Almost everything here is affected by the volcanic soil, from the beaches to the crops, to the appearance of the geography. But perhaps, other than the famous Santorini wines, the food here takes on a distinct volcanic influence.
Starting with vegetables, the unique aubergine or white eggplant is synonymous with Santorini. Though it is a little early for the white eggplant, the more familiar purple is used interchangeably.
Other vegetables grown here include capers, cherry tomatoes, and favas, yellow split peas similar to lentils. My fava last night was served hot, more like a soup, with pickled capers, and some herbs. It was quite good and reminded me of hummus.
The tiny tomatoes here are very sweet, and much tastier than the larger tomato varieties. Thie cherry tomatoes are made into tomato paste with capers, olive oil, salt, basil, and oregano, and served with bread. Another use is tomato fritters, which I have yet to try.
Remarkably, Santorini was known more as “tomato island” before the big eruption in 1950. Only one tomato processing plants remains from the thirteen at the height of tomato operations. I guess they traded tomatoes for tourism??
The small white eggplant shows up in stews, and salads, or smoked and pureed. Capers and pickled caper leaves show up in salads, or the fava soup.
Less well known is katsuni, or cucumber, which becomes sweeter like a melon, if not picked in time. And remarkably, wild greens from the hillsides are used in salads in the spring.
I just meant to stop for some potatoes and a beer. But I ended up with several beers, and a lamb kabob. Our kebabs are much better back home, being both marinated, and better cut of the lamb. The owner said he does not marinate, due to the type of customers he has, namely tourists. The lamb ribs are also good but a little fatty.
Typical dishes here are skordonomakarona, which is a homemade pasta with Santorini tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt, and apochti, which is a spiced pork carpaccio. Thank the Byzantines for that last dish.
After I received another complimentary Greek yogurt, and kidoni, which is a delicious, candied quince. I learned they have another sweet, called kopania. It is made with barley, raisins, and sesame seeds. It sounds good.
You know what, I have not tried the local baklava yet. Nor have I tried the local squid, prawns, or octopus. Hard to put those two food groups in one paragraph!!!
I ordered a fresh, not frozen lobster for dinner tonight. BTW, the Greeks or at least the chefs here in Santorini know how to cook rice. My friend, Apostolos, would not let me eat a frozen lobster, my thanks to him. They prepared it perfectly, grilled mostly, but not steamed. It was flavorful and very juicy!!!
As I mentioned before, Santorini has a dry volcanic microclimate, which enhances their wine. The vines are the oldest in Europe, and impervious to phylloxera that wiped out most of Europe’s vines in the late 19th century. As you saw in my photos, the vines grow very close to the ground, to take advantage of the moisture, and to protect the grapes from rather strong winds, like today.
I am not crazy about either of their two main wines, the assyrtiko and the vinsanto. The Mykteri, which is assyrtiko made at night, is more tolerable.
Another sweet wine, the mavrotragano, reminds me of the more familiar mavrodaphne.
My friend, Kostas, has provided his wild oregano for me to take home. He also makes his own goat cheese, of which I must say, is the best I have ever had. And I am not fond of goat cheese.
I have met people from Wales, Poland, UK, Belgium, and Marin County. BTW, they love Americans here. Their most dreaded tourists are the Middle Easterners, and as always, the French.
The oranges here are better than ours, but they come from mainland central Greece.
I made some nice friends here, met many others. The locals really need American tourists now. They love us, we know how to spend $$!!
I am headed back to Athens for 6 days, skipping Krakow and Auschwitz. I think you know why!!!
See you in Plaka.