Like all Mediterranean cuisines, Greek cuisine is characterized by the use of lots of olive oil, fish, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. Because Greece is so close to the Middle East, many of its dishes have Middle Eastern influences, and common Greek dishes like stuffed grape leaves and baklava could be considered Turkish as much as they are Greek. Traditional Greek cuisine has lots of hearty flavors and it is typically incredibly varied, encompassing the bounty of the sea and the land.
Greece particularly favors the production of sheep, chickens, and goats. Beef and pork are fairly unusual in Greek cuisine, with the majority of Greek cheeses being made with sheep or goat milk. Both sheep and goats tend to be more flavorful and dark when cooked, and these meats are often grilled in the form of souvlaki to bring out their natural flavors, or baked in rich casseroles which also include seasonal vegetables such as okra and eggplant. Chicken is also a common ingredient for meals and soups, with avgolemono soup being a popular Greek chicken soup.
Seafood is also a common element in Greek cuisine, especially creatures like octopus and squid, which are grilled and served both warm and cold. Fish may also be poached or fried and served with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. Produce on land in Greece is also quite varied; olives are used to make olive oil and cured olives, which are ubiquitous at every Greek meal, and Greece is also a great growing climate for grapes, fresh herbs, tomatoes, okra, beans, squash, cucumbers, and potatoes, all of which feature heavily in Greek cuisine.
Some of the most well known examples of Greek cuisine are meze, or appetizers. Dolmades, cheeses, light salads, pastries with phyllo dough like spanakopita, and a wide assortment of cheeses are common Greek appetizers. Meze may also include purees and dipping sauces made from ingredients such as beans, eggplant, garlic, potatoes, and yogurt, and a platter of appetizers is usually served with lemon wedges and wine, raki, or ouzo.
Greek desserts are quite distinctive, since Greek cuisine places a heavy emphasis on the use of honey for a sweetener, rather than sugar. Greek desserts can be almost painfully sweet, running the gamut from delicate buttery kourambiedes to rich, sweet breads. Desserts may be served with Metaxa, a sweet Greek brandy, and they are often surprisingly light, beyond their sweetness.