The Greek language can be intimidating, and you'll encounter a good bit of it in traditional Greek cooking methods. The foreign words and phrases may make it seem as though preparation of the dishes simply has to be complex. In fact, Greek foods are prepared using basic cooking methods: They're typically fried, breaded, sautéed, simmered, boiled, braised, stewed, baked, roasted, grilled, poached, pickled, puréed or preserved. Greek food generally does not include smoking in home cooking.
If you master a few Greek words, a simple glance at a recipe can tell you exactly what you're in for — how you'll prepare the meal and the cooking method you'll use. For example, tiganita means fried, so when this word appears at the end of the name of a recipe, you'll automatically know that it involves frying. The first word typically tells you what you'll be frying, as in kalamarakia tiganita — fried squid.
Here are some of the most common words and phrases for several cooking methods.
Greek Stovetop Cooking Methods
Kapama means a stovetop meat or poultry casserole in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce. It's καπαμά in Greek, and it's pronounced kah-pah-MAH. What if the tomato sauce isn't sweet or spicy? Then the meat or poultry casserole would be kokkinisto or κοκκινιστό, pronounced koh-kee-nee-STOH.
If the stovetop casserole is vegetarian — meatless with legumes and/or rice and cooked with olive oil, it's lathera or ladera, pronounced lah-theh-RAH. It's λαδερά in Greek.
A stovetop casserole might be completely generic, its name not giving any hints as to its ingredients. This is plaki or πλακί, a plain old oven casserole. It's pronounced plah-KEE.
There are plenty of things you can prepare on the stovetop — you're certainly not limited to casseroles. Pose (ποσέ) means poached. It's pronounced po-ZAY. Stifatho or stifado (στιφάδο, pronounced stee-FAH-thoh) means a dish is stewed with lots of pearl onions, and yahni means stewed, ragout style. It's written γιαχνί in Greek, pronounced yah-HNEE.
Stovetop Frying Methods
Pane — πανέ and pronounced pay-NAH — means a dish is both breaded and fried. Tiganita indicates that a food is to be fried in a skillet. It derives from tigani, the Greek word for skillet. Written in Greek, it's τηγανητά, pronounced tee-ghah-nee-TAH.
Sote can be easy to remember — it's the Greek word for sautéed and it's pronounced much the same as the French term. The Greek word for it is σοτέ.
The word skharas means something is grilled, σχάρας in Greek and pronounced SKHAH-rahss. This shouldn't be confused with sti skhara, which means "on the grill."
Ogkraten can also be easy to remember — it's the Greek version of "au gratin," anything baked with a bechamel sauce and sprinkled cheese. In Greek, it's ογκρατέν and it's pronounced oh-grah-TEN, also similar to the French term. Psito means roasted — ψητό, pronounced psee-TOH.
Sto fourno can mean either baked or oven roasted. It literally means "in the oven." In Greek, it's στο φούρνο, pronounced stoh FOOR-no.
Other Preparation Methods
Poure means puréed or mashed in Greek. It's written πουρέ and pronounced poor-RAY.
Toursi (τουρσί, pronounced toor-SEE) means pickled.
There are other terms, of course -- as many as there are ways to prepare foods. Some vary by regional dialects, but these are the basics. So memorize a few of your favorite cooking methods and hit the kitchen.