Everyone is familiar with feta cheese which is made from sheep, goat or cow and is the national cheese of Greece if there is such a thing. Recently the EU made it a law that only the Greeks could call their cheese Feta. Feta cheese is actually from the area of Roumeli and is soaked in brine to keep it from going bad. It is not an aged cheese and in fact if you leave it too long and gets too salty. I use it in my spanakopita, just like my grandmother, in fact I am the type who believes when making spanakopita
(spinach pie), or any vegetable pita, the more feta you use, the better. Aglaia believes the opposite but she is a much better and more subtle cook than I who have often been accused of having a heavy hand, being the big macho dude that I am. To me there is no feeling like the first bite of a piece of feta that makes your whole mouth come alive with sensation. I also use it in my omelets and in a feta saganaki I learned from the famous Rolando of Kea.
Misithra (and Manouri)
This is one of those cheeses that depending on where you are will be completely different. The common one ios the skliri mizithra which is a hard cheese, like manouri which can be dried and grated on pastas and other dishes. But when I think of mizithra I think of the Sifnos variety which is a cross between feta and cottage cheese. Imagine a mild feta with the consistancy of ricotta. This is usually found on the horiatiki salads on the island but can also be ordered seperately.
This is a sheep or goats milk cheese, available in many gourmet grocery stores in the USA. It is good for slicing and eating plain but is commonly ised in saganaki, covered in oil, oregano and other spices and baked, or even deep-fried.
This is a sharp, hard and salty cheese usually made from sheeps milk and can also be used in saganaki or grated on to pasta dishes. Similar to kasseri.
This is a translation of the French gruyere and is made from cow, sheep or goats milk. Like kefalotiri and kasseri you may find yourself in areas of greece where it will be hard to tell the difference between the three. In fact all three can be used in the same way.
There are as many cheeses as there are people who make them. Every area will have a local cheese and some of the names may confuse you because they will have nothing to do with the name you associate with a particular cheese. You may go to one island and get their special island cheese and realize that this is the same as the special island cheese of another island. Even individual cheesemakers will have their own special variety.
Cheese can be bought in any market in Greece but in the Athens central market there are shops that sell only cheese, some that sell only feta. The best cheese comes from the areas that have the most goats, sheep or cows. Lesvos is famous for its hard and medium hard cheeses, especially the village of Vatousa where the smell of cheese waste is hard to miss as you drive by on a hot summer day.