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Food

Mezedes to Enjoy with Greece’s Favorite Spirits

Mezedes paired with your favorite ouzo or any of Greece’s favorite spirits and liqueurs, including tsipouro and the Cretan tsikoudia, offer an authentically Greek experience no matter how far away from Greece you are at the moment.

There are many popular brands of ouzo from various regions, but perhaps most famous is Plomari on the island of Lesvos, where the Ouzo Museum is located.

Ouzo can be served on the rocks, straight with a cold glass of water, or as a shot, chilled until very cold. Adding water to ouzo will turn it cloudy due to the essential oil of anise, the licorice-flavor in ouzo, which is completely soluble in alcohol at 38 percent alcohol by volume or higher, but is not soluble in water. The droplets of the essential oil get caught in the water and create the cloudy or milky ‘ouzo effect’.

Drinking ouzo xerosfyri (literally “dry hammer” which means drinking on an empty stomach) is frowned upon according to Greek custom and tradition. Eating mezedes (appetizers) with ouzo adds to the enjoyment of the flavors, but there is also a practical reason as well. Eating food while sipping ouzo lessens the intoxicating effect of the drink, so the alcohol doesn’t hit the drinker all at once. The foods often served with ouzo and most of Greece’s favorite spirits can be as simple as some feta, olives, and a salad, or other classic Greek appetizers like kolokithokeftedes, grilled octopus, sardines, calamari, fried eggplant, and zucchini. Enjoy the following recipes with your favorite Greek spirits or wines.

Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Fritters)

3 cups grated zucchini

1/3 cup dill, chopped

8 scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups crumbled feta

4 large eggs, beaten

1 cup flour (plus more as needed)

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

Place the grated zucchini in a strainer over a bowl, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour to drain the excess water. Squeeze the excess water out of the grated and drained zucchini and place in a mixing bowl. Add the dill, scallions, nutmeg and feta, and mix together. Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Add the cup of flour and stir until small patties can be formed that are not too wet. Add additional flour if the mixture is too wet. Form into small patties. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the zucchini fritters until golden brown on both sides. Serve with skordalia, tzatziki, and/or tahini sauce.

Grilled Octopus

1 (2 lb.) octopus, fresh or frozen and thawed

2 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup water

Greek extra virgin olive oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper

Greek dried oregano

Rinse the octopus in cool water. Using a sharp knife, cut the octopus just below the eyes to remove the hood. Squeeze or cut out the beak and the cartilage on the other side of the beak. Rinse the octopus again, drain it, and place in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, vinegar, and the water. Cover and cook over medium heat until softened, 30 to 35 minutes.

While the octopus is cooking, light a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Cut the octopus tentacles from the head. Brush with olive oil, place on the grill, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Cut the tentacles into bite-sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, add freshly ground pepper and oregano to taste, and serve immediately. Enjoy with your favorite ouzo.

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