A little while back I shared my memories of visiting the island of Lefkada and this time I’m back to share more but this time we’re going to touch upon the cuisine. Lefkada is located on the Ionian side of Greece, that which faces Italy and its no coincidence that many dishes hint of those Italian influences.
For many centuries the Ionian Islands (or Seven Islands) have been an important way station between east and west (Italy and Europe to the west and Greece and Asia Minor to the east). These islands were administered by Venetians, Russians and Byzantines. Lefkada was also administered by the Ottomans for two hundred years before returning to Venetian rule again.
The influences on Lefkada’s food are evident with the use of pasta, Italian-sounding dishes like the Lefkada specialty called Mandolato (nougat). Lefkada is considered an island but it is accessible by road from mainland Greece. When I was in Lefkada last summer, there were lots of boats and automobiles from the rest if Europe, likely arriving in the Ionian Islands via ferry boat.
As I stated in my previous post, most accommodations on the island are on the side facing mainland Greece and the top beaches are on the Ionian side. The many tavernas and restaurants are, however found all over this tremendous island and again, a car would be handy getting around Lefkada.
What I really liked about Lefkada’s dining scene is that you had a choice of grill houses offering an array of Greek meat dishes and fish and seafood as well. In Greece, tavernas specialize in either meat or fish/seafood. When in Lefkada, go into the mountains for meat and stay near the sea for fish or seafood. You’ll be offered Greek classics and there’s always so come local fare on the menu.
One of Lefkada’s popular dishes is Riganada, similar to the Cretan Dakos and reminiscent of Italy’s Bruschetta. traditionally, garlic is rubbed on dry slices of bread, olive oil and grated tomatoes then are spread with a sprinkle of sea salt and dried Greek oregano (Rigani is oregano in Greek).
I’m sharing my own take on Riganada with the addition of salt-cured olives (us Greeks call them Throumpes), some crumbled Feta and a spoonful of this condiment based on parsley and oregano. It’s great for steak, tossed with pasta like a pesto or on some fish. The garnish here is some pickled grape vine shoots I still have in the fridge. This is an easy meze, looks fab on the platter and puts day-old bread to good use. Never mind that Riganada is equally delicious as it is easy to make!
1 stale or day-old baguette, 1/2 inch slices
4-5 ripe plum tomatoes, thin sliced
1 large clove of garlic
coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper
extra-virgin Greek olive oil
red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese
12-15 sun-dried olives (Throumpes), pitted and sliced
Greek Goddess Sauce
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
2-3 scallions, chopped
1/2 carrot, peeled & grated
1 Tbsp. dried Greek oregano
2-3 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grape vine shoots for garnish (you can use ribbons of jarred grape wine leaves or capers)
- First up, let’s make the Greek Goddess Sauce by placing the parsley, scallions, carrot, wine vinegar and some coarse sea salt in a food processor and whiz until a paste. Now add a stream of olive oil while the machine is running and stop pouring when you’ve achieved your desired consistency. Add Greek oregano to taste, salt and pepper (more oil or vinegar) and pour into a bowl and reserve.
- To make your Riganada, lightly bake the bread slices until just dried and allow to cool. In the meantime, sprinkle coarse sea salt on your tomato slices and allow the tomatoes to rest for 5 minutes. Now place the tomato slices in a bowl with olive oil, wine vinegar, oregano and fresh ground pepper and gently toss with your hands.
- Place place 2 overlapping slices of tomato on each slice of bread, pour any juices over and then sprinkle the crumbled feta then top with some olive slices and then a small dollop of Greek goddess sauce. Finally garnish with a grape vine shoot and serve as part of your array of meze or appetizers.
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