Monday, April 2, 2012

Greek Food: Food of the Gods

I've always been fascinated by Greek mythology. It's just so interesting to see how certain myths were created to make sense of the world and its mysteries.

In Greek mythology, the food of the gods is called "ambrosia." I love to say the word. But honestly, I don't love the salad that has become associated with the word. Your basic ambrosia recipe has whipped cream and all sorts of fruits folded into it with marshmallows. But if that's your type of thing, then you can check out this five star rated recipe by Alton Brown found on the Food Network website here.

So, while the recipe I am sharing today doesn't fit today's definition of the word "ambrosia," it is still considered ambrosia by me!

I was doing a search on ancient foods awhile ago and one of the articles I was reading explained why certain cultures developed certain types of foods. It makes complete sense once you think about it. German food uses butter and beer because of their vast countrysides, land-locked status, and forests. They raised cows (hence the butter) and grew grains and barley (which was used for beer). They don't have any seafood dishes because they were land-locked, so most of their dishes are chicken, beef, or pork.

Italian food is a product of its vegetation and climate too. Grapes grow there in abundance, so they use a lot more wine in their cooking. Olives grow perfectly in the sunshine of the Mediterranean, so olive oil is used in place of butter. Since the majority of Italy's border is coastline, they have a lot of wonderful seafood in their cuisine.

Of course, in the early days, there wasn't a huge amount of travel or cultural mixing between European countries so what happened in one area tended to stay in one area. I'm quite glad because it allowed each country to develop its own feel and identity. And now we can all mix and socialize one with another and share all of the wonderful cultural differences we have.

As for Greek food, like Italian food, it also utilizes olives. But you'll also find yogurt and feta (since they raised more goats than cows), almonds, lemon, mint, cucumbers, and oregano. Pair those flavors together and you know you have a Greek dinner in the making.

You just can't go wrong with Greek food. It's all good! Lamb, chicken souvlaki, gyros, kefthedes (Greek meatballs), etc. And then, of course, there are the desserts. Yum!

Some Greek food is more time consuming than others. But I found this very manageable and authentic recipe on Martha Stewart's website. The thing I love about this recipe is that it is a recipe for the entire meal. So, you don't have to worry about what side dishes to make with it. I really think you'll like it!

Greek-Style Chicken with Pickled Onions, Tomatoes, and Tzatziki


1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 4 teaspoons lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 English cucumber, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (2 cups)
Cooked long-grain white rice, for serving


In a medium bowl, combine onion and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, combine chicken, lemon zest, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.

In a third medium bowl, make tzatziki: Combine cucumber, yogurt, parsley, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes to pickled onions and serve with chicken, tzatziki, and rice.

Recipe notes: A short soak in a vinegar bath mellows red onions and turns them sweet and spicy. They make a great complement to juicy bites of chicken and the cool salad called tzatziki.

Source: Martha Stewart website. You can find it here.

Notes: I served this with rice and pita bread wedges. You could also pair it with a garden salad with Greek toppings (such as banana peppers, kalamata olives, feta cheese, sliced cucumber, and tomatoes topped with a Greek vinaigrette). If you prefer, you could use pita bread pockets and stuff the ingredients into it for a pita pocket sandwich.

I found that when you got little bites of each ingredient on the fork at the same time, that's when this recipe was really fantastic. All of these ingredients work together so well. Yum!

1 comment:

  1. That does look good! Interesting facts about how each country's food developed. And, of course, Alton Brown's recipe would be good. He uses fresh fruit and home made marshmallows! Even I would like it!