Just imagine sitting next to the azure waters of Greece, a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean, a good glass of white wine in hand, and a bevy of seafood on your plate – this is the moment you truly exhale.

It’s so perfect that you take a mental snapshot to revisit on a cold, rainy day. Months – and thousands of miles – later, you will still be exhaling when you think about Greece and its stunning islands.

Greek seafood recipes can be life-altering events. They’re like a magical first date, a dizzying wedding, a gleefully sentimental anniversary – a moment in time that stays viscerally with you. There’s a reason for that. From the foundation of silky olive oil to the salty brine enveloping the protein and the sprinkling of fresh and bright herbs to finish, a Greek seafood dinner is layered with fresh ingredients and created with love.

The F.N. Sharp Guide to Greek Seafood

When it comes to Greek seafood dishes, there are a few primary types of proteins: Anchovies, cod, mussels, octopus, oysters, sea bass, shrimp, squid, and trout. They each bring their own unique flavor profile to the plate.

Anchovies

Credit: @Sardelaki Vouliagmeni -Me Thea

Anchovies are little delicious flavor carriers of Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-9 fatty acids, so they’re excellent for overall heart health. Anchovies are typically packed in oil or salt, and they’re also commonly sold as a paste. They’re perfect in pan sauces, on pizza, or roasted with tomatoes. Preserved anchovies are loaded with umami, which is why they’re one of the key ingredients in Worcestershire sauce. A favorite Greek dish is fresh anchovies (Gavros Marinatos) marinated in lemon juice and olive oil with fresh herbs. Similar to ceviche, this Greek fish recipe is quick and lively!

Cod

Credit: @Ολα Θεσσαλονίκη

In the mountainous regions of Greece, salt cod (Bakaliaros) has been a historical staple because of the lack of availability of fresh fish. It’s also the base of cod fritters, a holiday dish served on March 25th, Greek Independence Day and Palm Sunday. Fresh cod is wildly popular because it absorbs the flavors combined with it – giving it a blank canvas aspect. The ease of preparation for Greek cod makes it a perfect weeknight meal. Simply sauté the cod with olive oil, lemon, fresh dill and feta for a fresh-from-the-sea palate-pleasing meal, or fry it up and serve with a garlic dip like this recipe.

Mussels

Credit: @Sweet Silvia

When people think of dining al fresco at dusk in Greece, one of the seafood recipes that immediately springs to mind is briny mussels. They’re simple to prepare and are the epitome of seamless elegance.  Simply clean and “debeard” the mussels, then cook them nestled in tomatoes, oregano and white wine. Finish with fresh parsley, and voila! A straight from the Mediterranean classic that’s perfect for a dinner party or a Wednesday night. Serve with a crisp pinot grigio and salty feta to finish the dish.

Octopus

Credit: @Ready & Roam

When working with octopus for Greek seafood recipes, you may want to look to your freezer section. Octopi can live for quite a long time, and the freezing process actually helps tenderize the flesh – which makes for a more supple and finished dish. To prepare the octopus for a lovely Greek-inspired grilled dish, simply blanch a small octopus in a large Dutch oven filled with salted water for a couple of minutes. Drain, remove the head, and place the octopus on a deep bed of herbs (oregano, fennel, parsley) in the Dutch oven and bake until soft. Then toss with olive oil and herbs before grilling until charred – that’s Mediterranean simplicity!

Where to Try the Real Thing: The Best Restaurants in Greece

Oysters

Credit: @Trapezaria Greek Kuzina

When it’s time to make oysters the star of your Greek seafood explorations, it’s a good idea to invest in a dedicated, short and sturdy oyster knife with a pointed blade. It’s also handy to have a shucker’s glove as part of your dedicated seafood kitchen inventory. Before shucking the oysters, make sure that you have a large bowl to catch their liquid while you open them. You don’t want to lose a drop of their salty, sweet essence! Because they’re so flavorful on their own, they don’t need complicated recipes to elevate them. A perfect summer meal is oysters served with shaved cucumber, feta, diced shallots, and kalamata olives. Serve with a pinot gris for an evening of simple perfection.

Sea Bass

Credit: @Christina Xenos

Branzino, or what the Greeks call lavraki, is sustainably-farmed sea bass. To make an elegant presentation, steam the whole, gutted fish in parchment with thyme and lemon. Serving it whole makes this seafood recipe a showstopper!

Shrimp

Credit: @Chefs Table Clinton Resturant

Frozen shelled and deveined shrimp are readily available at supermarkets, but sometimes the freezer section may not have the size shrimp you want, so knowing how to shell and devein fresh shrimp is a good culinary skill to learn. First, remove the legs, then unwrap and discard the shell. Then, simply use a very sharp paring knife, and cut thin slits in the shrimp to remove the vein. Wash thoroughly. For a truly authentic meal full of essential Greek ingredients, cook the shrimp in a simple oregano-spiced tomato sauce and top with feta and bake until the feta is lightly browned and the shrimp is cooked through, like this recipe from Once Upon a Chef.

Squid

Credit: @Taverna Kouloura

Grilled calamari (Kalamari tis sharas) is wildly popular in Greece. And it’s easy as 1-2-3 to prep the squid at home for this succulent dish. First, make sure you are working on a nonporous surface. You don’t want to have to change cutting surfaces when you’re removing the squid ink. The downside is that the ink stains. The upside is that it’s incredibly delicious in homemade pasta and risotto! So, make sure to save it for a future use.

To break the squid down: First, separate the head from the body by twisting and pulling the two apart. Discard the head, and the innards from the squid body. Then, gently puncture the ink sac and drizzle the ink into a small cup of water.

For the tentacles: Using a sharp kitchen knife, remove the hard piece of cartilage that connects them to the head of the squid. Reserve the tentacles.

To break down the tube, simply remove the clear membrane that envelops it and discard. Remove the spotted part of the tube skin, for a more visually pleasing presentation. Cut the tube into rings.

To make Kalamari tis sharas, toss the tentacles and tube rings in olive oil and herbs. Let marinate, and then quickly grill. Serve with plenty of fresh lemon wedges.

Trout

”Greek

When one thinks of Greece, islands and beaches often come to mind. However, much of Greece actually consists of mountainous and rocky terrain. With this type of terrain comes freshwater rivers, lakes, and streams, which means freshwater fish! Greece is home to two types of trout species: brown trout and rainbow trout. Just like sea bass, trout is often cooked whole over open heat and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs.

That’s it for Greek seafood! Now grab these essential Greek cooking tools and enjoy bringing a some of the culinary magic Greece has to offer into your kitchen!