From the Aegean, Greek summer salads and dishes

Seaside taverna in Greece
Photo: Creative Commons

When it’s hot and humid we seek out meals and dishes that are light, healthy, and easy to prepare. Where do we look for inspiration? For starters, Greece.  I’m biased, of course, as I’ve made Athens my home for some 15 years now, leaving the hustle of New York City behind.

In my experience, Greek cooks are masterful cooks, and authentic disciples of the Mediterranean diet.  They’re adept in improvising and preparing salads and delicious dishes for hot summer days. And, they have plenty of inspiration given the bounty of fresh vegetables and abundance of olive oil. Dishes that require cooking tend to be prepared early in the day and served later at room temperature.

Here are just a few of my favorite recipes.

Meze: small plates of appetizers

An easy way to set a Greek summer table is to serve a generous spread of meze, the traditional small plates of appetizers and salads shared by all. You can eat as much, or as little, as you want, savoring a wide range of flavors and taste sensations.

Creamy dips and finger foods are very common, as are dishes of olives and cheeses. Garnish the platter with sprigs of oregano and extra virgin olive oil. Don’t forget the bread–a hearty country loaf. No self-respecting Greek table is complete without it.

Greek country bread loaves

Fava bean spread from Santorini

Greek fava spread salad

Santorini is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Greece, and in the world. It is also known for its distinctive local cuisine, one that relies on local produce like the Greek fava bean, a small, yellow split pea that thrives in Santorini’s volcanic soil.

Packed with nutrients, this lemony fava spread is delicious when topped by slivered red onions, briny capers and a splash of Greek olive oil. Serve with wedges of toasted pita bread.  Recipe from Marilena’s Kitchen 

Gemista, classic Greek stuffed vegetables

Gemista Greek stuffed vegetables

Summer is the best time to make ‘gemista’ or stuffed vegetables. The markets are overflowing with ripe produce—tomatoes, colorful green and red peppers, and zucchini or courgettes.

Gemista is an extremely versatile and creative outlet for cooking as you can add so many ingredients to the ‘pot.’ They can have meat or be vegetarian, sweetened with raisins and cinnamon, or savory with cumin, oregano, and tangy goat cheese.

With so many possibilities, it will come as no surprise that–no exaggeration–every Greek family has their own recipe for making these delicious stuffed vegetables. One recipe that looks especially appealing is from The Greek Foodie

Greek orzo salad

Greek orzo salad

A combination of artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives and feta makes this orzo dish especially tasty. It can easily be prepared in advance–just hold the dressing until you’re ready to serve.  Recipe from

Greek beet salad

Greek beet salad
Photo: TheGreekVegan

This distinctly Greek summer salad calls for excellent quality Greek olive oil and red wine vinegars. Coriander, sea salt and black pepper round it out. Add coriander for a hint of citrus and fresh herbs and garlic to help bring a lightness and brightness to the earthy beets. Recipe from The Greek Vegan.

Complement beet salad with a dab of skordalia, the tangy potato puree that’s redolent with garlic and definitely not a dish for the faint-hearted. Skordalia is a popular and much-loved dish on Greek tables and is a delicious counterpoint to zucchini fritters, grilled meats, and beetroot salad. Find the recipe here.

Salty-sweet watermelon and feta salad

Feta and watermelon salad

Watermelons are ubiquitous in Greece in the summertime, when gardens and farmers’ markets overflow with abundance. The original, and unlikely, pairing of this summer favorite with tart Greek feta and olives to create a summer salad is truly amazing

In the eloquent words of Mark Bittman, American food journalist, author, and former columnist for The New York Times, “It’s not an immediately obvious combination – watermelon, cucumber, olives and feta – but one bite will leave you convinced that this savory-sweet summer salad is something truly special. The astringent punch of the olives and feta provides a sophisticated counterpoint to the watery mellowness of the melon and cucumber. With a hunk of bread, it’s a lovely light lunch; with practically any grilled meat or fish, it’s an ideal summer supper.”

We especially love this recipe because of its expert guidance on how to choose a ripe watermelon–something that the Greeks know how to do all too well.  Recipe from

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