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Traditional Greek dishes are influenced by many of the neighboring countries, and they vary by region. The wide variety of cultural influences that shaped Greek dishes mean that traditional dishes contain a wide variety of ingredients, including different types of herbs, vegetables, or meat. Cheese is a cornerstone of many Greek dishes. Some common traditional Greek dishes include stuffed peppers or grape leaves, spit-roasted meat, and spinach pie.
A popular dish that is thought to have roots in Greece is lentil soup. Traditional Greek lentil soup is also called fakes, which is pronounced FAH-kehs. This dish is made with boiled lentils flavored with lightly caramelized onions, carrots, and garlic with tomato paste and herbs. The herbs in Greek lentil soup are similar to Italian seasonings and include oregano, sage, and rosemary.
One of the more common traditional Greek dishes is dolmathes, or stuffed grape leaves. This dish is made from grape leaves that have been flash boiled in a salty brine. The prepared grape leaves are usually stuffed with rice and vegetables, and are sometimes stuffed with meat. Dolmathes can be called dolmas or dolmadakia and appear as a staple on the menu at most Greek restaurants.
Greek dishes include a lot of cheese, usually feta. Feta is an aged, crumbly curd cheese that is traditionally made from goat's milk or sheep's milk, though most feta sold is made from cow's milk. It is included a wide variety of dishes ranging from salads to baked goods. Greek salads usually consist of olives and feta cheese atop a pile of greens, onions, and peppers with olive oil, herbs, and vinegar. Other types of cheese used in traditional Greek dishes are many, but include Graviera, Mizithra, and Kasseri.
Two popular Greek pie dishes, spanakopita and tyropita, feature feta as a main ingredient. Spanakopita is a dish of spinach and caramelized onions layered with ricotta, chopped feta, and phyllo pastry dough. A tyropita is a deep-fried phyllo and cheese pie.
Greek baklava is a popular dessert dish that is also made with phyllo dough. Like other types of baklava, Greek baklava is made by layering crushed, spiced nuts with phyllo dough, baking the layered pastry and dousing it in warm honey syrup. The main difference between Greek baklava and other baklava dishes is that the Greek variety is made with all walnuts.
I'm surprised this article didn't mention my favorite Greek dish, moussaka. It's essentially an egg plant lasagna, but with Greek seasonings instead of Italian. I didn't really care much for stuffed grape leaves, but I may not have had the best examples. I could put feta cheese on just about everything. There is also a traditional Greek salad dressing that uses feta cheese and olive oil. It's similar in some ways to a French dressing, but with Greek seasonings.
My first job was dishwasher at a local Greek restaurant. I got to help with the prep work for many traditional Greek dishes. My absolute favorite was gyro sandwiches, especially with the rotisserie lamb and beef slices. These sandwiches are almost always overstuffed with meat, and the yogurt-based sauce is a perfect complement.
Souvlaki is also a traditional Greek meat dish, made from marinated pork. It can be used as the meat for a gyro sandwich as well. Baklava is time-consuming to make, but extremely sweet and rich. My personal favorite Greek dessert is their version of rice pudding.
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