Top 5 traditional Greek Fall-Winter appetizers
Photo and text by Mirella Kaloglou & Panos Diotis.
The appetizers play an essential role in any 'fancy' Greek meal. When Greeks go to a restaurant or a tavern, or when they have a party or family gathering, they always serve first some small portions of food called 'orektika' (appetizers), or 'mezedes' (plural of 'meze').
'Meze' is a small plate of food which you can consume when you 're having company, usually along with some drink, like wine, ouzo, beer, tsipouro, tsikoudia etc.
It's not unusual to see many small plates shared in the middle of the table in a Greek meal. These small portions of food are there to prepare you for the main dish that will follow, and to keep you 'occupied' until it is served.
There are many occasions however, that the 'orektika' are so tasty, that you don't even order/serve a main dish. You just serve a lot of bread and pittas and dig in to the delicious 'mezedes' (which are served in large quantities).
Some of the appetizers are also amazing as sides for main dishes; for example, skordalia is an amazing side for fried fish, like cod. When they 're served, you may want to keep a small quantity from the 'meze' for the main dish, or you may order/serve an extra portion of the same 'meze', to accompany the main dish (like often Greeks do).
The appetizers are also consumed by the Greeks as little snacks, throughout the day, especially:
a) the spreads/dips (along with some bread or pitta bread - make sure to broil it before serving), and
b) the pies like spanakopita, hortopita, tiropita etc (those are fyllo/phyllo dough pies filled with cheese and herbs/greens).
The best part of the Greek appetizers is that most of them are very easy to make. And those who take a bit more time, like the pies, can also be served the next day, (and the day after!), all you have to do is warm them up.
The appetizers vary according to season. During the summer, the most common appetizers, are tzatziki, melitzanosalata, octopus in vinegar, fried zucchinis and eggplants (they are amazing with tzatziki), fried cheese or shrimps or clams/mussels 'saganaki' (saganaki is a small frying pan used for fried appetizers; the appetizers are then served inside it).
During the fall, the winter and most of the spring, the apperizers are adjusted to the available fresh ingredients. Cheese/greens/spinach pies are now served, the skordalia and the pantzarolasata takes the place of tzatziki, and meat starters are also now present, like spetzofai, fried pork bites or beef stew ('krasomezes', literally meaning appetizer for drinking wine).
For this article, we chose some of our best fall/winter appetizers, and created a top 5! Those 5 Greek traditional appetizer recipes are fantastic either as snacks, sides, starters and can be served in any occasion. They are some of the most popular 'mezedes' of Greece.
So here they are, in descending order, according to how common and popular they are:
Top 5 traditional Greek Fall-Winter appetizers
A very common appetizer, especially in the islands. In this recipe, we turned it into a main dish, by adding some sausages. You can omit them if you prefer a simple, more traditional vegan appetizer, or you can go ahead and add them for a richer taste.
No4: ‘Pantzarosalata’: Greek yogurt beetroot-garlic spread/dip.
Definitely one of the best Greek starters/sides, this is a very healthy and tasty spread. You can enjoy it with some broiled bread or pittas.
No3: ‘Hortopita’: A traditional leafy greens pie.
If you like the Greek phyllo/fyllo pies, this one is definitely one of the best ones. Very tasty, very healthy, and a great snack for all the occasions. If you can’t find all the greens described in the recipe, feel free to replace them with spinach, making it more of spinach pie (spanakopita).
No2: ‘Spetzofai’: Sausages and peppers in tomato sauce.
Spetzofai is definitely one of the best winter starters. A great meze you can enjoy in most places of Central Greece, this is a unique combination of peppers and horiatiko sausages (you can use Italian sausages if you can’t find any Greek horiatiko sausage).
No1: ‘Skordalia’: Traditional Greek garlic spread/dip.
This one, is the star of the winter season. A fantastic spread, which is amazing when served with fried fish. You can also use this as a side for ‘horta’ (boiled greens), green salads, boiled/steamed veggies or salads with pulses/legumes. You can always enjoy it alone as well, with some nice toasted/broiled bread or pittas (sprinkle with a bit of olive oil before broiling).
All 5 are some of our favourite recipes; Choose those closer to your taste and enjoy them in any Fall/Winter meal, especially if you're having people over!