“The only way to understand a culture and a country is to get into the restaurants, get to the markets. That’s the only way.” — Jamie Oliver
Athens, Greece. Most tourists take in the highlights of this ancient Greek capital before jetting off to the surrounding islands. Sure, the Acropolis is a must; hire a guide and take it all in. But before and after your history lesson, Jamie Oliver will make sure you eat well. On Jamie’s Food Escapes tonight at 8pm/7c, our favorite food-obsessed travel guide uncovers the culinary side of Athens.
First stop on the Jamie Oliver Athens itinerary: It’s straight to the central market where locals shop daily. He checks out the fresh seafood, then tucks into to a Souvlaki stall for some “fast food, Athens-style.” For Americans and Brits like Jamie, kebabs are often considered a guilty pleasure — street food after a night out. But the friendly Greek cooks show that authentic Souvlaki kebabs are all about fresh, quality ingredients and bright flavors.
Jamie makes one more stop at an herb shop before setting off to cook his own kebabs. “This is my heaven, surrounded by herbs,” he says. “The Greeks are definitely into their herbs.” He picks up some mint and oregano and is all set for a kebab cookout on a gorgeous night in a postcard-perfect spot overlooking the Acropolis. Not too shabby.
Cooking on location is an understatement for Jamie. He prepares his “Perfect Greek Salad” while enjoying a cool breeze on a boat docked in the Aegean Sea. Like the Souvlaki, this is not the Greek salad from your typical diner — the one that’s made with a heap of iceberg lettuce, a handful of feta and maybe a few sad olives.
For starters, there’s no lettuce in an authentic Greek salad. Just roughly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and onions. As for the feta, the real thing has “none of this crumbling business,” Jamie assures. He tops his salad with a big hunk of Greece’s favorite cheese, sprinkles it with some dried oregano and a drizzle of olive oil: “I know it’s scruffy, but that’s part of the beauty of it.”