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The Olive and The Caper by Susanna Hoffman

It's towards the end of winter here. And Meha thought of picking something we could grill. Meat-heavy, I thought. And Greek food came to my mind.

How is it different from Mediterranean food, you ask?

In the western hemisphere, Greek food and Mediterranean food are used interchangeably, but technically they are not the same. Mediterranean food, in general, is very similar among countries in that region, with some small differences (from here).

Greek is very well, then, a subset of Mediterranean food. Not all Mediterranean food is Greek then. Simple.

“Mediterranean food” is a blanket term that includes Greek food, Turkish food, and food from the southern Mediterranean (say, Lebanon). Even though Italy and Spain are in the Mediterranean, those restaurants are distinctly noted as Italian or Spanish food restaurants. So, in a Mediterranean restaurant you will find kebabs, and chicken gyros, found in Greek restaurants, but also lamb gyros (shawarma), falafel, and adana kabab (with ground-beef) which are typically NOT Greek. If you want to eat traditional pork gyros, most likely you need to find a Greek restaurant (from Quora).

A pretty good example was in this blog post:

  • Gyros are Greek and the Mediterranean form is Shawarma. The meat, whether beef, lamb or a combination of both or chicken is placed on a rotisserie ‘stacked’ horizontally. The Gyros are made with the meats ‘blended’ in the shape of a cone that is placed on a rotisserie.

  • Falafels are completely Mediterranean.

  • Hummus is also VERY Mediterranean.

  • Tzatziki, on the other hand, is totally Greek and the Mediterranean Shawarma has a slightly different yoghurt sauce.

  • Spanakopita are Greek and what is interesting is that the Mediterranean equivalent is called Fatayer. Both are triangles filled with spinach and feta cheese but the Spanakopita uses the thin Filo dough and the Fatayer uses regular dough.

  • Dolmas are both Greek and Mediterranean. Grape leaves, stuffed with herbed rice. They can be vegetarian or can have seasoned ground meat.

Since there were only 4 of us, we figured making it entirely meat-heavy was perhaps not possible. Anyway, here is what we had:

  • Dolmades - rolled grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice and apricot, served with an avgolemono sauce

  • Dolmadakia - grape leaves stuffed with pine nuts, currants and golden raisins

  • Chicken baked in yoghurt with red onion and grape leaves

  • Sourdough Boule (this one had figs and apricots. It's something we got from a neighbourhood cafe, it's a little bit on the expensive side, but it's sooooo good!!)

  • Chicken Kapama (chicken braised in a rich concoction of coffee, brandy, honey, cinnamon, clove, tomato and red wine)

  • New potatoes, with mint and spring onions

  • Spring Lamb Stew - with artichokes, dill and lemon egg broth

  • Vegetable Stew with zucchini, potatoes, bell peppers and tomatoes

  • Rice pilaf

The food was all very very different and warm. Just right for us for the end of te winter. The stuffed grape leaves were quite a revelation. Having never eaten grape leaves before, we were not sure of whether cooking them dries them out or they had been overcooked a little. The Kapama was incredulously good too, the mix of wine, coffee and cinnamon sure worked its magic on that chicken. The stews came together with the rice. And overall, we were left quite a satiated bunch.

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