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Dining Outdoors? Think Greek

Whether you want appetizers only or a sit-down dinner, Greek food works well

favorite greek dishes greek salad recipe

Greek and other Mediterranean cuisine are ideal for summer meals. — Photo by: Nicki Dowey/the food passionates/Corbis

In these long days of summer, with children home from school, visitors in from out of town and the daylight stretching well past dinnertime, one of the pleasures is dining outdoors. And while a traditional barbecue or a few steaks on the grill with a green salad and some crusty bread will always hit the al fresco spot, other cuisines also lend themselves well to a meal shared on a warm, breezy evening.

See also: Cooking with summer's bounty

Mediterranean cuisines are ideal and Greek food offers the perk of relying heavily on healthy staples such as olive oil, whole grains, fish, vegetables and herbs. Sharing characteristics with Italian and Turkish cuisines, a Greek-inspired summertime menu is an excellent way to refresh your supper repertoire.

"Orektika" is the official name for appetizers, while "mezés" are small dishes that can stand alone and are usually served alone or with wine. Here are some orektika and mezés inspired by Greek cuisine that you can easily mix and match to create a meal:

Grilled Eggplant with Feta, Mint and Chilli by Nigella Lawson

Grilled Shrimp and Garlic-Stuffed Black Olive Skewers by Tom Douglas

Fava Bean, Garlic and Herb Crostini by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner

Tzatziki by Margaret Howard

Marinated Tomatoes by Jim Botsacos and Judith Choate

Taramasalata With Bread and Potato by Susanne Hoffman

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves by Jennifer Felicia Abadi

If you're planning to make a full sit-down meal, Greek cuisine provides plenty of options as well. Here are some starters, hearty mains, sides and sweets to round out your menu.

Greek Salad by Mimi Sheraton: A traditional Greek salad contains no lettuce and is made up mostly of tomatoes and cucumber.

Next: More main dishes and a honey yogurt dessert. >>

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