Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

What do you do when the hot weather kicks in and the cucumbers start taking over your garden? I make soup!

The original cucumber soup recipe comes from Ikies Traditional Houses, a wonderful hotel in the beautiful town of Oia in Santorini, Greece. After a long, hot day of exploring the island, we would settle down to a refreshing bowl of cucumber soup. They were nice enough to share the recipe with us, and a few tweaks later, it’s my definition of perfect.

 

cuke soup

 

 

 

3 English cucumbers or 5 regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup vegetable stock, preferably home-made
4 cups plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
Fleur de Sel and pepper

 

Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers and place them in a blender with the garlic, stock, 2 cups of the yogurt, mint leaves, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel, and a grating of fresh black pepper.

Turn on the blender and mix well. Stop the blender and then add remaining 2 cups of yogurt and mix it by hand.

Pour the cucumber soup in bowls. Garnish with diced cucumber or radish.

 

To make the vegetable stock: rough-chop a few carrots, a few stalks of celery, and an onion, and put them in a pot with 4 cups of water. Boil until the liquid has reduced by half. by half. Strain the veggies before using the stock. You can also roast the veggies on a sheet pan in a hot oven for a bit before adding them to the water for an even richer flavor.

 

Greek food is some of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. It rivals Italian and French cuisine, yet has nowhere near the fan base. It’s the same with Greek spirits. The island of Santorini offers many wonderful choices, and it would be a sin not to taste them all!

santorini3

Santorini is magical. It’s why we keep coming back. But just as wonderful as the white buildings stacked on the cliffsides of this island are the people, and the native food and drink they offer. One such place is the Hatzidakis winery in the town of Pirgos.

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why we go. Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. And that’s the last place we want to be.

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful of people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

It’s hard to find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

For the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of time it takes to get there.

Aside from wine in Santorini, our most recent visit a few years ago introduced us to a local drink called Raki. Kind of like grappa on steroids, it’s the national drink of Turkey, popular here as well, and often served as a digestif before dinner. It’s a drink that can definitely get you in trouble.

image

 

Also new (to us) in Santorini was Red Donkey, a locally brewed beer. It was a welcome treat on those very hot and dry summer days. Unfiltered and delicious.

image

 

As for local foods, nothing is better than a salad featuring the sharp tang of Santorini tomatoes. Much like the grapes of this island, the tomatoes grow in volcanic soil. Rain is scarce, and so the tomatoes, like the grapes, stay small but intense, bursting with flavor.

image

 

image

Capers and caper berries, stuffed into empty plastic water bottles, are sold on the side of the road by local farmers.

image

Perhaps the most unlikely food item we bring home from Santorini is what they call “fava,” but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.

Proud of his fava.

Proud of his fava.

 

Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.

Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.

When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.

On our last trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple and rustic, with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon. One of our favorite restaurants, Dimitris in Amoudi, serves it this way.

The fava at Dimitri's, on the water in Ammoudi.

The fava at Dimitri’s, on the water in Ammoudi.

We bought our fava from several people, including this beautiful ageless woman, who remembered us from our previous visit. image

We’re hoping still be here on this magical island when we visit in a couple of weeks!

image

They call it fava, but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart, the yellow split pea, no doubt due in part to the dry, volcanic Santorini soil it grows in. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.
The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.
Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.
Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor of love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.
When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it’s topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.
Proud of his fava

Proud of his fava

On our last trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dish was a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.
Finding real Santorini fava can be difficult and expensive on line, but it is possible. You can easily find dried yellow split peas in local US supermarkets, but it’s not quite the same.
We bring loads of Santorini fava home with us, making our already-heavy luggage even heavier. But it’s worth it to be able to enjoy this Greek comfort food at home.
Whether you use the real fava from Santorini, or yellow split peas, you’ll find it’s a great side dish to replace the usual potatoes or rice. My personal touch–no surprise here–bacon!
 image
1/2 cup olive oil
4 strips bacon, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cups water
2 cups chicken stock (I use homemade)
2 cups fava or yellow split peas, rinsed in a colander
salt and pepper
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Add the onions and cook until they’re translucent. Add the water, the chicken stock and the fava. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to medium. Using a large spoon, scoop off any foam that appears.
Stir often, and cook until the fava absorbs the liquid and becomes a creamy porridge. Lower the heat as you cook to prevent burning. You may need to add water while cooking if you see that it’s getting too dry.
The fava will be done when it’s creamy and smooth. (Optional: zap it in a blender to make it really creamy.) Serve with finely chopped onions, a sprinkling of capers, and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s a simple yet fantastic dish if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

Graviera cheese

Graviera cheese

I had a slab of Graviera cheese from my most recent trip to Santorini, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty damn amazing…

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

300 g grated Graviera cheese
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
1 lb (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo
salt and pepper

 

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree tomatoes and add to the pan. Add red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in the broiler and cook until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

shrimp saganaki

 

 

Greek cuisine is some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. It rivals Italian and French cuisine, yet has nowhere near the fan base. It’s the same with Greek spirits. The island of Santorini offers many wonderful choices, and it would be a sin not to taste them all!

santorini3

The island of Santorini is magical. But just as wonderful as the white buildings stacked on the cliffsides of this island are the people, and the native food and drink they offer. One such place is the Hatzidakis winery in the town of Pirgos.

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why you need to go. Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. Why would you want to hang with them?

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

You can’t find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

But for the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of travel hassles to get there.

Aside from wine in Santorini, our most recent visit a few years ago introduced us to a local drink called Raki. Kind of like grappa on steroids, it’s the national drink of Turkey, popular here as well, and often served as a digestif before dinner. It’s a drink that can definitely get you in trouble.

image

 

Also new (to us) in Santorini was Red Donkey, a locally brewed beer. It was a welcome treat on those very hot and dry summer days on this beautiful island. Unfiltered and delicious.

image

 

As for local foods, nothing is better than a salad featuring the sharp tang of Santorini tomatoes. Much like the grapes of this island, the tomatoes grow in volcanic soil. Rain is scarce, and so the tomatoes, like the grapes, stay small but intense, bursting with flavor.

image

 

image

Capers and caper berries, stuffed into empty plastic water bottles, are sold on the side of the road by local farmers.

image

Perhaps the most unlikely food item we have to bring home from Santorini is what they call “fava,” but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.

Proud of his fava.

Proud of his fava.

 

Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.

Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.

When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.

On our recent trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.

The fava at Dimitri's, on the water in Ammoudi.

The fava at Dimitri’s, on the water in Ammoudi.

We bought our fava from several people, including this beautiful ageless woman, who remembered us from our previous visit.image

I have no doubt that she’ll still be here on this magical island on our next visit as well!

image

We have friends on their honeymoon in Santorini right now, visiting many of the places we’ve suggested, including the Hatzidakis winery. Here are photos from our adventure in 2013…

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why you need to go. Have your hotel call ahead and make an appointment.

Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. Why would you want to hang with them?

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

You can’t find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

But for the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of travel hassles to get there.

 

Cheers!

The cukes are taking over my garden! Time to make soup!

The original cucumber soup recipe comes from Ikies Traditional Houses, a wonderful hotel in the beautiful town of Oia in Santorini, Greece. After a long, hot day of exploring this beautiful island, we settled down to a refreshing bowl of cucumber soup. They were nice enough to share the recipe with us, and a few tweaks later, it’s my definition of perfect.

cuke soup

 

Ingredients:

 

3 English cucumbers or 5 regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup vegetable stock, preferably home-made

4 cups plain full- fat yogurt, preferably Fage Greek yogurt

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

Fleur de Sel and pepper

 

Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers and place in a blender with garlic, stock, 2 cups of the yogurt, mint leaves, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel, and a grating of fresh black pepper.

Turn on blender and mix well. Stop blender and then add remaining 2 cups of yogurt and mix by hand.

Pour cucumber soup in bowls. Garnish with diced cucumber or radish.

 

To make the vegetable stock, boil chopped carrots, celery and onion in a large pot of water for an hour, reducing by half. Strain the veggies before using the stock. You can roast the veggies on a sheet pan in a hot oven for a bit before adding to the water for an even richer flavor.

 

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s a simple yet fantastic dish if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

Graviera cheese

Graviera cheese

I had a slab of Graviera cheese from my most recent trip to Santorini, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty damn amazing…

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

Ingredients:

 

300 g grated Graviera cheese

1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes

1 lb (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 medium onion, chopped

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, through a press

pinch red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo

salt and pepper

 

Peel and devein the shrimp. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree tomatoes and add to the pan. Add red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in the broiler and cook until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

shrimp saganaki

 

 

TAVERNAS OF SANTORINI

Posted: October 17, 2013 in Food, travel, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

There’s a reason why the Greek island of Santorini constantly wins the “most beautiful island” awards in travel magazines. It is stunning. But the awards have also lured cruise ships and all that is wrong with them. To fully appreciate Santorini, and the many wonderful restaurants and tavernas that dot this island, you need to get away from the crowds, and away from Fira in particular, where cruise ships drop off clueless tourists by the thousands.

The best way to get to most of these places is with a rental car, so make it part of your plan to see a few nearby sights and to stop at these eateries along the way…

METAXY MAS

Trip: Explore the central region of Santorini. Go to the ancient city of Thira, high atop a mountain. A fascinating trip through time. Go to the island’s best winery, Hatzitakis in Pyrgos, and taste some of their wines. The place is not fancy, but the wine is amazing. Santos is certainly a more popular and prettier winery, with breathtaking views of the island, but  their wines are just OK. We go to the beaches of Kamari in the late afternoon, when the throngs of tourists have left for the day. The water’s warm, and the beaches are quiet.

What a fun food adventure! Metaxy Mas is a taverna located in Exo Gonia, behind a church, down a steep cobblestone driveway. From the road, you can barely see the small “Metaxy Mas” sign. But you do see a hand-painted sign with an arrow saying “taverna.” You follow it past the church courtyard, past a kids’ playground, and suddenly, it opens up to a view that overlooks Santorini. The restaurant is small, but they’ve got some kind of deal going on with an office building next door that allows them to places a bunch of tables outdoors on the patio.
Wherever you sit, the food, the hassle and the crowds are worth it.
It was our first try at Cretan food and it was wonderful. Do not miss the pan-fried crusted feta cheese….or the asparagus swimming in a cheese sauce that begs to have the plate licked clean…or a fried cheese that rivals the best Saganaki. The pork chops with orange sauce were tender and not overpowered by the tanginess of the citrus.
The dining begins with a shot of a local spirit called Raki, a kind of grappa, that will get your digestive juices going. And it ends with a warm, citrusy liqueur and a bite of homemade cheesecake that simply rounds out an amazing meal.
Get a reservation. don’t expect to walk in and find a table. It’s that good.

Metaxy Mas wine

 

GIORGAROS TAVERNA

Trip: Visit the incredible ruins at Akrotiri, worth a visit even on the hottest of days, since it’s all indoors. Explore the red beach nearby. Drive to the lighthouse, just to say you’ve been to the very tip of Santorini. And then stop in Faros for a great meal at Giorgaros.

We first stumbled upon Giorgaros Taverna five years ago, while exploring the very end of Santorini, near the lighthouse. The fish was incredibly fresh and the view breathtaking, all run by a hard-working friendly family that took pride in their establishment.
We returned this year, and fortunately, little has changed. Our server, who was a young girl five years ago, has grown up, and once again, she led us to the kitchen, where all the fresh seafood was stored in refrigerated drawers: sea bream, red mullet, lobsters, and several critters we didn’t recognize.
The pan-fried fish was like candy. And our special order of lobster with pasta came with a sauce that was so magnificent, it’s hard to even describe the fantastic flavors that only an intense homemade fish stock can bring. It took extra time to cook, and it was worth every bit of the wait.
Rent a car, get away from the annoying touristy crowds, visit the amazing ruins at Akrotiri, then head toward the lighthouse and eat at Giorgaros. You will not regret it.

Giorgaros

ROKA

Trip: A visit to Santorini is not complete without a visit to Oia, and not just for the sunset when everybody else goes. Oia is the most strikingly beautiful corner of the island, and it’s worth at least a couple of days to explore the shops, the art galleries, to walk down the steps to Amoudi Bay, and to ride a donkey back up, Get your best walking shoes on and be prepared to climb a lot of steps! Whenever we visit Santorini, we always stay at a hotel in Oia…our favorite: Esperas. No reason to stay anywhere else.

To use the cliche, Roka is “where the locals go.” This is not a sunset destination. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation, and then be told how to get there (it’s a little tricky, but not impossible), you get to eat at one of Oia’s best food restaurants. In our one-week stay, we ate there twice. Sure, the outdoor terrace overlooks the local neighborhood, barking dogs included. But the food more than makes up for the real estate.
You must have the fava: light as a cloud and topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil. Great salads. The Manouri cheese, fried then drizzled with honey and sesame seeds: fantastic. Tomato fritters: a Santorini classic. Marinated anchovies in vinegar and rosemary: the best I’ve had anywhere.
Our server, Dimitri, realized he had a couple of foodies on his hands, so we left our main course one night up to him: the ravioli stuffed with anthotiro cheese and a dried cherry basil sauce was terrific. On our second night, we enjoyed a very rich and comforting lamb hock in a lemon sauce. And don’t miss the panacotta for dessert!
The wine list was not mind-blowing, but there are enough good choices to make your meal enjoyable.

Dimitris

 

DIMITRIS AMOUDI TAVERNA

Trip: While you’re day-tripping in Oia, have lunch in Amoudi. Or better yet…make reservations for the sunset here.

We discovered Dimitri’s ten years ago, on our first trip, re-visited five years ago, then again this year. It has never disappointed us.
Dimitri is the fisherman. His wife, Joy, a Vancouver native, runs the restaurant 7 days a week for the entire 6 month season. No language issues here. And though we never order our food “American style,” if you have food hang-ups (like you can’t stand the sight of a fish head, ya big wuss), Joy can calm your fears.
The local fava dish is rustic and a classic. Saganaki: the best on the island. A delightful beet salad. Great wilted wild greens called Vlita, a kind of amaranth. The seafood menu totally depends on what they’ve caught, and Joy will escort you into the kitchen where you can see all of the day’s catch on ice to make your selections. Never pass up on the (hardwood charcoal) grilled octopus or the fried black cod if they have it. Red mullet is equally fantastic. Deep-fried shrimp are like candy, but beware: you eat them heads, shells, whiskers and all!
Dimitris also has Hatzitakis wine on their menu, our clear choice for best wine in Santorini. And the all-new local Donkey beers are great, too.
Your table is literally on the water: two more inches and you’d fall into Amoudi Bay. The walk down from Oia along the very long stairway that winds down the side of the cliff: absolutely worth it, despite dodging some donkeys and donkey poop. (But take a taxi back up. Joy will call one for you.)
Make a reservation for sunset! Check out the beautiful, brightly colored fishing boats moored in the bay. Share a bottle of wine…or two.

AlKelly Dimitris

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

KASTRO

Trip: Another place to drink or dine while in Oia…

Located Cliffside in Oia, overlooking Amoudi Bay, this is another excellent location for drinks at sunset (reservations a must!) or a really enjoyable meal. Two dishes really knocked our socks off at Kastro. The first: rolled eggplant, with feta cheese and tomato sauce, using the local eggplant that is so much milder than what we’re used to at home–doesn’t even need to be peeled–with local feta cheese and an intense tomato sauce from Santorini tomatoes grown in volcanic soil.

Kastro eggplant

The second amazing dish was what we labeled “an olive donut:” olives stuffed with cream cheese, then dunked in a batter that was then fried and drizzled with honey. Unbelievably good! We came back to Kastro a second time just for those two dishes.

Olive donuts

The salads at Kastro are fresh, inventive and very large…good to share. And the lamb was the best I had on our visit. (How can you not have lamb when in Greece?)

Cliffside view of Kastro

Cliffside view of Kastro

They call it fava, but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart, the yellow split pea, no doubt due in part to the dry, volcanic Santorini soil it grows in. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.
The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.
Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.
Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.
When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.
Proud of his fava

Proud of his fava

On our recent trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.
Finding real Santorini fava can be difficult and expensive on line, but it is possible. You can easily find dried yellow split peas in local US supermarkets, but it’s not quite the same.
My personal touch–no surprise here–bacon! I finely chop and then fry a small amount of bacon and sauté it with the chopped onion, then add it (with the bacon fat) to the boiling pot of fava and water in the beginning.