From early childhood and on, the food we eat becomes a major way of remembering certain chapters of life. The tastes, textures, aromas and colours of foods and the people, places and experiences we associate them with create an entire memory map on which our identity and interpretation of every season is based. For me, the most evocative childhood food that transports me back to summertime Greece is a large slice of watermelon; there I am, eating it on the beach near sunset, quite exhausted yet deeply relaxed after hours of jumping around in the sea, a film of salt on my slightly burnt skin, my toes wiggling in the sand, and watermelon juices – of which I am blissfully oblivious – pouring down my chin. But there are so many more amazing foods that define the glorious summer season for most Greeks, and they all deserve to be celebrated.
There’s nothing like the strawberry-sweet, juiciness of Greek tomatoes in summer, and how perfectly they pair with chunks of barley paximadi rusks, creamy feta, capers, onion slices and olives. After a day at the beach, this dish defines perfection.
Deep fried, super crispy, and if they’re cooked well, soft rather than chewy, calamari with their crunchy tentacles and soaked in lemon juice are a classic summer food.
Ideally to be eaten on the beach straight out of the freshly-cracked sea urchin shell, this food is like eating the sea itself. Usually it’s served in restaurants as ‘ahinosalata’ in a little bowl, accompanied by wedges of lemon and chunks of bread for dipping.
Htapodi stin schara
Octopus, sometimes marinated in olive oil and a sprinkling with herbs and cooked on a charcoal grill has millions of people salivating for summer.
It should come as no surprise that watermelon is packed with heart-boosting electrolytes, as this sweet summer staple, especially when nicely chilled, can be eaten by the gallon on a hot summer day. It’s also delicious blended and consumed as a juice.
Giant, juicy tomatoes and green bell peppers are stuffed with either a rice or rice and minced meat mixture seasoned with summery herbs like mint and basil and also sometimes including pine nuts and currants. They’re baked in the oven with plenty of olive oil and potatoes and left to cool before being served (ideally the following day and with a side of feta!).
Courgettes sliced into rings, dipped into a flour-soda water (or beer) batter and deep fried. Delicious accompanied by tzatziki, another refreshing summer staple because of the cooling yogurt and grated cucumber.
World-famous Greek chefs share their favourite Greek summer foods →
“Lemon. The bright acidity it provides is the basis of why the simplicity of Greek cuisine is so brilliant. Every bite starts anew when the lemony finish cleanses the palate and prepares the taste buds to experience subtle nuances, as if it were the first bite.”
– Chef Michael Psilakis
[The US-based award-winning chef owns the lauded Kefi, MP Taverna, The Hall at MP and Fishtag restaurants for which he has received numerous accolades, including the James Beard Award and a Michelin Star. ]
“Tomatoes – when they are in season in Greece they are incredible. The vine gives you the aroma but then the taste is everything I think about Greece. I love them so much. They are the best in the world. And Sea urchin. They are so delicious with a squeeze of lemon, and straight down the hatch. It is the true flavour of the sea.” - George Kalombaris
[Masterchef judge, major TV personality and multi-awarded chef George Calombaris is based in Melbourne, where he owns 17 restaurants.]
“Really good olive oil pressed from young olives, flaky sea salt (fleur de sel), figs and sour cherry (vyssino) spoon sweet eaten with sheep milk yogurt. Also sea salt on my own skin after a swim.”
– Diane Kochylas
[A major culinary TV personality in the US, Diane Kochylas celebrates her Greek roots by educating the global public on the many health and pleasure benefits of her native cuisine and acclaimed food author of 20 books.]