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The guide to Greek grub

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A traditional Greek dish of stuffed tomato, pastitsio and lemon potato. Credit: Elizabeth Tzagournis | Lantern Reporter

A traditional Greek dish of stuffed tomato, pastitsio and lemon potato. Credit: Elizabeth Tzagournis | Lantern Reporter

I internally cringe while writing my headline and referring to the heavenly delight that is Greek food, as grub. Yet most students are only introduced to my country’s cuisine through the famous street meat outside Midway on High or Park Street Cantina. The enticing scent is enough to draw any college student out from the dark bars in their heavy state of intoxication.

However, as a Greek-American, I am here to strike some wisdom into the minds of all who still mispronounce gyro. PSA: it’s pronounced “yi-ro.”

The great thing about Greek food is that, no matter what, there really is something for everyone. For the vegetarians, we have the lovely tiropita and spanakopita. These filo-wrapped triangles are filled with feta cheese or spinach and are the perfect complement to a meal. Serve as an appetizer, side dish or have one as a snack. I promise, you will be coming back for more.

For the lasagna fans, the Greeks have something even better. Pastitsio is a creamy and cheesy baked pasta dish with beef and lamb and a special sauce called béchamel. The combination is completely satisfying and guaranteed to keep you full. Lemon potatoes baked with fresh lemon juice are often served on the side, as is the case with my recent pastitsio dish in Astoria, Queens, also know as New York City’s Greek town.  

A traditional meal begins with a Greek salad that includes fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, Kalamata olives and feta cheese. The dressing is always light and perfectly complements the salad. The combination of oregano, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper is part of what makes a salad a Greek salad.

Another well-loved dish that contains both fruit and meat is yemista. Yemista, stuffed tomatoes or peppers, is a flavorful and refreshing meal that offers a delicious blend of the tomato or pepper stuffed with either ground beef or lamb or rice and herbs.

The Mediterranean diet is one that includes a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables, along with meat dishes. Although Greek food may not always be the healthiest of options, my Papou (grandfather) always reminds me of the classic Mediterranean mentality: “everything in moderation.” Fresh food that is well prepared should be indulged in and enjoyed, regardless of how healthy it is. One of the most cherished aspects of my trip to Greece was the local cuisine — natural, quality food that was both tasty and fully satisfying.

Ethnic food can put you outside your comfort zone, but I encourage anyone who has had a bite of a late-night gyro to venture into a Greek or Mediterranean restaurant and order something you have never tried or that I mentioned in this article. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.

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