Greek food has always been a passion of mine. Until last Spring I had only been accustomed to foods in the Greek-style and not necessarily how the Greeks themselves would eat day to day. When visiting Greece a lot of the dishes available were totally unfamiliar to me with ingredients not readily available here in my part of Canada. I have been to every Greek restaurant within a 100 km radius and they all serve the same dishes such as spanakopita, souvlakia, saganaki, marinated octopus and moussaka. They also serve all dishes with Greek rice and potatoes and a Greek salad with a sprinkling of grated feta cheese on top. I love them all!!!!
When in Greece the cuisine is so much more than that!!! In Athens I had Skordalia me Kapari (Caper Potato-Garlic Dip); in the Zagoria Tiganopita me Feta (Feta Cheese Pancake), on Santorini Domatokeftedes (Tomato Patties); on Kea Kolokithanthi Gemesti (Fried Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Feta & Mint), and on Naxos Garides Saganaki (Shrimp Baked in Tomato Sauce with Feta). The list goes on forever...but you get my point. These dishes are like nothing we have on the menu at our Canadian-ized versions of Greek restaurants.
There are other ways to eat as well rather than 3 meals a day. Who knew? Commonly in Greek tavernas they serve mezes or small plates of food. You order several small plates to make a larger meal. Meze's is usually translated from Greek to English as "appetizer's", but this translation does not do justice to the fundamental role mezes play in Greek tradition. Zorbas the Greek sums up the essence of mezes the best, "On the coast I felt for the first time what a pleasant thing it could be to have a meal. We started eating and drinking, the conversation became animated. I at last realized that eating was a spiritual function and the meat, bread, and wine were the raw materials from which the soul is made....". When sitting down to a large table of friends and family this can be said of any culture and it's cuisine and traditions.
Mezes capture the zest of life, gathering of family and friends, and the simple appreciation of delicious food and wine. This rice dish is made in the Greek-style using Greek flavourings and ingredients and could be a dish they serve at a meze table...at least my table. It is not considered what I would call typical Greek food. But then what is really. With the introduction of many different flavour combinations and international cuisine Peter at Kalofagas- Pursuit of Delicious Foods states that Greek food can be considered whatever is made by a Greek cook. He is a Greek living in Canada so he should know!! I love that philosphy because then I can imagine that I come from a long line of wonderful Greek cooks making spanakopita, pastitsio, moussaka, saganaki...all the traditional Greek foods. In reality I am not of Greek descent. Nevertheless, I love this rice and have many requests for the recipe. I urge you to try it!!!!
Photo is taken in the town of Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece overlooking the azure Agean Sea. I am reposting this recipe because I prepared this dish today. I was feeling nostalgic.
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cups diced onions
8 oz sliced mushrooms, optional
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 generous T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp minced fresh oregano
1 package frozen, thawed, chopped spinach, drained and squeezed to eliminate excess moisture
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 T dry sherry, optional
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled ( I use more!!)
Combine chicken broth and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover and reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.
Meanwhile, over medium heat in a pan saute onion in butter and olive oil. Saute 5 - 7 minutes. Add mushrooms, if using, spinach and garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add to rice in saucepan. Sprinkle with pepper. Add lemon juice, oregano and sherry, if using, and continue to cook 3 more minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
Add the crumbled feta cheese and toss until the cheese begins to melt.
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