Opa! 8 Recipes That Take Your Tastebuds to Greece
There is tremendous breadth to Greek cooking. Various meats, spices, vegetables, and grains mingle together in this Mediterranean cuisine. The ingredients are often simple and come together easily, making Greek an incredibly accessible style of cooking for anyone from a novice to a professional chef. But don’t think that easy means bland — the breadth of Greek cooking extends from the possible dishes to the tastes you’ll encounter, so go Greek with the following eight recipes.
Tzatziki must be one of the first recipes, because it can be used in so many different Greek dishes. Grilled vegetables, pita bread, grilled meats, and gyros are all conduits for this cucumber yogurt dip, which you can make following this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.
- ½ English cucumber, peeled
- 16 ounces (2 cups) cold plain Greek yogurt (either full fat or fat free will work)
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- ⅓ cup chopped dill, fresh or frozen
- 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of ½ lemon; squeeze a real lemon)
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Directions: The cucumber should be peeled, finely diced, and strained of its juices. To do this, you can squeeze it really tight by the fistful, or use a cheese cloth if you wish. Getting rid of excess juice is important so that your tzatziki sauce isn’t watery the next day.
Combine the strained and chopped cucumber with 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, 4 pressed garlic cloves, ⅓ cup chopped dill, ½ teaspoon salt (add more to taste), and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Mix everything together and add more salt to taste if needed. It’s best to refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving to let the flavors meld. It tastes even better when refrigerated overnight!
Make Closet Cooking‘s spanakopita when you want a flaky spinach pie. It serves four and will come together in about an hour. Phyllo dough can be made following Kalofagas‘s instructions, or purchased premade.
- 2 pounds spinach, steamed, squeezed, drained, and chopped
- 1 cup feta, crumbled
- ¼ cup dill, chopped
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup green onions, sliced
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 12 sheets phyllo dough
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Mix the spinach, feta, dill, parsley, green onions, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Brush the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with olive oil. Brush the top of a sheet of phyllo dough with olive oil and place it in the pan. (You may have to cut the phyllo dough to fit the pan.) Repeat until you have 6 layers. Place the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo dough.
Brush the top of a sheet of phyllo dough with olive oil and place it on the spinach. Repeat until you have 6 layers. Bake until golden brown on top, about 30-50 minutes.
A simple Greek dish, avgolemono is a thick, creamy chicken and lemon soup. Make this version, from Serious Eats, and you’ll have a delicious dish in no time.
- 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade; if not, low sodium
- 1 cup orzo pasta, or rice
- 4 eggs, separated
- juice of 3 lemons
- freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Bring stock to a boil and add orzo or rice. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Season stock to taste with salt, if necessary. When the orzo or rice is nearing tenderness, whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until medium peaks. Add egg yolks and lemon juice, whisking continuously.
When the orzo or rice is finished, transfer 2 cups of the hot stock to the egg/lemon mixture, adding very slowly in a constant stream and beating vigorously to prevent the eggs from solidifying.
Take the soup off the heat and add the beaten mixture back into the pot, whisking to incorporate. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper.
4. Pork Souvlaki
Dishing up Delights will have you serving pork souvlaki for two tonight. Serve it on skewers, with tzatziki, in pita bread, or with a side dish — whichever way sounds most appealing to you!
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Greek oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ pound pork tenderloin
Directions: Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place pork cubes in a plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and toss to coat pork evenly with the marinade, then open the bag and reseal, removing as much air as possible. Place the pork in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to overnight.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. While the grill is heating, thread the pork cubes onto the skewers. Grill the pork skewers until they browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes, turning once during cooking. Remove the skewers to a plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Michael Symon’s gyro uses lamb for its meat, but chicken and beef are options as well. The recipe also has another method for making tzatiki, which is served with the gyro.
- 6 shallots, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
- one 6-pound bone-in leg of lamb
- 18 pitas
- 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
- 1 head romaine, shaved
- 2 spring onions, green and whites shaved
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 lemons, juiced and zested
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- ground black pepper, to taste
For the roasted lamb: Mix together in a medium bowl the shallots, garlic, rosemary, oregano, sugar, coriander, red pepper flakes, and salt. Rub the mixture all over the surface of the lamb. Place in a large glass baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Remove the lamb from the baking dish, rinse off the seasonings, and pat dry. Let the lamb sit a room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a roasting pan or large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the lamb and brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the lamb, fat side up, to a roasting rack set into a roasting pan. If you have extra rosemary, lay the sprigs over the lamb with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Roast until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, about 1½ hours. Remove the lamb from the pan and set it aside to rest for 20 minutes. Slice lamb into thin strips.
For the tzatziki sauce: Put the yogurt in cheesecloth lined-lined strainer set over a bowl and let drain for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Peel and dice the cucumber, sprinkle it with salt, and place in a strainer at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours to drain. Stir together the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, and zest, mint, garlic, and shallot in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble, wrap the pitas in damp paper towel and warm in microwave or oven. Top pita with lamb, sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and spring onions as desired. Wrap sandwich in foil.
6. Greek Tabbouleh Salad
This salad from Food & Wine needs minimal preparation, and the tabbouleh can be made up to 8 hours before being served.
- ¾ cup medium bulgur (4 ounces), rinsed
- hot water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup crumbled feta (3 ounces)
- ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions: In a large bowl, cover the bulgur with 2 inches of hot water and let soak for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain the bulgur in a fine sieve, pressing firmly to release the excess water. Wipe out the bowl.
In the same bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil. Add the bulgur, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, feta, olives, parsley, and mint. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes and toss once more before serving.
This Greek butter cookie is traditionally served at Christmas time, but don’t let that stop you from making Cooking for Keeps’ recipe whenever you feel like it. Make sure you have a big appetite, though — the recipe makes about 5 dozen kourabiedes.
- 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 2 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
- 8 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 5 to 5 ½ cups flour
- pinch of salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat butter in the bottom of a stand mixer on medium-high speed for 20 minutes. Add egg and almond extract, mix until combined. Sift powdered sugar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to butter and egg. Beat another 10 minutes on a medium-high speed. Sift five cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. With the speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add ½ cup more of flour.
To form the cookies, roll about 2 tablespoons of dough into crescents and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silt pad. There is no need to place cookies very far apart, as they do not spread much. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very pale brown and cooked through.
For a sticky, sweet, flaky layered treat, make one of the best-known Greek dishes: baklava. AllRecipes.com will have you dishing out the iconic pastry in no time.
- 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
- 1 pound chopped nuts
- 1 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup honey
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, and nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6-8 sheets deep.
Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows, then make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp. Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered, as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.