Cooking School – Greek Food
March is the first month of spring! But as we all know, that season of April showers and May flowers can mean some crazy weather here in Canada. Days of warmth and sunshine will convince you summer is just around the corner … until you wake up to another snowstorm. In any case, why not entice spring to come a little sooner with some food from sunny Greece.
This will be an easy lesson. Greek food is all about fresh, flavourful ingredients and simple preparation. Greece’s spectacular cuisine is also one of the healthiest in the world.
The key to making authentic Greek food is to use as many of the same ingredients as possible that the Greeks use. Pack your pantry full of extra virgin olive oil, herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley, coriander, dill, fennel and sage, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and vanilla. A little of a good thing goes a long way. Greeks tend to use herbs and spices sparingly because the food is so flavourful on its own. Your aim should be to enhance the food’s natural flavour, not to cover it up.
Two of the most traditional cooking methods that Greeks use are grilling and slow roasting. It sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is.
1. Make sure the charcoal is very hot. If you’re using a gas barbecue, set the temperature to high.
2. It’s a good idea to marinate meat or vegetables for at least 20 minutes before grilling. Not only will it taste better, but the meat will tenderize as well. Don’t use the marinating liquid for basting, though. Make up a fresh batch if you want to continue to brush on flavour as the food cooks.
3. Although any cut of meat would be a great candidate for grilling (and Greek cuisine certainly makes use of a huge variety), the most familiar to North Americans would be grilled lamb, chicken and pork.
Slow Roasting Tips
1. Roasting is a dry heat method where only a small amount of oil is rubbed over meat or vegetables. Food can be roasted in an oven or on a rotating spit over a fire. The latter makes a particularly impressive sight at summer barbecue parties.
2. Sear the meat first in a frying pan. This process improves the colour and flavour.
3. Don’t forget to let the roast rest after cooking. Not only will this step save your fingers from being burned when you attempt to slice into it, but it will allow the meat to reabsorb some of the juices resulting in a more tender and easier to carve roast.
What to drink
Ouzo, that well-known Greek aperitif, tastes of anise and should be mixed with water and sipped slowly. Look for Ouzo 12 imported from Greece. You might also enjoy a red, such as 2004 Alpha Estate Red produced in Macedonia. Or try a crisp and lemony 2007 Domaine Constantin Lazaridi Amethystos White.