If you thought you knew Greece, you were wrong. I say that confidently, because you could literally spend a lifetime getting to know this country.
Starting with the landscape, there is no one sentence that could sum it up. If you have only been to Greece on a summer vacation, you’re probably picturing sandy beaches, dry pastures and olive trees. The more I see of this country, I am realizing you could just as well think of ski resorts, deep forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Not to mention the stone-built mountain villages; my favorite part.
You will find them in clusters on the sides of the mountains all over the country, and as you pass through them on the snailing roads you’ll catch whiffs of the fires burning and the meats cooking in the taverns, and you will have no choice. You will park the car and get lost in time.
The villages of Korinthias are popular winter destinations among the Greeks because of its proximity to Athens (only a 90 minute drive). There are a whole bunch of picturesque villages here, and it’s worth it to visit more than one. I snooped around six of them this weekend.
First of, you should visit the three villages of Trikala Korinthias; Kato, Mesaia, and Ano (low, middle, and high – nicknamed for their altitude). They are all gorgeous with stone houses, tall trees, and excellent eateries. I recommend the 900 Meters cafe in Kato Trikala Korinthias for coffee with a view, and restaurant Opos Palia in Mesaia Trikala Korinthias for a meal you won’t forget (Try the chicken pie, the spicy keftedakia in tomato sauce, and pork tenderloin with chestnuts and dried fruit).
On our second day, we hit the road for Lake Doxa; a man-made marvel in turquoise between the forest clad mountains. At the road leading to the little church in the center of the lake, stands with local produce invite you to get your wallet out, and you should!
Local products to taste and bring back home are beans, pasta, spoon sweets, and teas, among many others. My favorites were the caper berries and the rose petal spoon sweets. The latter is best sampled and bought at the Saint George Monastery above the lake. The view is so mesmerizing here, that you won’t ever want to leave (intentional?).
On our way back, we stopped to eat in Gkouma, a village larger than the others we’d been through. We ate at Relias in the center square, while dogs and children played around us. You know what I said about getting lost in time? Here, that was more true than ever.
The best way to make your vacation last long after you’ve come home is to bring back food. Today I’m feasting on traditional Greek Pasta Flora (or pastarolla, for those in the know) made with rose petal spoon sweets from the Saint George monastery, and some local pistachios for good measure.
- 130 g. butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 500 g. rose petal spoon sweet (or use your favorite fruit preserve)
- 1/4 cup shelled Aegina pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. yellow colored jam
- Start by making the dough. Beat together the butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add the eggs and almond extract and beat to combine. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, and then add it to the batter and beat until smooth.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm it up. The dough will keep in the fridge for several days if you want to prepare it beforehand.
- Roll about 2/3 of the dough out to cover the bottom and edges of a pie pan (or about half way up the sides of a springform pan). Roll the rest of the dough out and cut it into ribbons or other shapes to top the Pasta Flora with.
- Pour the rose petal spoon sweets/your favorite fruit preserves into the crust. Add the pistachios, and top with the rest of the dough.
- Bake in a 340 degree F (170 degree C) oven for half an hour, until the top is golden.
- Brush the top of the crust with a little bit of jam, to give it a nice shine.
- Let the Pasta Flora sit for at least half an hour before cutting.
- If you want, you can serve your Pasta Flora with a dusting of icing sugar, or some vanilla ice cream.