A Taste of the Mediterranean: Greek Meze Dinner
Let's take a culinary excursion to Europe and explore the northern Mediterranean coast while sampling all the good eats available in the region. We'll start in the Cinque Terre in the Liguria region of Italy where pesto was invented. It's autumn, so the tomatoes are at their full ripeness, the local basil harvest is in, and there is an abundance of freshly-made pesto available everywhere - what a great excuse to indulge in a pesto feast with some local Italian wines. Next, we'll head to the Greek island of Santorini where we'll enjoy the ultimate sunset meze dinner of Greek classics. Lastly, we'll head to the Sants-Montjuic neighborhood in Barcelona for an evening-long tasting of small plates as we crawl from one tapas bar to another.
In this "deep dive" series, we'll sample a full range of Mediterranean treats as we move from country to country. You'll be introduced to the traditional flavor profiles of each region and learn the subtle differences between each cuisine. By the end of the series, you'll be able to make anything taste Italian, Spanish, or Greek.
Olives, lemons, garlic, and fresh herbs like oregano make up the core flavor profile of Greek cooking. Throw in lots of seafood, add some great wines, and you've got a world-class Mediterranean cuisine well worth seeking out. Tonight, learn how to make all these simple and elegant dishes on our meze menu:
- Ladolemono (Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette)
- Horiatiki (Greek Village Salad)
- Melitzanosalata (Eggplant Dip)
- Htapothi Sti Skhara (Grilled Octopus)
- Dolmade (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Makes 1 1/2 cups
- Briefly saute garlic in olive oil, about 1 minute.
- Combine all other ingredients.
- Use as a salad dressing or marinade for any Mediterranean-style dish.
- In a large bowl, add all of the vegetables: tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, red onion.
- Add a dash of red wine vinegar and the salad dressing, and toss gently with salt and pepper.
- Top with olives and feta cheese, then sprinkle with oregano.
- Slice each eggplant into 3 vertical "center cut" slices (about 1/2 inch thick). Discard end cuts.
- Brush one side with olive oil, grill (or broil) for 5 minutes.
- Turn the eggplant and brush other side with olive oil, grill (or broil) for another 5 minutes.
- Repeat as needed until eggplant is thoroughly cooked. Set aside to cool.
- Remove skin of eggplant, coarsely chop into 1/4 inch chunks.
- In a mixing bowl, mix chopped eggplant with dressing.
- Add cumin and adjust for seasoning.
- Mix in red onions and parsley.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with olives and feta cheese.
- Serve with bread and/or sliced cucumbers.
- Defrost octopus in refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Clean octopus under cold running water (cut open the head and remove the innards).
- Add 1/4 cup of water in a soup pot, add octopus and simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until tender (the octopus will secrete its own water).
- Rinse under cold water, chill in ice water for about 5 minutes (this will help the "skin" from falling off).
- Pry out the "beak" with a pairing knife.
- Transfer cooked octopus to a bowl, add olive oil and lemon juice, mix thoroughly.
- Grill octopus over hot charcoal (or broil) until brown and crispy on the outside (about 5-10 minutes on each side).
- Chop grilled octopus into bite size pieces.
- Toss grilled octopus with dressing, parsley, and liquid smoke (if desired); adjust seasoning and serve.
Makes 16 dolmades
- Saute onion in olive oil until soft.
- Add water and chicken base, stir until dissolved.
- Transfer broth to rice cooker, add the rice; cook p er manufacturer's instructions.
- Simmer vine leaves in boiling water for about 30 minutes; rinse under cold water and drain.
- Transfer cooked rice to a mixing bowl when done.
- Make the filling: Season the rice with half of the olive oil, half of the lemon juice, dill, parsley, salt, and pepper; mix gently.
- Prep a 9x13 inch baking dish: Spray olive oil to coat bottom, layer bottom with vine leaves (use small and broken pieces).
- Stuff the vine leaves: Place one leaf (shiny side down) on a flat surface, remove stem; add 2 tablespoons of the filling at the bottom end (near stem); fold the lower section of the leaf over the filling towards the center; bring the two sides in towards the center, then roll up tightly (tip: choose only large leaves without holes).
- Place the stuffed vine leaves (fold side down) on the bottom of a baking dish.
- Drizzle the stuffed vine leaves with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees; bake uncovered for about 15 minutes; let cool before serving.