Robert Smith: Celebrate spring with Greek cuisine
Special to The Union
Spring holds promise and hope: Renewal, rebirth, new beginnings. Freed from the dark days of winter, we spring forward into the light — the sun and warmth of summer. I can’t think of a better time to celebrate the lovely cuisine of Greece.
Greece is an extraordinarily beautiful place. There’s the brilliant, clear, turquoise of the Aegean Sea and the white puffy clouds against the deep blue sky.
The bright white stucco houses with their blue trim that seem to reflect the sky are ornamented by vibrant pink, red and fuchsia flowers, creating a real life, 3-D painting you walk through in quiet awe as warm Mediterranean breezes kiss your face. Spring in Greece — highlighted by Easter — is an especially joyful time of year. Fasting and then feasting are ingrained in the culture.
When it comes to the feasting part, the Greeks are very enthusiastic and capable cooks. The Greek cuisine is a loose and varied collection of influences.
Its Mediterranean core, like a golden ring, is bejeweled with sparkling delights from the Middle East upon whose doorstep Greece stands. Surrounded everywhere by water, seafood is naturally a significant part of the Greek diet. The dry, rocky, hilly terrain is not very suitable for large animal grazing, so beef is not nearly as common as lamb, pork and goat. And so sheep and goat cheeses are important.
Wild, fresh herbs from those hills add flavor, vitamins and decoration. Citrus is prevalent as are figs, olives, dates and nuts.
Greek food falls into the column of clean, simple flavors, its success due more to the quality and purity of ingredients than to complicated technique. Try this easy recipe for an authentic Greek salad at home.
1/2 cup cucumber peeled, seeded & cut into chunks
1/2 cup tomato cut into chunks
1/2 cup red bell pepper cut into chunks
1/2 cup red onion cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
Olive oil vinaigrette
Put all veggies into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, toss. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss again.
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Healthy pinch of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of capers
4 whole, pitted Kalamata olives
Toss to coat everything well. Plate in medium bowl. Sprinkle some more crumbled feta on salad, then another pinch of oregano and three more olives.
Robert Smith is the chef owner of the Old 5Mile House where they serve roadhouse food from around the world.
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