Top 5 traditional Greek Fall-Winter appetizers
Photo and text by Mirella Kaloglou & Panos Diotis.
The appetizers play an essential role in any meal, especially when you’re having people over. When people here in Greece go to a restaurant or a tavern, (or are having a party / family gathering), they always order/serve first some small portions of food called 'orektika' (appetizers), or 'mezedes' (plural for 'meze').
'Meze' is a small plate with food, which you consume when you’re having company, usually to accompany your drink, like wine, ouzo, beer, tsipouro, tsikoudia etc.It's not unusual to see many small dishes shared in the middle of the table in a Greek meal. These small portions of food are there to prepare one for the main dish that will follow, and to keep one happy and 'occupied' until it’s served.
There are many occasions however, when these starters are so tasty, that one doesn't even order a main dish. People can just have a lot of bread and pittas and dig into countless delicious 'mezedes' (in this case many of them will be order/served).
Some of the appetizers are amazing as sides for main dishes; for example, skordalia is an awesome garlic-potato side for fried fish (like cod). When such appetizers are served, people may keep a portion from the 'meze' to accompany the main dish, or may order/serve an extra dish with the same 'meze' for this.Appetizers are also consumed here as little snacks, throughout the day, especially the spreads/dips (along with some crusty bread or pittas – usually broiled before serving).
The best thing about Greek appetizers is that most of them are very easy to make. And those who take a bit more time can also be served on the next day (and the day after); all you have to do is reheat them.
The appetizers vary according to season. During the summer, the most common appetizers, are tzatziki, melitzanosalata, roasted octopus, fried zucchinis and eggplants (they are amazing with tzatziki), zucchini fritters, fried cheese or shrimp or clams/mussels 'saganaki' (saganaki is a small frying pan used for cooking appetizers; the appetizers are often served in the pan itself).
During the fall, the winter and most of the spring, the appetizers are adjusted to match the available in-season ingredients. Cheese/greens/spinach pies are now served, the skordalia and the pantzarolasata take the place of tzatziki on the table, and meat starters are also now present, like spetzofai, fried pork bites or meatballs.
Dishes with pulses, like hummus or gigandes are also popular during the winter months.
For this article, we chose some of our favorite fall/winter appetizers, and created a top 5 list. Those 5 Greek traditional appetizers can be served either as snacks, sides, starters in any occasion that calls for something Mediterranean and delicious. These are some of the most popular 'mezedes' of Greece.
So here we go, in descending order, according to how common and popular they are:
Top 5 traditional Greek Fall-Winter appetizers
Definitely one of the best Greek starters, this is a very healthy and tasty spread. It’s best enjoyed with some broiled bread or pittas. The vinegar and the yogurt pair amazingly with the olive oil and the garlic; and the color from the beets makes this dish stand out.
Spetzofai is definitely one of the best winter starters. A great meze one can enjoy in most places of Central Greece. It’s a unique combination of slowly cooked peppers and horiatiko sausages with tomatoes, onion and olive oil. You can also use Italian sausages or Kielbasa if you can’t find any Greek horiatiko sausage. Make sure you have a lot of crusty bread to soak up the amazing sauce.
If you like beans, this one is definitely one of the best recipes out there: very tasty, and a great dish for all occasions. You need to try the large beans this recipe calls for; they have a rich, hearty flavor that’s really hard to find in classic navy beans. The best thing about this recipe though, it’s that you can also use this as a main dish.
This humble spread is among the most popular dishes of the winter season. It’s almost always present when batter-fried fish is on the table, and the combination is really awesome! You can also use this as a side for ‘horta’ (boiled greens), for boiled/steamed veggies like broccoli, or salads made with pulses/legumes. You can always, of course, enjoy this on its own, with some toasted/broiled bread or pittas (drizzle a bit of olive oil before broiling for extra flavor).
This is the star of the Greek appetizers. Keftedakia (meatballs) are present in most Greek family gatherings or dinner parties. The trays/bowls with these meatballs are usually the ones end up emptying first. Enhanced with Greek herbs, these are flavorful meatballs one can enjoy on their own, without the need for a sauce or gravy. A salad and a few of these meatballs can also constitute a hearty, satisfying meal. You ought to try them out. And the best part is, they taste better on the next day. Just cover and place in the fridge, you won’t regret making some extra. :)
Did you like the recipes? Simply select the ones closer to your preferences and enjoy them in any Fall/Winter meal, especially if you're having people over! And please let us know in the comments; which ones are your favorites?