Greek Cooking Essentials

The Global Pantry Series: Greek Cooking Essentials

The Table Home Chef Blog
July

Taking our pantry series back to the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that Greek cooks work with a small foundation of ultra flavorful, often healthful ingredients. The country’s cuisine is popular all around the world, and the Greek diet is often hailed as the most healthy way of eating out there thanks to its reliance on heart-healthy olive oil, seafood, legumes, and fresh produce. Due to its well-earned popularity among home cooks and diners alike, these must-have ingredients can be sourced at most grocery stores these days. If you’ve already got most of the ingredients on our list and are looking to expand your horizons, we encourage you to seek out a Greek speciality market. They’ll have a treasure trove of ingredients like house brined feta, a dizzying array of marinated olives, and freshly baked pita. Plus, they typically serve up dishes that are native to the Greek isles like Dolma, Baklava, and Spanakopita right there while you shop!

Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil

Olive Oil, like wine, varies in flavor by geography. The hotter the climate, the bolder the flavor. Plus, each country uses grapes native to their region. Different grapes = different flavors. Greek Olive Oil has a mild green coloring, low acidity, and strong flavor while Italian Olive Oil is a darker green with nuttier, herbal notes. Spanish, on the other hand, is golden in color. So you see…not all olive oils are made equal. Olive Oil is a staple in Mediterranean cooking in general. While shopping for olive oil, it’s important to look at the origin of the olives. Many bottles bought in America are a blend of Spanish, Italian, and Greek olives and not authentically Greek.

Red Wine Vinegar

They say oil and vinegar don’t mix – but we can’t imagine a Greek kitchen without these star ingredients! Greeks use predominantly balsamic and red wine vinegar but it’s helpful to have white wine vinegar on hand as well. Vinegar is a main ingredient for salads, especially since Greek recipes are simple. The oil and vinegar dressing gives it an extra boost of flavor that takes a salad from fresh and tasty to mind-blowing. There are, of course, many other purposes for vinegar like sauces and soups but salads are where they really get to shine.

Olives & Capers

Olives are found widely throughout Greek cooking, and both lend briny, salty flavor to a variety of dishes. Marinated olives are a pantry staple on their own for easy appetizers and roasted olives are found throughout the country in different dishes. Greek cuisine relies heavily on Kalamata and Green Olives, but there are over 100 different types – so don’t be surprised if you see recipes that call for other specific varieties!

Capers are immature flower buds native to the Mediterranean. They are mostly preserved through brining or salt curing, giving them a very pungent profile. Capers provide a unique flavor in dishes throughout the Mediterranean region. In Greek cuisine specifically, they’re traditionally used in salads as well as dishes with cooked tomatoes or fish. Capers can often be found in the Italian aisle of the grocery store since they’re a popular ingredient among Southern Italian dishes as well.

Honey

Fun Fact: Greece has the most bee hives in Europe! Greek honey is incredibly nutritious with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. There are multiple kinds of honey but the most popular for Greek cooking is Thyme. Others include Pine, Blossom or Wildflower, Heather, Chestnut, and Fir. Honey is used in sweet and savory dishes throughout Greek cuisine. A simple use that we absolutely love for snacking is baked goat cheese with honey. Because a lot of Greek flavors are so strong with often tangy or pungent aspects, honey is a great balancing ingredient. Other popular dishes you’ll see it used include Greek Honey Cake (Melopita), Loukoumades (Greek Honey Fritters), and Pasteli. Honey is used in a lot of pastries that use Phyllo Dough.

Phyllo Pastry

Phyllo Pastry (or Phyllo Dough) is a very delicate type of pastry dough rolled almost paper-thin. Make some on your own or buy sheets in the freezer section of the grocery store. Phyllo Pastry is used in popular Greek dishes like Spanakopita and Baklava. Spanakopita is a savory spinach and cheese pie that can be traced back to the days of Ancient Greece. Baklava also has ancient roots but is much more of a treat with flaky layers of phyllo and a honey-nut mixture. Phyllo is used in more recipes than just these two but they’re the ones its best known for.

Almonds, Figs & Currants

Nuts and dried fruits are common ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine. Almonds are much more popular in Greek cooking than most people realize. Greece is, in fact, one of the foremost almond producers in the world. Almonds are often roasted and candied for a sweet treat, used in Baklava in place of walnuts, or ground into flour for baking. Kourabiethes, Greek shortbread cookies, are a common Christmas treat similar to a biscuit and often found in crescent moon shapes or round balls.

Figs & Currants are both high in nutritional value and found in many Greek kitchens. Figs, in particular, are most popular dried when their nutritional value increases. It’s also the ideal way of storing the fruit long term. Currants, otherwise known as black raisins, have a bit more intense flavor compared to the average raisin. Both Currants and Figs are added into baking and sometimes as a finishing touch to savory dishes as well. They pair best with big flavors.

Herbs & Spices

If you enjoyed Greek food regularly, it’s no surprise that the most popular herbs found in this Mediterannean cuisine are Greek Oregano, Dill, and Mint. These three herbs are found fresh and dried throughout most savory Greek dishes and even some sweet. Other popular spices and herbs in Greek culture include Bay Leaves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, and Parsley. Greek Oregano, while more pungent than Mexican Oregano, is still a bit more earthy and mild compared to Italian which is the most pungent of them all.

Dill and Mint are the other two most popular savory herbs found in Greek cooking. Dill is most popular for Tzatziki, a dip or sauce with yogurt and cucumber. Dill is also found in Spanakorizo, Greek Spinach and Rice with a healthy addition of the feathery herb. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves are popular for sweets and baked goods. Cinnamon and Nutmeg are often used together and can also be found in a lot of lamb dishes to add warmth. Cloves are popular to use in their whole form, especially with winter dishes like stews, broths, and heartier recipes.

About the Author:

Christine Rosko is a Chicago native with a passion for food, especially pasta. Growing up in an Italian family, the…read more about: Christine Rosko

 


Stove-top Pork Ribs

pork ribse

 

Today, we are presenting our Stove top braised pork ribs in a soy sauce and balsamic vinegar reduction…..

Need we say more?

As you know, ribs are one of the most popular foods in the entire world, yet most people still have difficulty making them at home. Here is a foolproof braising technique that does not require any special equipment, just one pot and your stove top!

By cooking your ribs in a cooking liquid  we can guarantee that you will have a moist, tender and extremely flavorful rib. Perfectly salted with soy sauce and totally herbaceous, with taste of fresh lime to add zip to every bite. You do not have to grill your ribs over hot coals or smother them in barbecue sauce, for an authentic foodie experience and this recipe proves it just fine!

 

Adapted From
by Michael Bednarz
shared.com
May 11, 2017

Serves 4

Ingredients:
10 pork spareribs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
10 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated onion powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
3-4 sprigs fresh oregano
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 chicken bullion cube
Kosher salt, to taste*
ground black pepper to taste
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnish
3-4 tablespoons snipped fresh chives, for garnish

Directions:
Place the spareribs into a large pot, and fill with just enough water to cover. Add the cup soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, granulated white sugar, garlic, cumin, onion powder, fresh oregano,thyme, bay leaves, lime juice, red wine vinegar,chicken bullion cube and salt and pepper,to taste. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered over medium heat until the water has completely evaporated, about 45 minutes to an hour.

When all of the water has evaporated, remove the bay leaves, and allow meat to brown, turning occasionally using tongs. Use a spatula to scrape up browned bits and softened garlic from the bottom of the pot, and toss them with the pork. The garlic will dissolve into the meat.

Remove the meat, and drain on paper towels. Season with black pepper and garnish with lime wedges and chives.

Cook’s Notes:
Depending on the brand of soy sauce that you will use, you can completely eliminate the use of salt in this recipe if desired.

Dark soy sauce is one of the two types of soy sauce used most often in Chinese cooking. The light variety of soy sauce tends to be the other one used in Asian cuisine.

Dark soy sauce is aged for longer periods of time and usually contain molasses or caramel and a bit of cornstarch added, making it s thicker and darker in color than light soy sauce. Also note that dark soy sauce varieties tend to have a high sodium content, although not as high as light soy sauce. Because it tends to be a more full-bodied flavor, dark soy sauce is frequently added to marinades and sauces to add color and flavor to a dish.

Although dark soy sauce is used primarily in cooking, as it needs heating to bring out its full flavor, you will also sometimes find it in dipping sauce recipes.

To see how this recipe was originally made, see the video from shared.com in the video below:

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