Does Greek Gourmet Cuisine Use Butter?
The north of Europe uses butter, the south uses olive oil, or so the saying goes. Actually we do use butter in gourmet Greek cuisine, but it is normally reserved for making desserts and pastries. From starters to salads to cultured and stimulating main meals, olive oil is both the housewives favourite and the gourmet chef’s most esteemed ingredient.
There are many reasons for the widespread use of olive oil in gourmet Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Olive oil is incredibly versatile, tasting great on its own or as part of a stylish meal. Greek chefs use olive oil in dishes like Kakavia (fish soup), Fava (gourmet split peas) and Greek style bruschetta where the oil adds richness and depth to the taste of dishes. Extra virgin olive oil is a pure product with no additions, so when cooking with olive oil you are not adding extra salt and water to the dish as you would with butter.
Pure extra virgin olive oil will heat to a much higher temperature than melted butter, so it is perfect for frying with, or for browning meat, vegetables and onions to go into a casserole or pie.
It might surprise you, but even our favourite style of pastry, the wafer thin Filo can be made with olive oil, in fact, if you are making Spanakopita (a savoury feta cheese and spinach pie) or Aginaropita (a savoury artichoke and leek pie) then filo made with olive oil has a more complementary flavour to the filling than butter filo does.
The other big benefit of using olive oil over butter is its health benefits. Butter contains saturated fat, and many butters have added salt, extra virgin olive oil is unsaturated and has many positive health benefits. Here in the south of Europe, where people eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, people benefit from the effects that regular consumption of olive oil can have on their hearts and bones.
So we do use butter, but we use it sparingly, but we lavish olive oil on our meals as we lavish love on our children, generously and often.
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