LONDON – FOOD – 2018 is witnessing an influx of new flavors invigorate the taste buds as imaginative chefs, aspirational start-ups, and a competitive established market vies for your attention. But consumers aren’t just wary of cost, our appetites increasingly whet by originality, convenience and, importantly, a more health-conscious approach to our diets.
That’s why Greek food is on the rise. Clinical studies have shown that cuisine originating from the Mediterranean is amongst the world’s healthiest. The flavors of Greece and its European neighbors including southern Italy and Spain, meet the trending criteria of convenience, price, and robust and exciting preparations and ingredients.
The food of Greece – think moussaka, feta cheese, and kleftiko – combines the excitement of characterful food that’s packed with exotic flavors alongside measurable health benefits when compared to popular alternatives. In fact, contemporary Greek cooking, which often incorporates key local ingredients such as olives, lemon juice, yogurt, seasonal herbs, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fish, is thought to help slow down the aging process, lessen the chance of breast cancer, and improve brain and heart activity.
Indeed, following a Mediterranean diet can help improve weight loss, control glucose levels, reduce the severity of depression, and help limit inflammation, a risk factor in such conditions as stroke, Alzheimer’s and heart attack. Of course, this encompasses a healthy lifestyle which involves getting plenty of exercise but it shows that healthy eating can still mean you can enjoy the things you like. In fact, the Greeks love a glass of white or red wine (in moderation!).
The popularity of Greek food continues to grow in America with some of the country’s top restaurants and gourmet delis all over the country showcasing dishes focusing on meat, dairy, greens, and seafood. Of course, feta remains the most well-known Greek export. Little wonder it’s so popular when you can do so much with this versatile cheese. A brined curd white cheese made mostly from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, it’s popular in Greece in spanakopita and tyropita while it’s often served as a starter with olives, olive oil, and herbs such as oregano and thyme. In Greece, they often coat it in batter and deep-fry it, or wrap it in foil and cook it with tomato, olive oil, oregano and spicy pepper for a salty, melted cheese appetizer.
For more adventurous treats, you can always try the spicy feta dip known as htipiti, which sees roasted red peppers and chili enliven the creaminess of feta. There’s also mpifteki (a minced beef patty seasoned with aromatic herbs) stuffed with olives and feta. This can be served Mediterranean style with open flatbread or given an American makeover inside a burger with fries on the side.
Of course, spanakopita is a famous Greek dish made with feta that’s usually mixed with spinach to create a filo or other pastry pie that’s usually served as an appetizer or as a snack. And don’t forget an easy-to-make Greek salad that’s distinguished by its combination of Kalamata olives, feta and Greek olive oil with your choice of additional salad items – the traditional version of the “village salad”, as it’s called in Greek, calls for tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion.
The Greeks also have an answer for those wanting to get their meat fix too. Almost as famous as feta is the gyro sandwich, which can come in all shapes and sizes but most often sees slices of slow-cooked spiced pork layered on top of the salad and then wrapped inside a flatbread with tzatziki or a chili sauce drizzled over it.
Other favorites include moussaka – the famous Greek casserole – which resembles lasagna in the way vegetables, meat, tomato sauce, and cheese are layered to create a dish packed with the flavors of seasonal herbs. Also worth trying is baklava, a flaky pastry that gives the sweet tooth something to enjoy as a mix of walnuts, pistachios or pecans are engulfed in honey or sugar syrup.
As you can see, Greek food is a great way to experience bold flavors and exciting new dishes while watching the waistline. Demand continues to grow and with the potential health benefits of a Mediterranean diet helping us live longer, happier lives, it’s easy to see why the tastes of Greece are so popular.