11 Oct 25 innovative dishes from Crete and Santorini
One of the most telling characteristics of Greek cuisine is its regionality. Greece is a small country with a big table, much of it rooted in the regional traditions of the islands, mainland, and mountains.
In this edition of the award-winning Simply Plated! we decided to offer up a table full of dishes from two of the most unique Greek regions, Crete and Santorini: Crete because it is the cradle of the Mediterranean and the mother of the Mediterranean Diet, an island with a vast variety of raw ingredients that have been the foundation of the table from time immemorial; and Santorini, because it is the complete opposite, bone-dry, volcanic, minimal, with a cuisine forged of a dearth of raw ingredients but honed into a delicious whole thanks to the ingenuity of generations of island cooks who took the handful of basic ingredients that are the foundation of Santorini’s table and created a simple, healthful, timeless cuisine. Both islands, are, of course, among the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.
The cooking of Crete is arguably the most complete of all the regions of Greece. It is a cuisine where Minoan elements have persisted and flourished through the ages, with ingredients such as honey, barley, snails and wild greens as important to the Cretan table today as they were several thousand years ago. Crete is one of the most important agricultural hubs of Greece, a major producer of citrus fruits, tomatoes and other vegetables, olive oil and olives, and more. Its cheeses are savored all over Greece and exported all over the world.
Its thyme honey is exquisite. Its mountains and ravines are host to one of the widest selection of wild greens and herbs–well over 300 edible varieties of both–in all of Europe.
The entire cuisine of the Aegean culminates in Crete, a paean to simplicity, seasonality, and variety. Raw ingredients such as greens find their place in myriad dishes, from small hand-held pies browned in the island’s award-winning olive oil to stews and braised dishes that combine healthful greens and vegetables with all sorts of other protein, from lamb and goat to snails, octopus, cuttlefish and squid, to fish and seafood. This combination of greens and vegetables with more expensive meats, fish, etc., is an age-old way to stretch a meal but it is also surprisingly contemporary, as more and more nutritionists today support the ample presence of vegetables in any given dish.
In Santorini, the palate of flavors is limited to a few simple ingredients, mainly the island’s famed yellow split pea, some fish and meat, its gorgeous, small tomatoes, white eggplants, simple cheeses and grapes. Santorini is arguably the most unique vineyard in all the Mediterranean. With this seeming paucity of raw ingredients, however, the island’s cuisine has developed a distinct, regional character.
We drew on the traditional dishes of both places but also enlisted two distinguished island cooks to create a handful of modern dishes using Crete’s and Santorini’s ancient palette of ingredients. The result is a selection of more than 25 Simply Plated, simply delicious dishes, both savory and sweet, that are timeless, timely, healthful, perfect choices for today, no matter where you are.
Enjoy! Greek Food, Real Taste, Great Living.