I recently returned from Greece, and the food was even better than I had imagined. Yes, the feta cheese was plentiful and the vegetables were lovely and ripe and of course the olive oil was rich and flavorful. The real magic, though, was that in every taverna we visited, in every city and every village, it became immediately apparent that every part of our meal was being prepared especially for us, just 30 feet away.
The one exception was the bread, which was always brought to the table immediately and was always warm in that way that lets you know that it is still cooling from baking, which must go on all day long.
In a few cases, we saw only one person in a taverna, presumably the owner, who greeted us, seated us, took our order, and then returned to the kitchen to prepare our dishes, bringing each one out as he finished. Every meal was made with care and it truly felt like we were eating at home on the patio. With a long-lost family. A long-lost family of good cooks!
These mussels with feta were my favorite seafood dish on the trip. My guess is that they were steamed in a white wine and herb broth, and then topped with feta and covered to allow the cheese to melt slightly.
All of the seafood was incredible, and even my husband, who is squeamish about any fish that retains an even remotely fish-like shape, enjoyed these simple boned, grilled sardines dressed with olive oil and lemon.
Eggplant was everywhere, and this dip was another unexpected highlight. Sweet pickled peppers, young onions, garlic and lots of fresh herbs studded the dip. And the eggplant was roasted and chopped rather than pureed, which made for a nice texture.
We still don’t have the foggiest what type of meat(s) were used in this incredible sausage. It was ground into large chunks, cased, and charred on the outside, but remained tender and pink on the inside. It was unlike anything I have ever eaten at home.
Exceeding expectations, the salads were varied, colorful, and delicious. Of course they all included feta cheese in one form or another.
In the first photo: a more traditional salad with pureed favas, black-eyed peas, boiled greens with lemon, roasted beets, tomatoes, cukes, peppers and olives. Just below it: a less traditional salad with arugula, cukes, carrots, beets, pickles, olives, corn and capers.
Bartenders were always happy to deliver a little snack to enjoy with your beverages that always included day-old toasted bread and cheeses and typically either meats or marinated tiny fishes. Since we’ve returned I have been fantasizing about opening a tiny bar with great little plates!
I miss you already, Greece!