Sunday, February 7, 2010

The first mezes

I'm in Greece for the last couple of days and I'm walking on air! I'm home! I always feel so happy when I get the chance to come home in Athens. This time a wedding is the reason for my visit; the wedding of two close friends of mine.
Of course being in Greece automatically means that I have an array of ingredients available to me that I can't wait to use in some yummy recipe. Ingredients that unfortunately I can't find in Holland or that I'm just too lazy to go looking for places that sell them. So naturally, as soon as I got here, I had to cook. And what's a better thing to cook than the thing you're craving the most. From the moment my boyfriend booked our tickets, there was one thing on my mind. Taramosalata. Oh yes, the famous taramosalata. What? You don't know what taramosalata is? Don't fret. I'll explain.

Taramosalata is a Greek mezes. Ok, you don't know what a mezes is either? Let's take it from the beginning then. Mezedes (the plural of mezes) are an assortment of small hot or cold dishes or appetizers, served before a large meal. They can also be served on their own as an accompaniment to alcoholic drinks such as ouzo, raki, tsipouro, or wine. A Greek mezes can consist of meat, fish, olives, legumes, vegetables, cheese, eggs and almost anything you can think of, cooked in many different and interesting ways. For example, a mezes traditionally accompanying ouzo is boiled octopus that is then marinated in vinegar, olive oil and dried oregano. A mezes traditionally accompanying wine is veal or beef cut in small cubes and cooked in a rich dark tomato sauce. Depending on what you're drinking you have the appropriate mezes.

Taramosalata is the ultimate mezes for me. It literally means a salad made with taramas. Taramas is salted and cured carp or the less expensive cod roe which is caviar-like, and I need to tell you that taramosalata is not actually a salad, it's a dip. Well, it's the ultimate dip. It's so unbelievably tasty, it's sinful. It's a supremely delicious, salty, rich, slightly sweet, creamy dip that will make you want to lick the bowl.

Salted and cured carp roe or taramas

The ingredients of taramosalata are so simple it's ridiculous, assuming of course that you have the carp roe. All you need is some stale bread, onions, olive oil and a lemon. Could it be simpler than that? A word about taramas though. There are two types, white and red. White or light pink taramas is the superior of the two, since the red one is the result of the addition of food coloring to the roe. Make sure that you buy the white one.

Although many suggest that taramosalata can be eaten with raw vegetables cut into strips or grilled pita, I strongly suggest that you eat it alongside a rustic loaf of bread. Just that. A big chunk of bread, cut into thick slices and dipped into the taramosalata, or just a load of taramosalata spread generously over the bread. Trust me, that's the way to go!
I made whole-wheat bread with Greek honey to accompany my decadent taramosalata and even though it was my first attempt at making it, it was a complete and huge success. I was jumping for joy. The recipe will come at another time, I promise.

Taramosalata (Greek Dip with Carp Roe, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Bread and Onions)

The stale bread is a very important ingredient of the recipe. You must not use pre-sliced bread or white baguettes because they will be very soft once soaked in water. The appropriate bread is a stale rustic loaf that is dense and does not disintegrate or become muddy when soaked.

Yield: 3 cups

70 g white taramas (salted and cured carp or cod roe)
200 g white stale bread, soaked in water
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Special equipment: food processor

Place the bread in a large bowl and fill it with tap water so that the water covers the bread. Leave it to soak for 4-5 minutes, then drain it and squeeze it in your hands so that the water comes out. Discard the upper and bottom crust of the bread if the color is too brown because it will discolor the taramosalata.

Place the onion in the food processor and chop it. Then add the bread and taramas and while processing them, add first the lemon juice, dripping it in little by little, and then add the olive oil in the same manner, until the mixture blends well, lemon juice and oil is incorporated, and the mixture becomes smooth and creamy.

Move taramosalata to a serving bowl, drip a little olive oil over it or put a nice big juicy Kalamata olive on top and serve, or keep taramosalata in the refrigerator for later use.

You can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.


  1. Βoiled greens, fried potatoes, fresh, warm bread and lots of taramosalata... μεγάλη απόλαυση!!

  2. 12th Man, thanks!

    History of Greek Food, μεγάλη απόλαυση δε λες τίποτα! You're so right, great combination!

  3. Oh to be in Greece eating these wonderful little dishes. How lucky are you! Have fun at the wedding!

  4. Mezes are my favorite. This is one I would love to try. It's a nice change from the classics I'm used to.


  5. El, thank you! Greece is really a magnificent place, especially when I leave behind the frost of Holland! Having mezedes is an extra treat :)

    Nisrine, do try it. It is the best mezes ever!

  6. Taramosalata is one of my favourite dips as well and I can't wait until next week when I shall make it again.

  7. This sounds really good. I'd love a thick slice of bread slathered with some.

  8. And it looks superb.....and very well made. Hmmm, a taste of home is great!

  9. Wow, love it! The taste is surely awesome!

  10. Σε ανακαλυψα προσφατα και εχω χαρει πολυ για αυτο!
    Μενω μονιμα στη Νορβηγια τα τελευταια χρονια και εχω αρχισει να δημιουργω στη κουζινα - κατι που ανακαλυψα με το που ξενιτευτηκα ..και τελικα μου αρεσει πολυ :D

    Οσον αφορα τη ταραμοσαλατα που δεν πειραματιστηκα ακομα ..μπορω να χρησιμοποιησω το τυπικο kaviar σε σωληναριο?

    1. Καλησπέρα Όλγα! Σ' ευχαριστώ για το μήνυμά σου και χαίρομαι κι εγώ που με ανακάλυψες :)
      Δεν έχω χρησιμοποιήσει ποτέ οτιδήποτε άλλο πέρα από ελληνικό φρέσκο ταραμά οπότε δυστυχώς δεν μπορώ να εκφέρω άποψη για τα σωληνάρια. Αν στην Νορβηγία όμως δεν μπορείς να βρεις φρέσκο, δοκίμασέ το, γιατί όχι.