Greeks, my well-traveled friends tell me, are not big on breakfast. Many Athenians consider coffee and a cigarette or two sufficient to start the day. Traditionally, breakfast is not a big affair. Often people on the go will enjoy a Greek coffee or these days a frappé paired with a hard roll or with loukamades, fried doughnut holes drizzled with honey.
The Greek islands have been the crossroads of the Mediterranean since the time of Homer. Over the centuries, Phoenicians, Athenians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, and Italians all stirred the pot in this region, putting their distinctive stamp on the food. One example is the coffee served in Greece which is similiar to Turkish coffee.
In fact until the 1974 Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus, coffee in Greece was called Turkish coffee; it’s in your best interest to not call or refer to it as Turkish coffee for many reasons historical and political. Just know that the coffee you drink in Greece is not for the meek or those with heart conditions!
Typical of most local cafés the venues serve as the place to catch up on the news and, of course, gossip or to play backgammon. In Greece it is not uncommon in the bigger cities to see employees of coffee bars delivering trays of coffee to local businesses on foot. How many times has this been my want at 3:30?
Greek coffee is made in a briki traditionally bronze but today they can be found in stainless steel and aluminum. The vessel also has a lip for easy pouring. The long-handled shape comes from the days when it was placed in the dessert sand to prepare the coffee. The coffee is not served with milk and if sugar is added, it is always added before boiling. The grind of the coffee is finer than espresso, often called Turkish grind. It is served black, in small and thick cups called flitzania. Before drinking it let the coffee stand a minute to allow the grounds to settle to the bottom of the cup. This also allows for a professional coffee ground fortune teller to turn the demitasse-like cups upside down for readings. In Greece, you will usually be served a cold glass of water to accompany the coffee.
Today’s hip crowd prefer frappé, instant coffee with milk (pictured above). I’ve include two recipes, one for the frappé and another with an influence of a traditional American breakfast.
Greek Iced Coffee
2 tablespoons Nescafé Instant Coffee
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water*
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and frothy.
Pour into a tall drinking glass filled with ice and add cold water to top off.
Depending on your ability to mainline caffeine you may want to add a dash or two of half and half.
*In my research there are a few references to substitute this item with sparking water.
My Greek Omelet
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 (10-ounce) bag of spinach, washed, stemed, and spun dry
Penzeys Greek Seasoning
(blend of dried lemon garlic and oregano)
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon butter
Pour 3 tablespoons olive oil into a skillet. Thinly slice 2 cloves of garlic. Place garlic in cold oil and bring up to heat slowly. Sauté until garlic is just golden. Remove garlic from pan and add spinach. Cook until just wilted. Remove from pan.
Beat 4 eggs and 1-1 ½ teaspoons Penzeys Greek Seasoning until just combined. Do not over beat or the texture will be dry. Add 1 tablespoon butter to spinach pan. After foam has subsided, pour in the eggs. While stirring the eggs with a small spatula, shake the pan back and forth.
Once the bottom of the omelet has set add spinach and crumbled feta cheese. Run omelet under broiler until cheese starts to melt. Remove from broiler and fold into half moon shape. Sprinkle sautéed garlic slices over top of omelet.