Passport Greece

Passport Greece | The Rose Table
One of my favorite photos that I took in Greece

My love of Greek food is sincere and longstanding. In fact, I threw my first ever dinner party at the age of sixteen and the theme was Greece. My friends at the time wolfed down the food (which my mom had spent hours – days, even – preparing with me) and wanted to know what was next on the agenda. I remember thinking, I can’t wait until I can throw a dinner party for guests who know how to attend a dinner party. Sixteen year-old me would be very happy to read this blog, I think.

Greek Dinner Party, 2005 | The Rose Table
My first ever dinner party in 2005. Theme: Greece.

I studied abroad in Greece during my time at TCU (go Frogs!) and even though I minored in Classical Studies, I joke that I was really in it for the feta.

Parthenon in Athens | The Rose Table
Standing in front of the Parthenon in Athens in 2009

I’m not sure where my love of Greece and its healthy food came from, but there’s a solid chance it stemmed from my dad bringing home dolmas from Central Market when I was in middle school. Dolmas is the first Greek food I remember trying. So when Central Market invited me to preview their Passport Greece event years later, I was elated.

This is Central Market’s sixth annual Passport event, which lasts two weeks (April 29 – May 12, 2015) and celebrates a different culture each year. Central Market is bringing in hundreds of Greek goodies and over forty different Greek wines for the occasion. There are also all sorts of great Passport Greece events, including lots of different cooking classes (who doesn’t want to learn how to make Bay-scented Sweet Figs from Rosemary Barron?) but since many of my readers don’t live in Texas, I want to focus on the food.

“Μπουκιά και συγχώριο.” (“One bite and all is forgiven.”)

We all need to get on board with giant white beans immediately. They’re available on practically every menu in Greece and I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat many giant beans. I could have eaten this whole bowl no problem, especially paired with Kalamata olives and feta cheese. I would happily eat this for lunch every day.

Speaking of cheese, most people think feta when they think Greece but that’s certainly not the only native variety. My friend and I both preferred the Metsovo Kefalograviera Vlaha (try saying that three times fast!) to the Manouri Pdo. The Metsovo is reminiscent of a mild parmesan in flavor but is much softer in texture.

You heard it here first: I’m going to learn how to make Kalamata & Feta Bread. This rocked my world. I was too stuffed to try it at the event so the kind people at Central Market packed it up in a To Go box for me. I didn’t get to it until the next day and it was still fresh as a daisy and bursting with flavor. Maybe they’ll be so kind as to share the recipe?

I bought several cookbooks while studying abroad in Greece but to be perfectly honest with you, I rarely use them because the measurements are all in Metric and I’m lazy like that. I do often look through them for inspiration though. It would be prudent to buy a Greek cookbook here in the US so that it’s easier for me to use.

Greeks know a thing or two about meatballs. I need to blog about my own Lamb Meatball recipe later this summer. These beef meatballs were incredible dipped in tzatziki sauce, which I never really think of doing. This is a great tip for everyone reading at home: lighten up meatballs by squiring lemon juice over them and dipping them in cucumber yogurt sauce.   

The only thing about Greek food that really loses me is their affinity for cooking whole fish. I draw the line at eyeballs. Call me American but I don’t love my food to watch me eat it. If you order any sort of grilled or broiled fish in Greece, there’s a very good chance it’s going to be whole. You’ve been warned.

I absolutely adore this subtitle. It makes me want to be friends with Diane Kochilas. That’s the great thing about Greek food: you can have a feast and still feel great afterwards. Vegetables, olive oil, fish, herbs, oh yes!

This is the real deal. This is raspberry chocolate jam and I want it in a crepe every Sunday morning. I was skeptical and I was converted. If you ever see this on a shelf near you, trust me and grab it.

Greeks are crazy about their honey. When I first got to Greece, I was terribly disappointed by the lack of chocolate desserts. The most popular dessert is yogurt and honey. Well, I’m American and that sounds like breakfast to me! Not in Greece. I finally ordered it on a terrace one cool evening and was blown away. The yogurt was impossibly thick and creamy. The honey was more like a syrup than anything else. I cursed myself for not having ordered it after every meal. I don’t think I have ever had yogurt and honey for dessert since I was in Greece, but Entopia’s Flower Honey might just change that.

Speaking of dessert, you can see what I mean about the lack of chocolate. My favorite of these was the bougatsa, which is described on the Passport Greece website thusly: “This rich breakfast pastry originated in Serres and has gained popularity from Thessaloniki to Crete.” That’s right. It’s actually breakfast! Best. News. Ever.

How to Taste Olive Oil

A little bonus at the Passport Greece media preview: I learned how to properly taste olive oil! I’ve been doing it all wrong. The proper steps are:

Warm the olive oil
We had the oil in tiny cups and used our palms to gently warm it up.

Gargle the olive oil
I kept getting the giggles. It’s harder to pull off than it looks. Basically, you keep the olive oil in the front of your mouth for a minute.

Taste the olive oil
Once the olive oil has been properly gargled, let it slowly slide down your throat. I was stunned at how many flavor notes I could taste using this method. Just look at the shock on my face!

Happy cooking,

The Rose Table
@therosetable
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Mediterranean Sea | The Rose Table
Until we meet again, Greece!

 

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