(CNN) — The Greek islands! It was a bucket checklist journey, made much more valuable as a getaway after the lengthy pandemic journey drought. I might been to Athens earlier than, so this journey was all in regards to the islands, together with a go to to the gorgeous cliff properties on Santorini.

I might seen these images of white and blue homes perched over the ocean. Might the island actually be that beautiful in individual?

To sweeten the journey, I might get to dine on the Mediterranean diet in one of its home countries. It is an award-winning model of wholesome consuming I had been overlaying for years as a well being journalist. I used to be going to see, odor, style and take photos of most of the meals I used to be writing about, based mostly on recipes handed down over the centuries from Greek yiayiás to their grandchildren. Would the meals look and style that wholesome in individual?

The reply to each — sure.

On the island of Milos, my fiancé and I dined at a low-key café referred to as Nostos Sea Meals, one in all many eateries alongside the waterfront. Our taxi driver advised us it was a favourite of the locals, and when our meal arrived, we might instantly see why. Dolmades, stuffed grape leaves sometimes served in rolls, had been reworked into tasty, shrimp-filled bites coated in lemon foam.

Tiny dolmades stuffed with shrimp and grain are covered with lemon foam and served with a whoosh of tzatziki dip.

Tiny dolmades filled with shrimp and grain are coated with lemon foam and served with a whoosh of tzatziki dip.

Sandee LaMotte/CNN

Galatopita, a traditional ruffled milk pie, was an eye catching feast of buttery phyllo and custard, artfully adorned with pistachios. Regardless of what seemed like a tiny kitchen, the chef had managed to create an expertise worthy of a four-star restaurant.

Traditional ruffled milk pie is artfully displayed with Greek pistachios and a rosebud.

Conventional ruffled milk pie is artfully displayed with Greek pistachios and a rosebud.

Sandee LaMotte/CNN

All through Greece, each meal we ate was ready with pleasure. Creamy, wealthy Greek yogurt topped with walnuts and honey was extra like an exquisite dessert than a traditional breakfast.

On Santorini, we stored coming again to 1 restaurant that served conventional Greek delicacies — however on steroids. At 218 Levels Cafe, a freshly created model of spanakopita, the beloved Greek spinach pie, was like nothing I might skilled in the US. Zucchini fritters had been full of recent greens and herbs, then fried ever so frivolously in olive oil. They had been served with one other Greek staple: tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip stuffed with cucumber, dill and lemon.

Here's a feast of Greek dishes with a stunning view of the cliffs of Santorini: (clockwise from top left) horiatiki, zucchini fritters, grilled vegetables, spanakopita and Greek yogurt.

Here is a feast of Greek dishes with a surprising view of the cliffs of Santorini: (clockwise from high left) horiatiki, zucchini fritters, grilled greens, spanakopita and Greek yogurt.


Conventional Greek salad, referred to as horiatiki (which suggests village), was one other revelation. For one, there was no lettuce, simply numerous plump, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, inexperienced peppers and onions, laced with a number of of the numerous kinds of Greek olives, and topped with massive slabs of recent feta and a sprinkle of olive oil.

And the feta! No sharp tang just like the feta I’ve at all times identified stateside. This cheese melted in my mouth, wealthy, creamy and scrumptious. No marvel Greeks say feta can go together with something.

Considered one of my favourite dishes was so quite simple: Completely roasted veggies glistening with olive oil, topped with a sprinkle of seeds and herbs. After all, It did not harm that we had been consuming these meals over a vista of the cliffs of Santorini. And sure, the white and blue homes are simply as lovely in individual as they’re in photos.

I'm not a professional photographer, but it's hard not to get a beautiful picture of Santorini's famous blue-and-white dome houses.

I am not knowledgeable photographer, but it surely’s laborious to not get an exquisite image of Santorini’s well-known blue-and-white dome homes.

Sandee LaMotte/CNN

Advantages of the Mediterranean life-style

Talking of olive oil, I can affirm it is the king of the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan. It is such part of Greek life that if natives assume somebody is a bit loopy, they are saying they’re “choris ládi” or “dropping oil.”

Whereas the Mediterranean approach of consuming is predicated on conventional meals from the 21 nations that encompass the Mediterranean Sea, they share a standard theme. The main target is on easy, plant-based cooking, that includes recent greens and fruits, entire grains, beans, seeds and nuts and a heavy emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil.

Say goodbye to sophisticated sugar and flour besides on uncommon events. Fat apart from olive oil, akin to butter, are consumed not often, if in any respect. Pink meat could make a uncommon look, normally solely to taste a dish. As an alternative, meals could embody eggs, dairy and poultry, however in a lot smaller parts than within the conventional American weight-reduction plan.

Fish, nonetheless, are a staple. At one native restaurant, we watched three younger males feast on an enormous, freshly caught fish, leaving nothing however a couple of bones and a head. Talking of heads, fellow finicky eaters, get used to it. Most seafood I noticed in Greece was served entire, eyeballs and all. For somebody used to fish fillets and ready-to-eat shrimp, it took a little bit of getting used to. (I additionally wasn’t eager on all of the octopuses hanging round.) However in the event you stay by the ocean, you anticipate recent — and that is what you get.

Don't be surprised to find your dinner hanging by the edge of the sea.

Do not be stunned to seek out your dinner hanging by the sting of the ocean.

Sandee LaMotte/CNN

Remember recent fruit, the muse of dessert right here. Whilst you might simply purchase the normal baklava or loukomadies (Greek doughnuts) at most tourist-based eating places, that is not what the locals eat each day. At a restaurant one evening, I noticed a household order a fruit platter topped with watermelon as a birthday cake.

This Greek family ordered a fruit "birthday cake" with a candle they blew out before serving.

This Greek household ordered a fruit “birthday cake” with a candle they blew out earlier than serving.

Sandee LaMotte/CNN

Orange, lemon and fig timber develop in backyards, able to be plucked with a fast stroll exterior. I even noticed orange timber rising alongside an Athens sidewalk.

Not like a sodium-heavy weight-reduction plan, herbs and spices take priority over salt and pepper to taste Mediterranean dishes. Recent herbs are so essential that Greeks develop them in each nook and cranny. In Athens, I noticed pots of herbs in windowsills, alongside sidewalks subsequent to parked vehicles and within the base of timber that line the streets.

No space is left unused. Greeks grow herbs in pots tucked into tree bases on sidewalks or next to parked cars.

No area is left unused. Greeks develop herbs in pots tucked into tree bases on sidewalks or subsequent to parked vehicles.


However the Mediterranean “weight-reduction plan” is a lot greater than meals. It is based mostly on motion, akin to strolling, biking and gardening, in addition to conscious consuming and the gathering of family and friends.

It was clear all over the place we went — as quickly because the workday ended, folks started to collect on the city’s middle or by the ocean, youngsters in tow. Households and associates reconnected, information of the day was shared, laughter floated on the air — after which it was time to collect for a meal.

Watching the connection occur was a spotlight of the journey. We will not wait to return.

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