In Greece, eating many small dishes with distinctive flavors is part of the dining ritual. Meze (plural mezethes) means a food dish to taste and share.
Wine or ouzo is poured to start the meal, and mezethes are brought to the table a few at a time. They are continually served on sharing plates as the meal progresses. Wine is refilled, conversations linger and a simple dinner turns into a great evening-long social event.
Last night, as we entertained the Cerrillo family in our flat, we celebrated the traditions of Greece with an authentic meal of mezethes. There were only six of us dining, but the variety in the tastes offered something for everyone. The menu included:
- Kalamata olives
- Roasted pistachio nuts
- Pepper-stuffed green olives
- Feta-stuffed spicy red peppers
- Salted and cured anchovies
- Tarama Salata with bread
- Grilled halloumi cheese with fresh lemon
- Tsatsiki sauce
- Sweet roasted vegetable and raisin salad with a drizzle of Greek honey
- Flatbread pizza with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta with oregano
- Grilled artichokes in olive oil
- Green beans with lemon and herbs
- Greek salad with toasted pita bread
- Veal stuffed aubergine with tomato cream and shaved Kefalotyri cheese
- Chicken with olives and feta in red wine sauce
- Slow-roasted pork shanks in wine and vegetables
- Greek yogurt with pistachios and honey
- Lemon sorbet
If you’re looking to serve a traditional Greek meal of mezethes, think about offering small portions of many dishes. You certainly don’t have to make everything from scratch. To get started, visit your local high-end grocery’s olive bar to select a sampling of tastes to try. Assemble quick flatbread pizzas with cheeses and ingredients already on hand. Think of meats that can be slow-simmered for hours in the crock pot to magnify flavors. Offer bite-sized tastes of desserts to cleanse the palate afterward.
We’re still on a hunt for ouzo locally, but once we find a bottle, we’ll certainly end our Greek meals with a glass topped by an ice cube and a splash of cool water. Refreshing!