August 20, 2009

Santorini Cuisine-y: Local Specialties to Try

So before I share my eating and drinking guide for Santorini, I wanted to give you a quick lesson on the island's specialties. It's the teacher in me--what can I say?

Since Santorini (or Thira, as it's also known) is the remnant of a larger island that was the site of the Minoan volcanic eruption somewhere around 600 BC, its soil is extremely rich. Pair this rich soil with an arid climate, and you've got an abundance of viny crops.

Specifically, Santorini is famous for its tomatinis, which are fragrant and amazingly sweet cherry tomatoes. I became obsessed with these small wonders, and shouted "Tomatiniiiiiis!" every time we put-put-putted past them on Herbert, our ATV. You can imagine how pleased Tucker was. Below are two versions of Santorini's tomatinis--au naturel and stuffed. Yum.

By the way, the other genius use for the local tomatinis is tomatokeftedes, or tomato balls. These fritter-like treats aren't the most photogenic of dishes, so I didn't include a picture. But trust me, this mixture of fresh tomato, onion, and herbs is not to be missed.

Another famous Santorinian specialty is fava, which is a purée of Santorini's local golden fava lentil. Whereas the rest of Greece makes its fava with regular old lentils, Santorini's lentils are special...or so I'm told. Either way, this combination of lentil, caper, onion, olive oil, and lemon juice is a delight, and can be eaten on its own as a meal, or spread on bread as an appetizer.

More local treats include: sweet small white eggplants, zucchini, and watermelon. The most fun part of each ATV ride we took was to try to determine which type of vine we were passing in any given field. I discovered that I was perhaps not the first to exhibit curiosity about the local produce--most fields were surrounded by intimidating wire fences that kept me from doing what I really wanted to do: sneak a tomatini or two from the vines.

All this talk of vines brings me to my last point: Greek table wine is delicious, especially in Santorini. Fields of grapevines cover the island, and there are many Santorinian wineries available for touring if the mood takes you.

That's all for now--if I write any more about Santorini, I won't be able to reconcile myself to the upcoming school year of cafeteria food.

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