I’m back from Santorini, freshly inspired by the local ingredients and creative cuisine! Everything they say about the flavorful tomatoes, white eggplant, capers, chloro goat cheese, and fava is true! This island formed by intense volcanic eruptions developed unique conditions for soil and the production of ingredients.
The cherry tomatoes are probably the most popular local food product. The anhydrous soil adds sweetness to their flavor. There is so much moisture in the air that the plants do not need to be watered! The aroma and flavor is genuinely more intense than even the great tomatoes here at the local fruit markets.
Their white eggplant is much less bitter than regular eggplant. It also has less seeds and absorbs less oil when fried. The color is refreshingly bright in Greek eggplant salad puree! (melitzanosalata)
The Chloro cheese is a mild fresh goat cheese with a creamier texture than other homemade island goat cheeses. The production is said to be small, but I saw it offered at most restaurants I visited. I enjoyed its less sharp taste and balanced saltiness.
Capers are MUCH more pungent in taste then what I’m used to. I saw it in salads, as a garnish for fava, and used to flavor sauces.
I have to say, the fava (yellow split peas) was my favorite delicacy. I was surprised to notice a difference in taste, of which I was initially suspicious. It is creamier, sweeter, and more concentrated in flavor.
I am not a geologist, and don’t have a strong grasp of the ecosystem which determines these enriched ingredients. But in a very basic nutshell, the volcanic ash makes the soil porous. This, combined with the drought, humidity in the soil, and sea air infuse depth Santorini’s ingredients. So many times disappointing vegetables and seasonings often taste diluted. Not in Santorini!
One of the guidebooks given out to all tourists in Santorini offered up some recipes from the top chefs of the island. I’m choosing one of Dimitri Lazarou’s: White aubergine with spices in sesame crust. Lazarou is the chef at Saltsa, a highly acclaimed restaurant known for using local ingredients creatively. Unfortunately it was one of the few on my list that I didn’t get to try. Next time I will go definitely! This recipe looks great. If you don’t have access to white eggplant, try it with the regular purple variety.
Just remember: Because white eggplant is much sweeter and less bitter than regular eggplant, it might be a good idea to let salted eggplant slices sit in a colander overnight. The liquid which drains from the eggplant by the morning reduces its bitterness.
DIMITRI LAZAROU’S WHITE EGGPLANT WITH SPICES IN SESAME CRUST
-2 medium santorini eggplants or
-1/2 kilo/1/4 lb. all purpose flour
-4 tbs salt
-2 tbs pepper
– 2tbs sweet paprika
-2 tbs curry
-5 tbs white sesame
-5 tbs black sesame
-4 egg whites
-200ml heavy cream
Peel and cut the aubergines in 2cm thick sticks. Beat the egg whites with the cream and submerge the aubergine sticks in the egg mixture.
Mix flour with salt, pepper, paprika, curry and sesames. Let excess moisture from the cream mixture drip off, and mix the aubergines with the flour mixture. Fry them in very hot oil until golden.
Place them on kitchen paper to absorb the oil and serve.
Accompany it with yogurt dip (mix yogurt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly chopped mint).
In a few days I will post reviews of the restaurants Tis Pandoras, Koukoumavlos, Skala, Ambrosia & Nectar, Red Bicycle and Roca. I will add recipes based on amazing meals I tried at these great places!
Also coming up…food of Karpathos island. I will be there for the next few weeks enjoying my grandmother’s cooking, peeling fresh almonds with my aunt, and baking fig tarts…