki and 20
ders grape maturation. Xinomavro
prisingly intact.
kilometers west of the town of
is allowed to shine alone in this
Goumenissa, Amyntaion, and
Kilkis. Despite being the northern-
region, and Amyntaion's wines dis-
Rapsani to the south notwith-
most appellation, Goumenissa is
play many of the variety's different
standing, the region most closely
markedly warmer than Amyntaion
faces. The region's individual spe-
associated with Xinomavro is
or Naoussa. Sheltered by moun-
cialty is its range of rose wines,
Naoussa. Naoussa is located in the
tains from west, north and east,
which are produced in still, semi-
prefecture of Imathia, about 50
and at a low average altitude, the
sparkling, and sparkling wines, all
kilometers west of Thessaloniki. It
entire region enjoys the temperate
of them perfect for summer drink-
is less that 40 kilometers away
influence of the Aegean.
ing or as meze accompaniments.
from Amyntaion, but the combina-
Xinomavro is here blended with the
The region's reds tend to be lighter
tion of lower altitudes, mainly
Negoska variety; by law, the
than those of Naoussa because of
between 200 and 450 meters, and
region's O.P.A.P wine has to con-
cooler climate. Wines from these
south-east facing slopes, creates a
tain at least 20% Negoska.
two appellations find a compara-
much more forgiving climate.
Negoska counterbalances some of
tive parallel in the slightly more
Xinomavro is the sole king of the
its partner's weaknesses: It has
elegant red Burgundies from Côte
red-wine-only Naoussa appella-
soft tannins, and only moderate
de Beaune and the more powerful
tion, producing wines full of breed,
acidity. Many growers suggest that
Pinot Noirs of the Côte de Nuits.
with a firm tannin and acidity
it contributes a higher level of fruit,
However, quite a few producers in
framework, and an intense aro-
adding slightly raisiny notes.
Amyntaion are now moving to a
matic presence, full of ripe toma-
Goumenissa wines display more
more extracted style, which keeps
toes, complex herbs, and graceful
power on the nose and broadness
the finesse but exhibits a denser
red fruits, such as strawberries,
on the palate, while most Naoussa
palate structure.
blueberries, and currants.
wines are more elegant and leaner.
Not all of Amyntaion's wines are
Naoussa's wineries embrace every
Amyntaion is the coolest O.P.A.P.
legally eligible to carry the region's
wine-making philosophy and pro-
in Greece, with most parts of the
appellation. For example, there are
duce a full range of styles, from the
area exceeding the 600 meter
some excellent, non-OPAP Blanc de
traditional to the modern, the lat-
(1,800 ft.) altitude mark. It is possi-
Noirs that are fresh on the nose
ter often characterized by a notice-
bly the only place in the country
and crisp on the palate, yet with
able new-oak influence. There are
54 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
56 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
winemakers who concentrate on
wine community will need some
warmer climate of Rapsani trans-
making good, light, fresh, everyday
years to identify the region's possi-
forms the character of Xinomavro,
wines, and others who make wines
ble Grand Cru areas.
preserving the basic aromatic ele-
meant to last decades. Naoussa's
The final appellation that includes
ments but providing a far
local wine culture has a healthy
Xinomavro in its varietal make-up
smoother tannin structure and
infrastructure. The region boasts
is Rapsani, the grape's southern-
lower levels of acidity. The resulting
large producers who make great-
most growing region and poten-
wines easily could appeal to the
value wines, medium-size wineries
tially its most important because it
average Merlot lover. However,
that focus on higher price points,
is located in the foothills of Mt.
Rapsani wines have a great affinity
and boutique growers who exploit
Olympus, a place name with
for oak maturation and lengthy
the potential of single vineyards.
world-wide recognition. Wine pro-
bottle aging, and can be very close
One of the most important issues
duction in the area lulled during
in flavor to the Xinomavro-
among Naoussa producers now is
the 1970s and the '80s, but nowa-
Negoska blends of Goumenissa.
the variety of styles and even the
days Rapsani is becoming one of
The great potential of most indige-
quality potential within the appel-
the most high-profile O.P.A.P.s,
nous Greek cultivars is still
lation itself. For example, there is
both in local and export markets.
untapped. What we known today
some evidence that the vineyards
Here, by law, Xinomavro has to be
for example about Xinomavro and
around the village of Gastra are
blended with 30 percent of the
its possibilities is much more than
producing quite tannic wines,
local Stavroto variety and 30 per-
what we knew a mere decade ago.
while higher-altitude locations
cent of the Krasato variety. Neither
To reveal the limits of Xinomavro,
such as Yiannakochori, show fresh-
has Xinomavro's difficult tempera-
producers need passion and dedi-
er fruit aromas. These are very
ment or quality, but both add com-
cation. Luckily, both are qualities
complex issues, and the Naoussa
plex nuances to the blend. The
Greeks have in great supply.
Wine consultant and writer Konstantinos Lazarakis became Greece's first Master of Wine in
2002. His book, The Wines of Greece, Mitchell Beazley, London, was short-listed for the
Andre Simon Memorial Award in 2006.
Goumenissa
Amyntaion
Naoussa
Rapsani
57 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The first time I visited Thessaloniki, ostensibly to cover the
international film festival that takes place every November, I
spent more time enjoying meze than watching movies. Between
screenings, I would dash out to the myriad mezedopolia, casual
restaurants that specialize in a multitude of miniature dishes,
making every meal a leisurely, convivial feast.
A Taste of
Thessaloniki
By Rachel Howard
Photography: Studio Nikos
Vavdenoudis-Christos
Dimitriou
59 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Thessaloniki is celebrated for its
stylish bars along the seaside strip, I
Athens, Thessaloniki is Greece's
mezedes, and every ouzeri boasts
would join the hungry huddle
second-largest city and, according
at least one special dish, specialties
around the koulouri cart on
to some, its culinary capital. “What
like kalamaria gemista (squid
Aristotelous Square. During World
sets Thessaloniki's food scene
stuffed with feta), melitzanosalata
War II, when food was scarce, kids
apart is the sheer variety. There are
(smoked eggplant and walnut
wore these sesame-studded bread
so many different cuisines that
tapenade), grilled sardines with
rings as bracelets, until hunger
reflect the city's cosmopolitan his-
slivers of raw onion and parsley,
compelled them to snap and scoff
tory,” says vintner Yannis Boutaris,
delicious savory pies, and hot pep-
them. Every morning, I indulged in
whose winery is located in nearby
pers, grilled or fried, a delicacy
Thessalonikans' favorite breakfast,
Naoussa.
among daredevils. Open late into
bougatsa, a rich phyllo pastry filled
the night, these mezedopolia pro-
with cheese, meat, or sweet cus-
A CUISINE STEEPED IN HISTORY
vided a cozy backdrop for endless
tard. I would invariably scuttle late
A stopover on the Via Egnatia, the
cinematic debates, fuelled by
into star-studded press conferences,
Roman route connecting the
carafes of ouzo or too many bottles
shirtfront flecked with telltale
Adriatic with Istanbul, Thessaloniki
of rich red xinomavro wine, culti-
crumbs of sugar and cinnamon.
has long been a cultural and com-
vated in Macedonia.
Set on a deep harbor, with more
mercial crossroads. Echoes of its
After the premiere parties at the
parks and less pollution than
former occupants—Roman ruins,
60 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Ottoman architecture, crumbling
sible area behind Kastra is a
Turkey that displaced millions
synagogues, and a wealth of
favorite with local foodies, who
across the Balkans. These new-
Byzantine chapels— resonate at
come for the home-cooking at old-
comers brought a touch of
every turn. Miraculously, most of
school tavernas hanging above the
Anatolian spice to the local cuisine.
these monuments survived the fire
cliff-edge.
Politiki kouzina—dishes from the
“Poli,” as Istanbul is known in Greek
that ravaged the city in 1917. Ano
Polis, the Upper Town and old
ASIA MINOR INFLUENCES
parlance—is still pervasive, from
Turkish Quarter, is all that remains
Turkish landmarks are prominent
ingredients like quince, clove, and
of 19th century 'Salonika'. Ringed
in Ano Poli, from the notorious
eggplant, to dishes like gemista
by ramparts, Ano Poli's steep, nar-
Yendi Koule prison to the plane-
(vegetables stuffed with rice, mint,
row lanes, lined by timber-frame
shaded coffeehouse on Tsinari
raisins, and pine nuts), yiaourtlou
houses with overhanging balconies
Square, in operation since 1850.
kebab (spicy souvlaki slathered in
and overgrown courtyards, reward
The Turkish influence outlasted the
yogurt), and soutzoukakia (cumin-
ramblers with sweeping
Ottoman Empire, whose rule of
laced meatballs bobbing in tomato
cityscapes. There are several unpre-
Macedonia ended in 1912. Around
sauce). Spicy flakes of boukovo (red
tentious tavernas with pretty gar-
130,000 refugees arrived from Asia
pepper) are sprinkled on pretty
dens and great views tucked
Minor in 1922, the fallout of politi-
much everything. The Greeks from
around Eptapyrgio. The less acces-
cal upheavals between Greece and
Poli also brought a penchant for
61 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
62 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
tripe - still a popular hangover
settled in Thessaloniki in 1922.
the large Jewish community all but
cure. Many long nights end with a
Another wave came after the fall of
decimated during the Holocaust,
steaming bowl of pork innards at
the Soviet Union. Many of them
there are no Sephardic restaurants
an all-night tripe-house, or patsat-
live in the Martiou neighborhood,
left today.“You can sample delicious
sithiko.
where you can find all manner of
dishes at the Jewish Community
Seafood, often based on recipes
pickled vegetables, unusual
Association's café, but you'll have to
from the fish-rich Bosphorus, is
cheeses, flatbreads, dried corn ker-
befriend a local Jew to get in!”
equally popular. Fish is smoked,
nels, and other unusual culinary
laughs Andreas Kounio, a food and
salted, or cured, grilled, roasted or
treats.
beverage manager in various hotels.
fried, wrapped in vine leaves,
The once-thriving Jewish communi-
With a population of around 1.5
topped with egg-and-lemon sauce,
ty has dwindled to about 1,000, but
million, boosted by a vibrant stu-
greengage plums, or potent skor-
their legacy spans five centuries. In
dent scene and September's inter-
dalia (garlic dip). At weekends,
1492, 20,000 Sephardic Jews came
national trade fair, Thessaloniki is
locals flock to the waterfront psaro-
as refugees from the Spanish
compact enough to explore on
tavernes (fish taverns) in Kalamaria
Inquisition. They developed a dis-
foot. Gentrification has created
and Nea Krini, Perea, and Neoi
tinctive cuisine, blending flavors
new dining districts like Ladadika,
Epivates, to feast on grilled octopus,
from their Spanish roots and Turkish
a warren of pedestrian streets near
crispy whitebait, and mydia saganaki
rulers with native ingredients and
the port, where olive oil storehous-
(mussels sautéed with ouzo, feta
kosher traditions. Typical dishes
es have been converted into
and tomato).
include huevos haminados (oven-
restaurants and bars. Xyladika,
Other immigrants have also had
baked eggs with onion skins), rodan-
once full of carpenters, is dotted
their hand in the culinary melting
tikes (pumpkin pies), and frittada de
with craft shops, cafés, and arts
pot. Thousands of Black Sea Greeks
berenjenna (eggplant fritatta). With
centers. Other popular spots are
63 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Athonos Square, lined with taver-
grant peaches, carcasses of lamb
ties were started here and are now
nas, where people jostle for tables
and garlands of smiling sausages,
run by second- and third-generation
on sunny afternoons, and
bundles of oregano and delicate
heirs. Sheet pans filled with honeyed
Navarinou Square, with its many
wild rosebuds, fresh-ground coffee
phyllo pastries, exotic sweet creams,
fagadika (literally, “little eating
and walnut -and- chocolate halva.
chocolate -and- nut rolls sparkle like
places”). “They have just a few
Glass-domed Modiano echoes day
jewels in pastry shop windows all
tables and dishes, but the inventive
and night with the banter of bar-
over the city. The city's trigona
menus marry all kinds of cuisines,”
gain hunters, the mournful music
(syrup-soaked phyllo triangles ooz-
says Kounio.
of gypsy minstrels, and the chatter
ing vanilla cream) are well-known all
of bon viveurs who congregate in
over Greece, as are, among many
BUSTLING MARKETS AND PASTRIES
the ouzeri, which source their
other sweets, its kazandibi, a kind of
If you want to try recreating these
ingredients straight from the
cooked and caramelized cream tra-
recipes at home, head to Modiano
neighboring stalls piled high with
ditionally made with buffalo milk.
and Kapsani, Thessaloniki's adjoin-
spices, salt-fish, and sweet treats.
Traditionally, each bowl was sprin-
ing markets, which brim with sea-
Locals definitely have a sweet tooth
kled with cinnamon in the name or
sonal produce and unusual delica-
and Thessalonikans affectionately
initials of the recipient—a typically
cies. There's something of the souk
call their city glykomana, which
personal touch in a city of friendly
in the riot of color, sound and
means sweet mother. Some of
food lovers.
smell—crimson peppers and fra-
Greece's most famous pastry dynasLondon-born and Athens-based, Rachel Howard is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveller, National Geographic Traveller, and Time Out.
64 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
The old man nudged my forearm. “Look, there, can you read
the name above the door of that house? It says KOLOMBO.
Yes, that Kolombos, Christoforos Kolombos. That's where he
lived before he went to Spain and discovered the New World.
He didn't stay here long but it was this island that pushed him
across the ocean.”
Tears of Joy:
Chios
Mastic
By Diana Farr Louis
Photography: Dimitris Koilalous, Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Dawn Brown, Paola Lakah
67 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
We're standing in the center of
between 1473 and 1474, a fact that
lotions that seem to be good for
Pyrgi, the largest of the 24 so-
sparked enough conjecture to feed
whatever ails you. It has been the
called mastic villages on the east-
the rumour mill for centuries.
island's most prized natural
ern Aegean island of Chios. With
The man lowered his voice in a con-
resource for centuries. Mastic
its corbelled walls, narrow lanes
spiratorial whisper, “This is where
comes from the resin that seeps
bridged by long, low archways,
he found out about mastic. It was
like teardrops from the bark of a
stone houses bearing the patina of
in great demand in those days, so
scrubby tree related to the pista-
centuries, and at its heart the
he thought if he could find another
chio.
defence tower for which it was
source, he could break the Chios
But as my informant insisted, this
named, Pyrgi certainly looks old
monopoly and get very rich. In the
tree will only shed its tears in
enough to have entertained
New World found trees that looked
southern Chios, a peculiarity
Columbus. Indeed his country-
just like mastic trees, but they did-
reflected in the legend of the
men, the Genoese, founded it and
n't weep like ours.”
island's patron saint, Isidore.
Apparently the trees began to cry
the other mastic-producing villages, 200 to 300 years before his
A BEGUILING RESIN
in sympathy when Romans tor-
visit.
Mastic, a strange but beguiling
tured the Christian martyr and left
We all know that Colombus was
crystal that flavours Greek cakes
him to die in a mastic grove.
born in Genoa and dedicated his
and breads, myriad confections an
Herodotus, however, had noted
voyages to the rulers of Spain, but
ouzo-like liqueur, and a chewing
their behavior in the 5th century
this was the first time I'd heard of
gum, is also used in making var-
BC, more than seven centuries ear-
the Chios connection. Columbus
nishes, adhesives, and an impres-
lier. And people may have been
apparently stayed on the island
sive catalogue of potions and
chewing its crystals since the dawn
The tree grows in many places but it only
sheds its tears, thus producing its valuable
crystals, in southern Chios
68 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
of language; mastic is the root of
A TIME-TESTED,
chewed the gum assidu-
trols and their vice
the verb to masticate.
LUCRATIVE PANACEA
ously to sweeten their
squads searched every
Mastic production is
breath and prevent
ship for evidence of black
controlled by the Chios
tooth decay. Justinian's
marketeering. When the
Cooperative of Mastic
physician, Aetios, invent-
Ottoman Turks wrested
Producers, and in recent
ed a mastic-based lotion
power from Genoa in the
years the cooperative
to protect the emperor's
late 16th century, they
has done an exemplary
sensitive skin from sun-
offered privileges to
job of marketing its age-
burn. Mastic creams
Chios in exchange for a
I revisited Pyrgi again one late
September, nearing the end of the
mastic harvest. Older women with
their hair bound in kerchiefs, laps
concealed by wide aprons, bent
over round trays where they
painstakingly separated the pre-
old natural resource.
were said to make your
vast portion of mastic
cious mastic crystals from the
Under the cooperative's
complexion glow, while
crystals in tribute to the
dead leaves, twigs, and earth that
aegis, elegant boutiques
drinking it could induce
Sultan. The precious
had been raked up during their
selling mastic products
feelings of optimism and
commodity meant so
collection. Next to each stood a
have opened shoppers in
even euphoria. Doctors
much to them they even
large sack with more stuff to pick
the main Greek cities,
in late antiquity pre-
called their new posses-
over and a bright blue washtub for
and several are being
scribed mastic com-
sion Sakis Adasi or Resin
rinsing the crystals. This step can
planned for abroad. At
pounds for digestive
Island. And their fear of
take weeks. Most mastic trees
the same time scientists
problems, stomach
losing it provoked the
yield no more than 200 grams of
are confirming what ear-
pains, vomiting and
massacre of 1822, when
lier savants had
anorexia and used it to
Turkish soldiers mur-
observed: Mastic is good
treat burns.
dered 30,000 islanders,
for myriad ailments.
By the 14th century, the
who expressed sympa-
Both Roman and
mastic trade was so
thy with the newly pro-
Victorian gentry cleaned
lucrative that the
claimed independent
their teeth with mastic
Genoese had conquered
Greece, while enslaving
wood toothpicks.
Chios to gain control of
thousands more and cor-
Aristocrats at the courts
it. They imposed strict
ralling the women into
of Versailles and Topkapi
price and quantity con-
harems.
resin, but the annual production is
rising steadily. In 2004, 128 tons
were produced and in 2005, 160
tons.
69 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
THE MASTIC VILLAGES
balcony railings, and nails
up with crème caramele and
four-arched corridor; stout
In the mastic villages,
hammered into white plas-
mastic cakes and cookies.
stone columns branch out to
modernity is most notable in
tered walls, they look like
The addition of mastic has to
form an arched canopy of
its absence.
unseasonal Christmas orna-
be judicious —never more
diamonds, crosses and
Mesta, for example, the sec-
ments, all the more vivid
than a few tablespoonfuls of
checkerboards over a tradi-
ond most famous village
because of the lack of colour
the liqueur, or two to three
tional café; even the cats are
after Pyrgi, still fits inside its
elsewhere. As for the arches,
grams of powder. It should
black and white. Here, too,
original fortification walls
they not only curve above
inject a certain something,
there are splashes of
and is entered by the same
doorways and alleyways but
rather than a knockout blow
colour—from flamboyant
four gates. They lead to a
form vaulted ceilings inside
to the taste buds.
sprays of pink bougainvillea,
bewildering warren of
churches and even in the
Back in Pyrgi, the decora-
faded green and blue doors
streets, unexpected culs de
community center in one of
tions covering virtually every
and of course the ubiquitous
sac and tunnels, that were
the main squares, where the
inch of built surface send
drying tomatoes.
deliberately designed to con-
Women's Cooperative of
other senses whirling.
Who knows why Pyrgi alone
fuse would-be invaders,
Mesta holds lunch parties for
Whereas Mesta is austere
should have adopted this
whether pirates or foreign
visiting dignitaries and jour-
and sober, Pyrgi is an ency-
unique art form, called xysta,
conquerors. It resembles a
nalists.
clopedia of every ornamental
found nowhere else in
North African casbah, much
There, I've been served a
motif imaginable - all in ele-
Greece except in Lithi,
more than an Italian
couple of extraordinary ban-
gant charcoal grey against a
another lesser known mastic
medieval village. The archi-
quets, consisting solely of
white background. Triangles,
village? Xysta comes from
tecture alternates between
dishes cooked with mastic,
squares, hourglasses,
the verb xyno, to scratch, and
severe stone cubes and gen-
including meatballs and fish
lozenges, half-moons and
describes the design process.
tle stone arches, decorated
fillets seasoned with mastic
many, many more run in hor-
The technique is related to
in late summer by necklaces
liqueur, roast chicken, goat
izontal bands from one cor-
the Genoese sgraffito, but
of small, fire-engine red
stew, and “wedding” bread
ner to the next; garlands,
I've never seen anything this
tomatoes, drying in the sun.
flavoured with pulverized
stars, flower petals, ringed
elaborate in Genoa.
Hanging from drainpipes,
mastic crystals and winding
suns lighten and brighten a
Scientists are confirming what earlier savants had
observed: Mastic is good for myriad ailments
70 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
HARVESTING THE RESIN
mm long, in the trunks and branch-
from mid-September until mid-
Care of the mastic groves is a year-
es of every tree twice a week. The
October or the first rain storm,
round job carried out by the fami-
process is called kentima, a word
while cleaning the crystals for pro-
lies of some 4,850 members of the
that also means embroidery, but it
cessing may last until pruning time.
mastic-producers' union. The win-
more like the jabs one makes in a
Crawling under a tree with a local
ter months involve pruning and
leg of lamb to insert a garlic sliver. A
woman as guide made me see that
thinning branches, followed by
tree can receive from between 20
mastic collection over so many
clearing and weeding the area
and 100 slits, depending on its age.
months could wear permanent
under the trees until it is smooth.
Though they may live to be more
grooves in the knees and palms.
Then fine white earth is sifted over
than 100 years old, mastic trees
These trees don't grow higher than
the area and tamped firm. The resin
don't begin to ooze resin until after
3 meters and you certainly can't
would darken and spoil if it dripped
their fifth year and remain produc-
stand upright under them. Yet
and dried onto brown earth.
tive until they reach 70. The resin
there was something almost mysti-
Summer marks the start of the
usually takes 10 to 20 days to crys-
cal about crouching under the mas-
pricking season. From early July
tallize and the first harvest in the
tic umbrella, and getting a really
until late September, the men make
second half of August yields bigger
close look at the moldy green
vertical slits, 4-5 mm deep and 10-15
tears. The second harvest lasts
lichen-spattered branches that glis-
Left page: Mastic is a natural chewing gum (l), and a versatile spice, used to flavor sugar pastes and candy, among other things.
This page:The resinous crystals are still harvested traditionally by hand.
71 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
72 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
tened with tiny “icicles.” It's such an
For example, a research team from
looking increasingly like tomor-
unprepossessing little shrub and
the UK's Nottingham University
row's wonder drug. It may even
yet in 2004 these crystals earned
has found that even small amounts
raise gum-chewing out of the gut-
the union almost 14 million euros.
of mastic can destroy the helicobac-
ter and back into polite society.
ter pylori bacteria, which only a
And to think that it's completely
MASTIC AND HEALTH
decade ago was recognized as the
natural.
Although demand for mastic fell
prime cause of peptic ulcers and
This miracle tree weeps its diamond
drastically in the 20th century as
stomach cancer.
tears only around the mastic vil-
the chemicals industry devised
Furthermore, mastic adhesive
lages of Chios. But in October 2001,
ways of making artificial resins for
bandages heal rather than hurt
a mission from the island planted a
varnishes, and American gum
your skin, as do mastic-based sur-
mastic tree next to the house
manufacturers turned to chicle
gical sutures; mastic appears to be
where Columbus is said to have
from South America's far more
able to lower cholesterol levels, it
lived in Genoa. It may never shed
common sapodilla tree, mastic is
has anti-inflammatory properties,
crystals but it stands as an unex-
re-emerging from obscurity, in no
acts as an antioxidant (smoothing
pected and moving reminder of the
small part thanks to recent scien-
wrinkles inside and out) and may
ongoing link between a small Greek
tific findings lauding its many
even offer protection against arte-
island, a humble tree, and dozens
health benefits.
riosclerosis. Yesterday's panacea is
of New World discoveries.
Diana Farr Louis is the author of Feasting and Fasting in Crete. She has written two guidebooks to Corfu and has contributed to the Penguin, Berlitz, and Fodor guides to Greece.
Left page: Mastic trees in the plain of Mesta, Chios.
This page: The crystals (r) flavor spoon sweets and many other confections, sauces, and more.
Mastic is becoming
as popular today
as it was in the past
73 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Far earlier than olive oil, long before wine, Greeks fell in love
with honey. It is a love affair that has lasted for 6,000 years.
From ancient times until today Greeks have produced some of
the best honey in the world. To taste Greek honey, whether
from Crete, the Peloponnese, Thassos, Epiros, any of a thousand islands, or from, historically at least, the most praised site
of all, Mount Hymettos in Attica, is to fall into that same adulation. In the modern world, Greek honey continues to enjoy the
same high regard as it always has.
Wild
and Sweet
By Susanna Hoffman
Photography: Vassilis Stenos
Food styling: Paola Lakah, Tina Webb
the Timeless Appeal
Greek Honey
75 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Today, there are about 25,000 bee-
Honey takes its name from what
and theoretically just as many dif-
keepers in Greece and about 1.3 mil-
bees feed off, hence thyme honey,
ferent types of honey, but only a
lion hives. Despite the density of
blossom honey, pine honey,
handful are commercially viable.
hives —one sees them all over the
orange-blossom honey, chestnut
Among them: dark, thick pine and
countryside— production is rela-
honey, etc. Beekeepers move their
fir honey, orange-blossom and
tively limited. Figures vary depend-
hives from place to place, slope to
flower-blossom honey, heather,
ing on the source, but production is
slope, field to field, in order to reap
and, of course, arguably the best-
fairly stable from year to year, at
the rewards of the season and pro-
known of all, thyme honey. Thyme
about 10,000 to 12,000 tons. The
vide fodder for their hives. The sea-
honey is unique to Greece,
quality of Greek honey, however,
son begins in March and ends
although more than 60 percent of
remains as stunning today as it has
around November in the southern-
Greek honey comes from pine.
been throughout time. There is
most parts of Greece. In May, when
There is one Greek honey that has
good reason: Greece's countryside
orange trees bloom, bees are taken
been awarded Protected
continues to yield an unrivaled vari-
to feed off their inebriating flow-
Designation of Origin (PDO) sta-
ety of vegetation with the atten-
ers. July is the season for thyme
tus, the light-colored, pearly-tex-
dant of pollens. Most of the plants
honey; September for pine; and
tured fir honey from Vytina in the
from which Greek bees gather are
May and September for heather,
Peloponnese. About 80 percent,
wild, sun-baked until their flavors
which blossoms twice. As a general
comes from bees that forage off
and tints maximize. (In most other
rule, the honey is harvested right
wild, not cultivated, plants.
honey-producing countries, bees
after the feeding period to ensure
Some of the more obscure and
feed off cultivated monocultures.)
the best flavor.
unusual honeys, such chestnut,
Greek honey also undergoes a mini-
In the incredibly rich and varied
sage, and heather, are appreciated
mum or processing, therefore
Greek flora, there are at least 120
by connoisseurs. There is even a
retaining all the nutrients, flavor,
different flowering plants and trees
range of “bitter” honeys, harvested
and texture dictated by nature.
that provide fodder for Greek bees,
from bees that have been allowed
Smoke makes the bees lethargic, thus protecting
Tasting honey straight from the honeycomb.
A honey bee in the hive.
the beekeeper from getting stung.
76 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
to feed on the ubiquitous arbitus
like liquid butterscotch.
uct lines that cover the gamut
berry, a relative of the strawberry.
Greek honey is available in markets
from sauces to soaps, all enriched
Since the color of the honey comes
and shops worldwide. The Greek
with Greek honey.
from plant pigments, and those in
honey industry has evolved to
The hunt for sweetness is perhaps
Greece are strikingly deep, the hues
include a whole range of apiary
people's most ardent, but with
of Greek honey are darker than
offerings, honey bejeweled with
Greek honey it is gloriously solved.
elsewhere, ranging from caramel to
walnuts and almonds (a favorite
Greek honey invites every one who
brandy to almost cordovan. Even
winter snack), to royal jelly, propo-
tastes it into the love affair that
blossom honey, usually pale, looks
lis, bee's pollen and extended prod-
Greeks have forever relished.
HONEY IN THE KITCHEN
all over the Greek islands,
flavors are enjoying a resur-
Honey is utilized not just in
Certainly honey was the first
especially at Easter. The
gence in the contemporary
desserts, but often as an
—and for quite a while the
chefs of Byzantium sim-
kitchen. Honey and true,
element in classic stews
only— sweetener Greeks had
mered Greek honey to pour
deliciously sour Greek
such as stifado and the
in their diet. Even now, it
over their famous layered
yogurt, are one of the all-
intriguing kapama from
remains the most presti-
sweets, baklava, galakto-
time classic desserts.
Corfu. In Crete, it is some-
gious one. With its impor-
boureko, kadayifi, and the
In cooking, honey adds fla-
times used as a marinade
tance from ancient times,
fried doughnut-like puffs
vor in a way that other sug-
and tenderizer for lamb
honey, along with the olive
called loukmades, all
ars cannot. Along with
and added to various meat
and the grape, marked the
sweets still savored in
sweetness, it bequeaths
stews at the end, simmer-
beginning of Greek gastron-
today's Greek kitchen.
the savor of the original
ing until it caramelizes.
omy and a cuisine that
Byzantine cooks also con-
flowers, herbs, and even
Contemporary chefs mix it
retains its unique and origi-
tinued the ancient practice
trees. Greek cooks well rec-
with raisin vinegar and
nal aspects today.
of mixing honey with vine-
ognize this, which is why
orange juice and use it as a
Cheesecakes sweetened
gar, the oximeli of old, and
honey still plays a major
sauce for everything from
with honey are still found
today such sweet-and-sour
role in Greek cuisine.
seafood to salads.
Left to right: Pine honey, thyme honey
and thick blossom honey from Mt. Athos.
77 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
A LONG, SWEET HISTORY
the later Greek pantheon,
ed in Greece that regulations
Artemis, and Rhea were the
Early Greeks very quickly
Artemis, the goddess most
had to be enacted to restrict
“honied ones
began to lure bees away
associated with animals, had
overstocking. Even the great
As now, Greek honey was
from logs and crevices in the
the bee as her symbol.
lawmaker Solon in the sixth
produced in such varieties
wild into man-made habi-
The first beehives the Greeks
century b.c.e. had to enter
and quality, there were
tats. With the bee ensnared,
manufactured replicated the
the fray of bee regulation.
numerous grades of it, and
they realized they no longer
sort of burrow bees swarm
Either to limit the exploita-
it, like wine, was rated
had to forage for honey; they
to in nature. Soon, however,
tion of Greece's potent, but
according to place of origin
could plunder it at will.
they began to make hives of
delicate, flora, or to stop bee-
and specific characteristics.
Historians thought that
hollowed-out mud, and
keeping battles, he stated
Aristotle and Theophrastos
Greeks learned the trick of
shortly after, dome-shaped
that no new apiaries could be
declared Attica honey the
beekeeping from the
ones of clay. Very early, by
established within a distance
best, especially the honey
Egyptians, but there was no
about 800 b.c., Greek bee-
of three hundred yards of a
from Mount Hymettos, fol-
need. The industrious people
keepers came up with a stun-
previous one.
lowed by that from Salamis,
already living in Greece, the
ning innovation, one that is
Because it was such a
Leros, Kalymna, and Hybla in
Minoans, well knew how to
essentially still used around
revered item, so mysterious-
Greek Sicily. The renowned
harbor bees. One of the most
the world today: they devel-
ly sweet and golden, honey
food writer, Archestratos,
beautiful pieces of Minoan
oped hives that contained
also figured as a sacred sub-
also waxed lyrical over Attica
gold jewelry ever recovered is a
removable bars to hold
stance to the Greeks. The
honey, especially over the
pendant showing two bees
numerous honeycombs. With
great god Zeus was suckled
cakes soaked in it sold in the
sucking on a drop of honey,
the bars, single combs and
on honey by the nymph
Athens market. Skillful
and an intact beehive was
their store of golden liquid
Melissa, whose name means
honey agents traveled about
found in Akrotiri, the Minoan
could be extracted, leaving
“she who makes honey.” Eros,
to procure the best honey,
city destroyed around 1623 b.c.
others behind for later glean-
the god of love, dipped his
for as well as for food, honey
More tellingly, one of the
ing. The bars with their sepa-
arrows in honey before
was used as a trade good, to
Minoan's most important god-
rate honeycombs could also
shooting them into unsus-
stave off invading soldiers, to
desses was called “Keeper of
be used to start new hives.
pecting humans and some-
comprise dowries, coat
the Animals” and also “Queen
With this innovation, bee-
times fellow gods. The
cheese, polish metal, and as
of the Bees.” Echoing that, in
keeping so rapidly proliferat-
priestesses of Demeter,
an undercoat for murals.
Susanna Hoffman is an anthropologist and the author of The Olive
and The Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking.
78 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Kerasma:
Treat Your Taste
with Great Recipes for Olives,
Florina Peppers, Honey,
Xinomavro and Desserts
from Greece's Top Chefs
Photography: Yiorgos Dracopoulos
Food styling: Tina Webb
81 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Grilled Bread with Kalamata Olive Paste, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Greek Cheese
Yield: 4 meze servings
10 Greek sun-dried tomatoes
100 gr. (about ½ cup) Kalamata olive paste
200 gr. (6 1/2 ounces) Katiki Domokou, or other sharp,
soft cheese, such as quark or Greek feta combined with Greek
yogurt or anthotyro or farmer's cheese
Olive oil as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
8 slices country-style bread, toasted on both sides
1. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes. Chop
8 of the 10 into very small cubes and
cut the remaining two into thin strips
for garnish.
2. Combine the diced sun-dried tomatoes with all the remaining ingredients and add enough olive oil just to
moisten the mixture and make it
spreadable. Spread a little of the mixture over each slice of bread, garnish
with sun-dried tomato strips and
serve.
82 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Greek Pasta with Kalamata Olive Paste and Octopus
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 octopus, about 1 ½ kilos (3 pounds)
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh oregano
75 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta
75 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves only, chopped
250 gr. (1/2 pound) small-grain rice-shaped pasta (orzo, manestra,
or kritharaki)
250 gr. (1 cup) Kalamata olive paste
1. Clean the octopus: Remove and dis-
2. Place the octopus in a wide
3. While the octopus is cooking, boil
card the hood, eyes, and beak. Bring a
saucepan, add 100 ml water, the bay
the pasta to al dente in salted water.
large pot of unsalted water to a
leaf and oregano, cover, and bring to a
In a food processor or blender pulse
rolling boil and blanch the octopus for
simmer. Reduce heat to low and sim-
the remaining olive oil and mint
2 minutes. Remove and submerge in
mer the octopus until almost the liq-
together. Drain the pasta, toss with
an ice bath. Cut along the tentacles
uid has cooked off. Remove from heat
the mint-flavored olive oil and olive
into eight pieces and cut each piece in
and set aside until cool enough to
paste. To serve, place a portion of the
half across the width.
handle. Cut each piece on the slant
olive-paste-tossed pasta in each of 4
into thin ovals and toss with the olive
or 6 serving bowls and top each with
oil and pepper.
sliced octopus.
83 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Greek Salad Served Over Grilled Bread
For 12 pieces
3 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 small Cretan cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
15 Thassos throumbes olives, or other wrinkled black Greek olives,
pitted and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped
50 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 slices old country-style bread, cut into slices about 2 cm
(1/2-inch) thick
Greek oregano to taste
150 gr. Greek feta
1. Combine the tomato, cucumber, bell
pepper, olives, onion, chives, olive oil,
salt, and pepper in a bowl.
2. Lightly grill the bread slices.
3. Spoon a little of the diced salad over
each slice of bread. Sprinkle with
oregano and feta and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Serve immediately.
84 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Olive Mayonnaise
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4 to 6 meze servings or 2 main courses
For the mayonnaise
250 gr. (1/2 pound) wrinkled black Greek olives, pitted
1 garlic clove
300 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
10 gr. Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon or 1-2 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
For the shrimp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
60 gr. (2 ounces) sesame seeds
12 large shrimp, cleaned but with tails intact
25 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1. Prepare the mayonnaise: In the
bowl of a food processor at high speed
whip the olives and garlic to a pulp.
Add the olive oil and continue beating
at high speed until the mixture is
smooth. In a stainless steel bowl with
a wire whisk, beat the egg yolks and
mustard together until creamy. Drop
by drop, add and whisk in the oil mixture. When the mixture is bound,
slowly add the lemon juice or vinegar,
drop by drop. Season with pepper. Set
aside.
2. Season the shrimp with salt and
pepper and dip in the sesame seeds,
turning to coat on both sides. Heat
the olive oil in a nonstick skillet and
sauté the shrimp over medium-high
heat until the sesame seeds are golden
and the shrimp bright red and tender.
Serve hot on a platter with a bowl of
the mayonnaise in the center.
85 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pumpkin Tartlets with Spicy Skordalia
and Olive Puree
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4 meze servings
600 gr. (1 1/3 pounds) pumpkin, peeled, seeded
and coarsely shredded
Salt
14 sheets commercial phyllo, at room temperature
Olive oil for brushing phyllo
100 gr. (3 ounces) Greek graviera cheese, grated
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
100 ml sheep's or goat's milk
2 eggs
For the skordalia:
500 gr. (1 pound) stale bread
3 garlic cloves
50 gr. (1 ½ ounce) hot pepper puree
Pinch of Greek saffron
100 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
Strained juice of half a lemon
For the olive puree:
200 gr. pitted Kalamata or other Greek dark olives
1 scant tsp. rosemary
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1. Salt the pumpkin in layers in a
in two separate stacks. Trim each
spread. Remove and set aside.
colander and place a weight on top.
stack to form a square and cut into
5. Rinse out the food processor and
Leave to drain for 2-3 hours. Squeeze
four equal, smaller squares. Fold in
puree the olives, rosemary, and
out all the excess water by taking a
the edges of each square stack to form
anchovies. Remove and set aside.
little bit of pumpkin at a time and
a rough circle. Set aside, covered, on
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
pressing it between the palms of your
oiled sheet pans.
6. Place several tablespoons of the fill-
hand. Set aside.
3. Combine the pumpkin, graviera
ing over each of the eight phyllo cir-
2. Place the first sheet of phyllo in
cheese, peppers, milk, eggs, salt and
cles. Mound generously. Bake for
front of you and brush with olive oil.
pepper in a bowl and mix well.
about 20-25 minutes, until the phyllo
Layer the next sheet on top and
4. In the bowl of a food processor
is crisp and the filling cooked.
repeat. Do the same with the remain-
pulse all the ingredients for the skor-
ing sheets, layering seven all together
dalia together to form a creamy
86 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pasta Stuffed with Mussels, Cheeses and Olives
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4-6 servings
For the mussels:
1 kilo (2 pounds) fresh mussels
1 cup ouzo
1 cup water
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stalk, chopped
For the sauce:
2 Tbsp. Greek extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 green bell peppers, finely
chopped
1 small chili pepper, seeded
and chopped
2 firm ripe tomatoes, peeled,
seeded and chopped
For the cheese mixture:
60 gr. (1/3 cup) Greek strained
yogurt
60 gr. (2 ounces) smoked
Metsovone cheese or other
smoked cheese
60 ml buttermilk
60 gr. (2 ounces) feta, crumbled
500 gr. (1/2 pound) pasta
dough, at room temperature
½ - 3/4 cup sheep's milk butter,
melted or an equal amount of
olive oil, warmed over low heat
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
For the olive puree:
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) pitted
Kalamata or Amphissa olives
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 anchovy
2 Tbsp. Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1. Clean the mussels, cutting away
3. In the bowl of a food processor,
each circle, top it with a pinch of the
their beards and scrubbing the shells
pulse together the olives, rosemary,
sauce, the olive puree and the cheese
very well. Steam the mussels in the
anchovy and olive oil until the mixture
mixture. Bring up like a beggar's purse
ouzo, water, garlic and celery for a few
forms a thick paste. Remove and set
and twist and squeeze the top to seal.
minutes until they open. Discard any
aside. In the same processor, combine
Use a toothpick to secure closed even
that don't open. Drain, cool slightly,
the yogurt, cheeses, and buttermilk in
further. Boil the pouches for 3 min-
shell, and set aside.
a food processor and pulse until
utes. Remove with a slotted spoon
2. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick
smooth.
and serve, drizzled with melted
skillet and sauté the onions until soft.
4. Roll out the pasta dough and cut
sheep's milk butter or warmed olive oil
Add the peppers and tomatoes and
into 20 to 24, 6-cm (3-inch) circles.
and chopped parsley.
simmer uncovered until most of the
Have a large pot of salted water ready
liquid has cooked off. Set aside.
and boiling. Place a mussel or two in
88 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
89 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
90 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Braised Octopus with Tomatoes and Green Olives
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 8 meze servings or 4 main course servings
1 medium-small octopus, about 1 kilo (2 pounds)
1 large onion, finely chopped
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) medium-sized Greek green olives, pitted
and cut in half
250 ml (1 1/2 cups) xinomavro wine or other tannic, dry red wine
250 ml (1 1/2 cups) tomato sauce
100 ml Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Clean the octopus: Remove the
until soft. Add the octopus, stir, and
add the olives. Season with pepper
hood, eyes, and beak and discard. Cut
pour in the wine. Bring to a boil,
and a little salt if necessary. Serve as a
the octopus into eight pieces, along
reduce heat and simmer for 10 min-
meze for eight or a main course for
the tentacles.
utes. Add the tomato sauce. Simmer
four.
2. Heat the olive oil in a wide pot and
until the octopus is tender. About 10
sauté the onions over medium heat
minutes before removing from heat,
91 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
92 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Squid Stuffed with Roasted Red Florina Peppers,
Graviera Cheese and Tomatoes
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 5 servings
1 kilo (2 pounds) fresh squid,
cleaned, tentacles chopped
and set aside
For the filling:
2 tomatoes, quartered and
seeded
2 tsp. Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) roasted
Greek Florina peppers,
drained
2 lemons, peeled and chopped
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) plain fresh
bread crumbs
150 gr. (5 ounces) Greek
graviera cheese, diced
For the pan:
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed
and cut into thin slices
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 kilo (2 pounds) potatoes,
peeled, sliced into rounds,
and blanched
1 large onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 star anise
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Pinch of sugar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Olive oil
Chicken stock
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350 F).
3. Blanch the fennel, drain, and drop
bles, on the bottom of a shallow bak-
Toss the quartered tomatoes with
into ice water. Drain again and blot
ing pan. Fill the squid with the stuff-
olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper
dry with paper towels.
ing, leaving about 1 1/2 cm. (1/2 inch)
and roast in a shallow pan for about
4. Heat the butter in a nonstick skil-
space at the top. Secure closed with
40 minutes.
let. Add the sugar and fennel and stir
toothpicks. Place over the vegetables.
2. Cut the Florina peppers lengthwise
over medium heat until the fennel is
Cover and bake until the vegetables
into thin strips. Combine the roasted
caramelized. Remove and set aside.
and squid are done, about 40 minutes.
tomatoes, Florini peppers, bread-
5. Layer the blanched potatoes, onion,
crumbs, half the chopped lemon,
tomatoes , remaining lemon, star
chopped squid tentacles, graviera,
anise, basil, sugar, garlic olive oil, salt,
salt, and pepper to make the filling
pepper and a little broth, enough to
and set aside.
come about halfway up the vegeta-
93 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Smoked Florina Peppers Filled with Manouri Cream
Yield: 10 meze servings
10 whole Florina peppers in brine, drained and blotted
dry with paper towels
100 gr. (3 ounces) dark, seedless Greek raisins
100 ml (1/2 cup) ouzo
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) Manouri cheese
100 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
3 large egg whites, whipped to a stiff meringue
Greek extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the peppers on the rack of a
on top, and covering the pot well.
cream until smooth. Add the drained
stovetop smoker and smoke for 15
Smoke over low flame.
raisins, salt, and pepper, and fold into the
minutes. You can do this at home by
2. Soak the raisins in the ouzo while
meringue. Place in the refrigerator for 3
placing small woodchips in a heavy
the peppers are smoking. Drain.
hours. Fill the smoked, cooled peppers
pot, place a plate holding the peppers
3. Whip together the manouri cheese and
with the cream and serve.
94 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pork Loin Skewers with Honey-Yogurt Herb Dip
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 12 skewers
For the skewers:
100 gr. (1/2 cup) Greek thyme honey
50 gr. (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
50 gr. (1/4 cup) Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1,200 gr. Pork loin cut into 3 cm (1-inch) cubes
10 gr. (1/3 ounce) cumin
For the Dip:
150 gr. (1 ½ cups) strained Greek yogurt
150 gr. (1 ½ cups) Greek sheep's milk yogurt
½ garlic clove
50 gr. (1/2 cup) Greek thyme honey
Salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Oregano to taste
1. Whisk together the honey, vinegar,
olive oil, and cumin. Marinate the
pork cubes in this mixture, covered
and refrigerated, for three hours.
2. Place all the ingredients for the dip
in a blender or food processor and
pulse until smooth.
3. Light the grill to medium according
to individual unit directions. Thread
100 gr. (3 ounces) of meat onto each of
12 skewers. Season with salt and pepper and grill. Two minutes before the
skewers are done, sprinkle generously
with oregano. Serve the skewers
immediately, accompanied by the dip.
95 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pork Braised with Leeks, Prunes and Honey
Yield: 4 servings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
30 ml (1ounce) Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1 kilo (2 pounds) pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
400 ml chicken stock
4 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
½ bunch thyme
1 kilo (2 pounds) leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into 5-cm
(1 ½-inch) rounds
16 prunes
100 gr. (3 ounces) Greek thyme honey
50 gr. (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide
pot over high heat and sear the pork
on all sides. Add the stock, garlic, bay
leaf, and thyme. Reduce the heat to
medium-low and simmer the pork for
1 ½ hours.
2. Add the leeks to the pot and simmer
another 30 minutes. Add water or
stock if necessary to keep the contents
of the pot moist. Add the prunes and
continue simmering, covered, for
another 15 minutes.
3. Whisk together the honey and vinegar and add to the pot. Remove the lid
and simmer another five minutes,
until the sauce is caramelized. Adjust
seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve
immediately.
96 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Fresh Pork Baked in Paper with Honey and Herbs
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4-6 servings
250 ml (1 ½ cups) Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. rosemary
50 gr. (1 ½ ounces) shelled walnuts
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
½ cup Cretan raki or tsikoudia (eau de vie)
3 Tbsp. Greek honey
1 fresh pork leg, boned, about 2 kilos (4-5 pounds)
3 cups meat stock
2 large garlic cloves, split in half
1. Pulse together the olive oil, basil,
salt, pepper, rosemary, walnuts, parsley, raki, and honey in a food processor
until smooth and thick.
2. Remove half the skin from the pork
and discard. Loosen the remainder of
the skin with a sharp knife, peeling it
away from the meat without removing it. Rub all but 2/3 cup of the marinade all over the meat and place the
skin back over it. Rub the skin with
the remaining marinade.
3. Place a piece of parchment large
enough to wrap around the meat
inside a large roasting pan. Place the
stock, garlic, and meat inside the
parchment and bring up the sides to
enclose the meat, turning to seal.
Roast at 200 C (450F). The meat will
take approximately one hour and 15
minutes per kilo (40 minutes per
pound) to bake.
97 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pork-Filled Zucchini Blossoms Fried in Honey Batter
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
30 zucchini blossoms
250 gr. (1/2 pound) ground pork
50 gr. (1 ½ ounces) Greek glazed rice or any small-grain rice
1 large onion, minced
2 Tbsp. each chopped dill, chopped fresh mint, chopped lemon
balm or lemon verbena
50 gr. (1 ½ ounces) pine nuts, toasted
50 gr. (1 ½ ounces) seedless dark raisins
1 apple, peeled and chopped
10 artichoke hearts, cleaned and sliced thin
½ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. lemon verbena
For the Batter
300 gr. (10 ounces) flour
150 gr. (5 ounces) cornstarch
1 large egg
Salt
15 gr. (1/2 ounce) bacon
50 gr. (1 ½ ounces) Greek honey
Pinch of cinnamon
60 gr. (2 ounces) walnuts
Water as needed
Corn oil for frying
1. Remove the stamens from the blos-
enough wine and stock to the pot to
burner at low heat. Whisk together
soms and set aside.
cover the blossoms. Pour in half the
the remaining olive oil and flour and
2. Combine the meat, rice, onion,
olive oil. Cover and simmer over medi-
add to the pot. Heat the sauce until
herbs, pine nuts, raisins, apple, salt
um heat for about 40 minutes, until
thick. Add the lemon verbena just
and pepper. Stuff the zucchini blos-
the blossoms are tender. Add more liq-
before the end.
soms with this mixture. Twist the tops
uid to the pot if necessary. There
5. Whisk all the ingredients for the
closed to contain the filling.
should be at least two cups left at the
batter together and heat ample corn
3. Place the artichoke hearts on the
end of the cooking.
oil in a large pot or deep fryer. Dip the
bottom of a large, wide saucepan.
4. Remove from heat and let cool.
blossoms in the batter and deep fry
Place the zucchini blossoms on top,
Remove the zucchini blossoms and set
until golden. Serve together with the
one snugly next to the other. Add
aside. Place the sauce back on the
sauce.
98 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
99 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Tuna with Xinomavro Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
4 large tuna steaks
Extra-virgin Greek extra virgin olive oil as needed
Salt to taste
300 ml Xinomavro wine
200 ml beef stock
300 ml fish stock made with red wine
50 gr. (2 ounces) finely chopped scallions
2 ounces thinly sliced mushrooms
1 bouquet garni
50 ml heavy cream
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1. Brush t he tuna steaks with a little
Remove and strain through a chinois
over high heat, oil it slightly, and add 1
olive oil and season all over with salt.
or fine-mesh sieve into another, clean,
sprig of fresh rosemary. Sear the tuna
2. Place all the remaining ingredients
pot. Heat over low flame, slowly
on both sides over the rosemary.
except the butter and cream in a
adding the butter and stirring vigor-
Remove immediately, repeat with
medium saucepan and heat until
ously with a whisk, until the sauce is
remaining tuna steaks, and transfer to
reduced by one third and thickened
thick and glistens. Season with salt
a preheated, 180C (375F) oven. Roast
slightly. Remove the bouquet garni
and pepper, set aside, and keep warm.
for five minutes. Remove. Serve over
and simmer the sauce another 10 min-
3. Score the tuna on one side. Heat a
the sauce on individual plates.
utes or so, until thickened further.
ridged griddle or stovetop grill pan
100 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Wild Boar Braised with Onions, Xinomavro Wine,
and Citron
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4 servings
1,200 gr. (2 ½ pounds) wild boar, preferably shoulder, deboned*
1 pound small stewing onions
1 liter Xinomavro wine
3 citrons, peeled
300 gr. (10 ounces) carrots, pared and coarsely chopped
1-2 star anise
1 kilo (2 pounds) oranges, juiced
Greek extra-virgin olive oil as needed
Bones from the shoulder*
1 pound fresh button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
4-5 allspice berries
1 liter Greek Mavrodafne wine
Flour
200 gr. Greek honey
150 gr. rice, boiled and drained
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
100 gr. (3 ounces) Metsovone cheese
2 eggs
Caul fat from pork
Fresh butter as needed
1. Cut the wild boar into serving size
3. Flour the meat lightly. Heat ½ cup
mering until the pot juices have been
pieces and place in a large stainless
olive oil in a large, heavy, wide pot
reduced by two-thirds. Remove from
steel basin together with the onions,
and brown the meat. In a separate
heat.
xinomavro wine, citron peel, carrots,
skillet, heat 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil and
5. While the boar is simmering, pre-
star anise, orange juice, and ½ cup
sauté the marinated vegetables. Add
pare the rice cakes. Combine the rice,
olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for two
the honey and stir until the vegetables
oregano, Metsovone, eggs, salt and
days. Bring down to room tempera-
begin to caramelize. Pour the mari-
pepper and shape into small patties.
ture before cooking. Strain and set
nade into the vegetables and as soon
Wrap with the caul fat. Saute in a lit-
aside the marinade, vegetables, and
as it simmers remove and empty the
tle butter until golden. Serve the boar
meat separately.
contents of the skillet into the meat.
hot with one or two rice patties.
2. Bring the bones, mushrooms, bay
4. Add the stock from the bones. Cover
leaves, thyme, allspice, and
the pot, reduce heat to low, and sim-
Mavrodafne to a boil, reduce heat and
mer for 5-6 hours. Replenish the liq-
simmer for one hour. Remove, drain,
uids as needed with a little water or
and set aside.
wine. Remove lid and continue sim-
101 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Home Salted Cod Fritters with Mastic-Scented
Skordalia Foam
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 12 meze servings or 6 main courses
For the Foam:
700 ml fresh whole milk
300 ml almond oil
1 garlic clove
2 drops mastic oil (see next recipe)
5 ml red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
13 gr. (4 ½ ounces) gelatin sheets
1 fresh cod, about 3 kilos (7 pounds), filleted
1 kilo (2 pounds) coarse salt
For the Batter:
150 gr. (5 ounces) flour
75 gr. (2 ½ ounces) cornstarch
30 gr. (1 ounce) baking powder
330 ml beer
Pinch of salt
Olive oil for frying
1. For the skordalia foam: Soak the
bine very well. Strain the mixture and
aside.
gelatin sheets in cold water for five
place in a whipped cream canister.
3. Mix together all the dry ingredients
minutes. Heat 100 ml milk in a medi-
Place two gas ampules in the canister
for the batter. Add the beer a little a
um saucepan and dilute the soaked
and refrigerate for 4 hours or until the
time and mix to get a thick mixture.
sheets. Mix in the remaining milk. In
mixture is very cold and set.
4. Heat the oil in the deep fryer. Dip
the bowl of a food processor or strong
2. Place the cod fillets in the salt, cov-
the cod into the batter, shaking off
blender whip together the milk mix-
ering completely, for one hour.
excess. Deep fry in hot oil until gold-
ture and gelatin. Pulse for one minute
Remove, rinse, and soak in plain
en. Serve with a dollop of foam on
at high speed. Add the almond oil,
water for 30 minutes. Dry with paper
each plate or in separate small cups or
vinegar, mastic oil, salt, and pepper.
towels and cut into pieces or strips,
glasses.
Pulse for another few seconds to com-
each about 100 gr. (3 ounces). Set
102 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Olive Oil Infused with Mastic
Kerasma recipes
1 Tbsp. mastic crystals
250 ml (1 1/4 cup) extra-virgin Greek olive oil
Heat 80 ml (about 3/4 cup) of olive oil and the mastic in a nonstick skillet over
low heat. Pour into a bottle, let cool, and add the remaining olive oil. Use immediately or store in a cool, dark place. Shake before using.
103 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Spiny Lobster in Spicy Sauce with Mastic Oil
Yield: 4 servings
2 fresh spiny lobsters, 700-800 gr. (about 1 ½ pounds) each*
200 ml (1 cup) fish stock
60 ml (1/3 cup) Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large mango (about 250 gr./ ½ pound), peeled
and cut into small pieces
50 ml Greek brandy
3 Tbsp. mastic-infused olive oil
Pinch of curry powder
7 gr. (1/4 ounce) green peppercorns
100 gr. (3 ounces) shelled, unsalted Greek pistachios Aeginis
300 ml fish stock
200 ml heavy cream
100 ml (1/2 cup) Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Carefully split the lobsters in two
Bring the mango, brandy, olive oil,
season with salt and pepper, cover
lengthwise using kitchen shears, cut-
curry, green peppercorns, and pista-
and keep warm.
ting in the direction of the head down
chios to a simmer in a medium
3. Roast the lobster in its marinade for
towards the tail. Remove intestine
saucepan. Add the stock and simmer
about 10 minutes, or until its flesh is
and wash the lobsters well. Place the
over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the
white and comes away easily from the
stock, olive oil, bay leaves, salt and
cream and continue cooking another 5
shell. Remove the flesh with a small
pepper in a shallow pan and place the
minutes. Remove from heat and stir in
fork, place upright in the shell, spoon
lobsters on top, cut side down. Leave
the yogurt. Transfer the sauce to a
a little warm sauce on top and serve.
in the marinade until ready to use.
blender and pulse to combine. Strain
2. Preheat the oven to 200 C (450F).
through a fine mesh sieve or chinois,
104 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Turkey Breast Marinated in Cantaloupe Juice
and Samos Wine with Mastic Oil
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4 servings
2 boneless turkey breasts, skinned and halved
300 gr. (10 ounces) peeled, fresh cantaloupe
200 ml Samos white wine
½ tsp. finely chopped fresh chili pepper
½ tsp. combined fennel seed, coriander seed and aniseed
1 small cinnamon stick
Black pepper to taste
1.2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. mastic oil
2-3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt to taste
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) feta cheese, cut into 4 slices
3-4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Greek extr virgin olive oil for sautéing
1 tsp. cold unsalted butter
1. Wash and pat dry the turkey
3. Remove from the marinade. Melt
4. Heat the olive oil in another non-
breasts. Set aside.
the butter in a large, nonstick skillet.
stick skillet. Dampen the feta under
2. Pulse the cantaloupe, white wine,
Remove the turkey from the marinade
the tap, dip each slice in flour, and
chili pepper, spice seeds, cinnamon,
and wipe dry. Season with salt and
sauté until the cheese softens, just
pepper, cumin and mastic oil together
pepper. Saute over medium heat, turn-
before it begins to melt. Remove and
in a food processor or blender until
ing, and add the marinade to the pan
place on individual plates. Place a
smooth. Marinate the turkey in the
once the turky has acquired some
turkey breast half over each piece of
mixture for 2 hours, covered and
color. Simmer until done, about 15-20
cheese and spoon some of the sauce
refrigerated.
minutes.
on top.
105 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Mastic-flavored Almond Cake
Yield: one TK-round cake
250 gr. (8 ounces) blanched almonds
225 gr. (7 ½ ounces) unsalted butter
250 gr. (8 ounces) confectioner's sugar
5 gr. (2 ounces) mastic crystals, crushed with a pinch
of sugar in a mortar
4 medium eggs
150 gr. (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1. Finely grind the almonds at high
speed in a food processor.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer,
whip together the butter, sugar, mastic, and almonds until fluffy and
white. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each addition.
3. Add the flour, mixing it in with a
spatula or large spoon. Cover the bowl
with plastic wrap and refrigerate for
2-3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Pour
the batter into a 24-cm (10-inch)
round buttered cake pan. Bake for 30
minutes, reduce oven temperature to
160C (325F) and continue baking
another half hour, or until a knife
inserted in the cake's center comes out
clean.
106 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Mastic Biscuits
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 1 kilo (2 pounds)
250 gr. (8 ½ ounces) unsalted butter
250 gr. (8 ½ ounces) light brown sugar
75 gr. (2 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
1 egg
1 pinch salt
2 Tbsp. milk
500 gr. all-purpose flour
5 gr. (1 ½ ounces) mastic crystals, pounded in a mortar
with a little sugar
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer,
whip together the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy. Add the
milk, egg, mastic, and salt and mix.
Slowly whisk in the flour. Knead
slightly and let the dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C (375F).
Using a rolling pin roll open the dough
on a lightly floured surface. Cut with
cookie cutters into desired shapes no
thicker than ½ cm (1/8 inch). Place on
a parchment-lined baking sheet and
bake for about 20 minutes, or until
golden. Remove, cool, and store in a
cool, dry place.
107 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Mastic-Scented Panacotta with Greek Honey Sauce
Yield: 6 servings
2 gelatin sheets
600 ml heavy cream
100 ml milk
2 gr. mastic powder
60 gr. (2 ounces) sugar
150 gr. (5 ounces) Greek thyme honey
50 ml warm water
1. Soften the gelatin sheets in a little
water.
2. Bring the cream, milk, mastic and
sugar to a boil. As soon as it begins to
simmer and swell, remove and add the
gelatin. Mix and let the mixture cool.
Mix again.
3. Pour the mixture into individual
ramekins and refrigerate for at least 5
hours to set.
4. Make the honey sauce while the
panacotta is chilling: Whisk together
the honey and warm water and set
aside.
5. Dip the ramekins in a little hot
water to loosen the cream and invert
onto serving plates. Serve together
with the honey sauce.
108 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Tahini Mousse with Greek Honey Florentines
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 6 servings
For the Florentines:
160 ml. heavy cream (35% fat)
150 gr. (5 ounces) sugar
50 ml Greek honey
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) sesame seeds
For the mousse:
200 ml Tahini
300 ml. heavy cream
100 gr. (3 ounces) Italian meringue
Sugar violets for garnish
1. Prepare the Florentines: Preheat the
oven to 170C (325F). Place the heavy
cream, sugar, and honey in a medium
saucepan and bring to a simmer and
let the temperature reach the firmball stage, 118C (244F). Remove from
heat and vigorously mix in the sesame
seeds. Spread the mixture in small circles onto a silpat or over a piece of
parchment paper layered in a sheet
pan. Bake for 12-14 minutes. As soon
as the Florentines come out of the
oven, invert them onto small bowls to
shape. Garnish with the sugar violets.
Set aside.
2. Lightly heat the heavy cream and
fold into the tahini. Let cool and fold
into the meringue together with the
Tahini. Refrigerate and serve inside
the Florentines.
109 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Pasteli with Greek Honey and Aegina Pistachios
400 gr. Greek thyme honey
400 gr. Aegina pistachios
½ tsp. dried lavender, crushed
1. Heat the honey in a medium
saucepan to 130C (270F). Remove from
heat and stir in the pistachios and
lavender.
2. Spread the pasteli onto a silpat or
nonstick parchment. If using parchment, cover with another piece of
parchment. Using a rolling pin roll out
the pasteli to a thin sheet, about 1 cm
(1/8 inch) thick. Cut into squares or
diamonds when cool and keep stored
in a cool, dry place.
110 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Cheese Tart with Greek Honey and Pears
Kerasma recipes
5 fresh pears
100 gr. (3 ounces) sugar
160 gr. (5 ½ ounces) butter
100 gr. (3 ounces) confectioner's sugar
60 gr. (2 ounces) honey
150 gr. (5 ounces) Cretan xinomyzithra cheese or a combination
of 2 ounces whipped Greek feta and 2 ounces farmer's
or anthotyro cheese
3 eggs
230 gr. (8 ounces) flour
100 gr. (3 ounces) ground walnuts
1. Peel the pears, cut in half, and
remove the seeds and stem. Bring to a
simmer in a medium pot with 2 cups
water and the sugar. As soon as they
soften, remove and strain. Let cool.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer at
high speed whip together the butter,
confectioner's sugar, and honey until
creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs one at
a time, beating after each addition.
Remove bowl. Using a spatula or
spoon, vigorously mix in the cheese,
flour, and half the walnuts. Pour the
mixture into a 25-cm (10-inch) tart pan.
Cut the pears into thin slice and spread
evenly and decoratively over the surface of the tart. Bake at 180C (350F) for
30 minutes, lower heat to 150C (300F)
and continue baking another 10 minutes or until the tart is set.
111 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
White Chocolate Truffles with Feta and Greek Honey
Yield: About 20 truffles
160 gr. (5 ½ ounces) hard Greek feta
60 gr. (2 ounces) Greek honey
30 gr. (1 ounce) toasted pine nuts
200 gr. (6 ½ ounces) white chocolate
1. In a medium bowl, crumble the feta
place on parchment for about 30 min-
to cool. Let it cool to 30 C (86F). Roll
and knead together with the honey.
utes to dry out a little.
the feta-honey balls into chocolate
Add the pine nuts and combine well.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boil-
the feta-honey balls in the chocolate.
Shape into 2 ½-cm (1-inch) balls and
er and spread it onto a marble surface
Cool on parchment.
112 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
Fresh Fruit Gelé with Yogurt Cream
Kerasma recipes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Make one of the following, as
per personal preferences:
Peach gelé:
40 ml water
40 gr. (1 ½ ounces) sugar
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
15 gr. (1/2 ounce) sheet gelatin
(3 sheets)
400 ml fresh peach juice
Cantaloupe gelé:
20 gr. (3/4 ounce) sugar
20 ml water
5 fresh mint leaves
10 gr. (1/3 ounce) sheet gelatin
(2 sheets)
300 ml cantaloupe juice
Watermelon gelé:
40 gr. (1 ½ ounces) sugar
40 ml water
3-4 fresh basil leaves
15 gr. (1/2 ounce) gelatin
(3 sheets)
400 ml watermelon juice
For the yogurt cream:
400 gr. (2 cups) strained Greek
yogurt
40 gr. (4 ounces) Greek honey
7 gr. (2 1/2 ounces) sheet gelatin
1. Prepare the fruit gele: Bring the
and stir well. Add remaining juice, mix
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together
sugar, water, and herb to a boil and
well, and pour into 4-6 serving cups or
the yogurt and honey. Add 4 Tbsp of
stir until the sugar is diluted. Strain.
glasses. Place in the refrigerator and
the yogurt mixture to the gelatin. Mix,
Place the gelatin in a small shallow
chill until almost set.
and then stir in the remaining yogurt
bowl and cover with cool water. Let it
2. Make the yogurt cream: Place the
mixture. Pour a little of the yogurt-
stand a few minutes to soften. Strain
gelatin in a small shallow bowl and
honey gelé over the fruit gelé, which
and place in a small saucepan. Add 2-3
cover with cool water to soften.
has already set in the refrigerator.
Tbsp. of the fruit juice. Heat over low
Remove and place in a small saucepan
Chill until the yogurt is set, too. Serve
flame for a few seconds until the gela-
with 3-4 Tbsp. water. Heat, stirring, for
cold, garnished if desired, with some
tin melts. Add to the syrup mixture
a minute or so until the gelatin melts.
fresh mint or other herbs.
113 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
In the next issue…
Greek Peaches
Greek Ouzo
Greek Summer Meze
Crete
And more…
114 GREEKGOURMETRAVELER
GREEKGOURMETCOVER(02).TELIKO 8/3/03 5:53 PM Page 1
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and Finance and the Hellenic Foreign
Trade Board (HEPO).
Olives / Yogurt / Greek Food and Health / Thessaloniki’s
Cuisine / Xinomavro Wines / Chios Mastic / Asparagus /
Sweet Florina Red Peppers / 30 + Kerasma Recipes
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