Dolmadakia, also known as yaprakia or filla, stuffed grape leaves. (Photo: EUROKINISSI/ Yiorgos Efstathiou)
Thessaloniki is well-known for its delicious local cuisine. From street foods for snacks on the go to homemade favorites and sweet treats, there is something to tempt every palate.
One of Thessaloniki’s best known specialties is bougatsa, the warm pastry, filled with cream, dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, typically eaten for breakfast and as an anytime snack, usually picked up at one of the many pastry shops that specialize in this local favorite.
Also good for breakfast or snacks early in the day is the ubiquitous koulouri, sesame seed-covered bread rings, available from street vendors. The texture can vary depending on the thickness of the bread ring, some are soft and chewy while others can be crisp, and the toasty sesame seeds add great flavor.
Thessaloniki is also known for its traditional pies. The dough, influenced by traditional recipes brought to the city by refugees from Asia Minor, is a great base for any type of filling including the classic spinach and cheese for spanakopita and many variations.
Thessaloniki is a wine enthusiast’s must-visit destination with three wineries open to the public offering award-winning wines, a Wine Museum exhibiting one of the largest corkscrew collections in the world, an important annual wine-testing festival, an international Wine and Spirits Competition, wine bars, wine-tasting shows, as well as an urban vineyard in the center of the city. Thessaloniki is also a great starting point for touring the exceptional Wine Roads throughout Northern Greece, among the area’s impressive natural landscape and rich cultural treasures.
Thessaloniki is the first city in Greece with an urban vineyard, located at Agiou Dimitriou Street, opposite to Kaftatzoglio Stadium. The Greek varieties cultivated on the site are xinomavro, agioritiko, malagouzia, and rombola. The municipality’s wine is for charitable purposes and many Thessalonians participated during the vineyard’s first harvest in 2014. The vineyard is also used by the Viticulture Laboratory of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Agriculture.
Try the following recipes for a taste of Thessaloniki and pair them with the local high-quality wines with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) appellations like Thessaloniki, Epanomi, Nea Messimvria, and Slopes of Vertiskos on the labels.
Stuffed Vine Leaves- Dolmadakia Yalantzi
60 vine leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
2 cups short grain rice
1/2 bunch of dill finely chopped
1 handful fresh spearmint leaves
2 lemons, juiced
Vegetable broth or water
Freshly ground black pepper
Sauté the spring onions in half of the olive oil. Add the rice and keep stirring. Add dill, spearmint, the juice of one of the lemons, salt and pepper to taste. Blanch the vine leaves in boiling water for two minutes and place 4-5 of them at the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. To roll the dolmadakia, place a teaspoon of stuffing towards the stalk end of the leaf. Firmly roll the stalk end over leaf, then tuck in the sides and roll up completely. Place seam side down in the large pot. Add enough broth or water to just cover the dolmadakia, the remaining olive oil, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a heavy dinner plate and bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to simmer for about 35 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Serve the dolmades with yogurt or tzatziki (recipe follows).
Tzatziki with Dill
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cups olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
Red wine vinegar, optional
Peel the cucumber and grate it. Squeeze out as much water as you can. Place the yogurt in a bowl and gradually add the olive oil and stir together. Add the cucumber, garlic, dill, and salt to taste. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. A dash of red wine vinegar can also be stirred in, if preferred. Tzatziki will keep in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.
In a bowl or a measuring cup, stir the yeast together with the sugar and the 1/2 cup of warm water. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, oil and vinegar, and mix well. Gradually add the 1 1/2 cups warm water. Knead to make a fairly soft dough. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside for an hour to rise. Punch down the dough, knead again lightly, then cut into small pieces of dough, and roll on a floured surface into small circles. For the filling, mash the boiled potatoes in a mixing bowl. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat and sauté the onion until golden, add the mashed potatoes, parsley, salt, oregano, black pepper and let it cool. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of the circle of dough. Moisten edges of dough with water. Fold the dough over the filling in a half circle and seal by pressing the edges together or with the fines of a fork. Heat the oil for frying the potato pies and fry in the hot oil until golden brown. Serve immediately. Makes about 30 individual potato pies.
Shrimp are a great option for weeknight meals as they cook quickly and offer plenty of nutrients and protein including calcium, iodine, and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, important for brain and immune system health.
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