Flavors of Cyprus
Flavors of Cyprus
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Kali orexi - Bon appetit!

Cyprus' cuisine is closely related to that of Greece, but the island’s unique position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East has added exotic dimensions that make it particularly varied and delicious. Emphasizing fresh local ingredients, regional herbs and spices, and the light use of natural olive oil, the Cypriot palate is quintessentially Mediterranean in character.

If freshness (see markets, below) is one key to cooking in Cyprus, meze is the other. An abbreviation of mezedes, or “little delicacies,” meze consist of as many as 30 small plates of food, from savory dips and vegetables to a wide range of fish and meat dishes. Much more than hors d’oeuvres, the meze often comprise the heart of a meal itself. In some restaurants and tavernas you can choose to order seafood meze or meat meze.

Among the items you can expect to be served are: Loukanika, coriander-seasoned sausages, soaked in red wine and smoked; Koupepia, grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice; Lountza, smoked pork, often served in sandwiches with halloumi, a delicious soft cheese, (usually grilled) made from thyme-fed sheep and sometimes spiced with peppermint; sheftalia, grilled pork sausage, afelia, pork marinated in wine and coriander; stiphado, beef or rabbit stew casseroled with wine vinegar, onions and spices; and ofto kleftiko, chunks of lamb cooked in a sealed clay oven and seasoned with bay leaves.

Seafood dishes include calamari, octopus in red wine, barbouni (red mullet), and sea bass. Some common vegetable preparations are potatoes in olive oil and parsley, pickled cauliflower and beets, zucchini, kolokasi (a sweet potato-like root vegetable) and asparagus.

There are also the Greek classics taramosalata, fish roe blended into a creamy pink dip of pureed potatoes with parsley, lemon juice and finely chopped onion; talatouri, cool mint and cucumber flavored yogurt with a dusting of garlic, a variation on the Greek tzatziki;

Greek salad (horiatiki salata) with tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, feta cheese, green olives and local herbs; moussaka, the traditional Greek dish of minced meat and eggplant topped with creamy bechamel sauce; and souvlakia, kebabs of pork, lamb and chicken.

Cypriot desserts often consist of fresh fruit, served alone or with a selection of sweet pastries or fruit preserved in syrup. These include loukoumades, Cyprus doughnuts with honey syrup, daktyla, ladyfingers with almonds, walnuts and cinnamon, and shiamali, orange semolina cakes cut into squares. In cafes, popular snacks include kolokoti, a pastry triangle stuffed with red pumpkin, cracked wheat and raisins, and pastellaki, a sesame, peanut and honey syrup bar. There is also galatopoureko, a cream-stuffed phyllo pastry. A traditional sweet treat is loukoumia, cubes of gelatin flavored with rose water and dusted with powdered sugar.

Thanks to Cyprus Tourism Board for their kind assistance.

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