Party Girl: My Big Fat Greek Independence Day

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Greek Independce Day PartyToday is a cause for celebration among Greeks around the world: Greek Independence Day, which marks the liberation of Greece from the rule of the Ottoman Empire. It's also cause for celebration for all of us non-Greeks, since it gives us an excuse to sample their delicious national cuisine!

From fresh Greek salads to hearty roasted lamb and flaky phyllo pastries, there's truly something for everyone in the wide array of Greek dishes. Fresh flavors of lemon, mint, and oregano prevail, with savory pops of briny olives and pungent feta cheese, all finished off (of course) with sips of fortifying anise-flavored ouzo.

Though true Greeks might spurn Americanized versions of their national treasures (and justifiably so, if you've ever heard an American belly up to the counter of a Greek deli and twang-ily ask for a "jy-ro"), it's largely a simple cuisine accessible to Greek fans of all nationalities.

So round up some friends, set out an apartment-sized feast fit for a Greek king, and give thanks to Bishop Germanos, who had the courage 189 years ago today to raise the Greek flag against the Ottomans to preserve this beautiful - and delicious - culture.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce (Cooking Light) Feast on flavorful chunks of grilled, marinated chicken breast draped in cool, creamy yogurt sauce. Trade the low-fat plain yogurt for thick and tangy fat-free Greek yogurt (Fage brand is the gold standard, but Yoplait just came out with a perfectly acceptable - and cheaper - version).

Spanakopita Cups (AllRecipes) Although insanely delicious, the delicate phyllo pastry takes a certain skill (or patience, at the very least) to work with. Take the cheater's way out by spooning a traditional spanakopita filling into pre-made frozen phyllo cups. In our featured recipe, bail out after step one and have more time for ouzo martinis!

Horiatiki - Chunky Greek Salad (Jamie Oliver) Skip the limp iceburg lettuce and instead whip up the peasant salad known as horiatiki: big chunks of feta, ripe tomato and crispy cucumber splashed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Ouzo Martini
(RecipeZaar) Cut the booziness of straight ouzo by stirring it into fresh orange and pineapple juices. A delicious alternative to more traditional ouzo shots, and one less likely to have your guests smashing your dishware by the end of the evening.

Disclaimer: No actual Greeks were consulted in the assemblage of these recipes. It's just one backwoods Southern girl's humble homage to a cuisine that reveres feta cheese and buttery pastries. Opa, y'all!
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