A glorious way of eating in Greece

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(Granthshala) – Greek island! It was a bucket list trip, made even more precious as a getaway after a long pandemic travel drought. I had been to Athens before, so this trip was all about the islands, including a visit to the beautiful cliff houses on Santorini.

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I saw pictures of white and blue houses overlooking the sea. Can the island really be amazing in person?

To sweeten the trip, I’ll get to dine on a Mediterranean diet in one of its home countries. This is an award-winning style of healthy eating that I’ve been covering for years as a health journalist. I was going to see, smell, taste, and take photos of many of the foods I was writing about, based on recipes handed down from the Greek yiaeus to his grandchildren over the centuries. Will the food look and taste personally healthy?

Answer to both – Yes.

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On the island of Milos, my fiancé and I dined at an inexpensive cafe called Nostos Sea Food, one of many eateries along the coast. Our taxi driver told us it was a favorite of the locals, and when our meal arrived, we could immediately see why. Dolmades, stuffed grape leaves usually served in rolls, were transformed into delicious, shrimp-filled bites covered with lemon froth.

Small dolmades filled with shrimp and grains are covered with lemon zest and served with a hush of tzatziki dip.

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Sandee LaMotte/Granthshala

The Galatopita, a classic ruffled milk pie, was a tempting feast of buttery phyllo and custard, artfully decorated with pistachios. Despite looking like a small kitchen, the chef managed to create an experience worthy of a four-star restaurant.

The traditional ruffled milk pie is artfully displayed with Greek pistachios and a rosebud.

The traditional ruffled milk pie is artfully displayed with Greek pistachios and a rosebud.

Sandee LaMotte/Granthshala

All over Greece, every meal we ate was prepared with pride. Creamy, rich Greek yogurt with walnuts and honey was more like a lovely dessert than a classic breakfast.

In Santorini, we kept coming back to a restaurant that served traditional Greek cuisine – but on steroids. At 218 Degrees Café, a freshly made version of spanakopita, the beloved Greek spinach pie, was like nothing I had experienced in the United States. Zucchini dumplings were stuffed with fresh vegetables and herbs, then lightly fried in olive oil. They were served alongside another Greek staple: tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip filled with cucumber, dill, and lemon.

Here's a feast of Greek cuisine with a spectacular view of Santorini's cliffs: (clockwise from top left) horiatiki, zucchini fritters, grilled vegetables, spanakopita, and Greek yogurt.

Here’s a feast of Greek cuisine with a spectacular view of Santorini’s cliffs: (clockwise from top left) horiatiki, zucchini fritters, grilled vegetables, spanakopita, and Greek yogurt.

Granthshala

The traditional Greek salad, called horiatiki (meaning village), was another revelation. For one, there was no salad, just lots of plump, juicy tomatoes, laced with cucumbers, green peppers and onions, several of the many varieties of Greek olives, and large slabs of fresh feta and sprinkled with olive oil. Was.

And feta! There’s no tart touch like the feta I’ve always known statesside. This cheese melts in my mouth, rich, creamy and delicious. No wonder the Greeks say that feta can go with anything.

One of my favorite recipes was very simple: perfectly roasted vegetables glazed with olive oil, with a sprinkling of seeds and herbs. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were eating these foods atop the cliffs of Santorini. And yes, the white and blue homes are just as beautiful in person as they are in the pictures.

I'm not a professional photographer, but it's hard to get a beautiful picture of Santorini's famous blue and white dome houses.

I’m not a professional photographer, but it’s hard to get a beautiful picture of Santorini’s famous blue and white dome houses.

Sandee LaMotte/Granthshala

Benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle

Speaking of olive oil, I can confirm that it is the king of the Mediterranean diet. It’s such a part of Greek life that if the natives think someone is a little crazy, they say “choris ladi” or “losing oil.”

While the Mediterranean way of eating is based on traditional foods from the 21 countries that surround the Mediterranean, they share a similar theme. The focus is on simple, plant-based cooking, which includes fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts and with a heavy emphasis on extra virgin olive oil.

Say goodbye to refined sugar and flour except on rare occasions. Fats other than olive oil, such as butter, are rarely consumed. Red meat can form a rare form, usually only to flavor a dish. Instead, meals may include eggs, dairy, and poultry, but in much smaller portions than in the traditional American diet.

Fish, however, are a staple. At a local restaurant, we saw three young men feasting on a huge, freshly caught fish, left with nothing but a few bones and a head. Speaking of heads, fellow finicky eaters get used to it. Most of the seafood I saw in Greece was served whole, eyeballs and all. For someone used to fish fillets and ready-to-eat prawns, it took a while to get used to. (I wasn’t too keen on all the octopuses hanging around.) But if you live by the sea, you expect freshness—and that’s what you get.

Don't be surprised to see your dinner hanging out by the sea.

Don’t be surprised to see your dinner hanging out by the sea.

Sandee LaMotte/Granthshala

Don’t forget fresh fruit, the foundation of dessert here. While you can easily buy traditional baklava or lukomades (Greek donuts) at most tourist-based restaurants, locals don’t eat that every day. One night at a restaurant, I saw a family order a fruit platter with watermelon as a birthday cake.

This Greek Family Ordered a Fruit

This Greek family ordered a fruit “birthday cake” with a candle, which they blew out before serving.

Sandee LaMotte/Granthshala

Orange, lemon and fig trees grow in the backyard, ready for a quick walk outside. I also saw orange trees growing on the sidewalks of Athens.

Unlike a sodium-heavy diet, Mediterranean cuisine has a preference for flavoring herbs and spices over salt and pepper. Fresh herbs are so important that the Greeks grow them in every nook and corner. In Athens, I saw pots of herbs in the windows, along the sidewalks next to parked cars and at the base of trees in the streets.

No space is left unused.  The Greeks grew the herb in pots tucked into tree bases on sidewalks or next to parked cars.

No space is left unused. The Greeks grew the herb in pots tucked into tree bases on sidewalks or next to parked cars.

Granthshala

But the Mediterranean “diet” is much more than food. It is based on movements such as walking, biking and gardening, as well as mindful eating and gathering of friends and family.

It was clear everywhere we went – as soon as the workday ended, people began to gather in the city center or by the sea, children in tow. Family and friends reunited, the news of the day was shared, laughter floated in the air – and then it was time to gather for a meal.

Watching the connection happen was the highlight of the trip. We can’t wait to go back.

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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