I couldn't come up with a witty title, that takes too much thinking time, when we're only here for a week and it gets in the way of eating time. Rhodes is a typical mediterranean island, with it's emphasis on vegetables, fresh fruit, olive oil, pulses, grains, fish, poultry and little red meat is a diet low in saturated fat and rich in vitamins and healthy omega 3’s. The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are heralded in a number of studies, the most famous conducted by Harvard University’s school Public Health in the 1990s. Rhodes, part of the Dodecanese Island groups, showcases the best of Greece in terms of the Mediterranean diet and is part of an awesome Aegean Cuisine initiative - a campaign by the Dodecanese and Cyclades Island groups to highlight and protect the traditional foods of these islands.
We took a tour around the island with Nicklos, an Egyptian born half Italian/half Greek Rhodian who has lived in Rhodes for 20 years - how's that for multicultural. Driving through the countryside, we were amazed at the vast number of olive trees. Nicklos proudly shared that Greeks consume more than 18 litres of olive oil per year (seriously! I googled it to check), compare that to what is thought of as the olive oil capital of the world Italy where the amount is roughly 9 litres per person.
Rhodes is a large island, with 220 kilometres of coastline, so it is not surprising that seafood features as a nightly dish here. Most common are fish like grouper, sea bass, and red snapper, sometimes cooked in sauces, but mostly grilled whole, drizzled with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and served with a fresh garden salad. A Rhodian favourite is to sandwich freshly sliced tomatoes, green pepper and oregano between two slices of feta cheese, wrap well in tinfoil and pop onto the grill while the fish is cooking, turning it often. What results is a beautiful creamy, salty, sweet (from the tomatoes) and fragrant dip that is fabulous with the fish and freshly baked bread.
We popped into a traditional Greek Taverna in the old city of Rhodes for lunch and were served a vast and varied Greek platter full of traditional dishes including Mezedes. Similar to Mezes in the Middle East or Tapas in Spain, Mezedes are a variety of small dishes. Our platter held some fabulous dishes like taramoe salad (a delicate fish roe spread), melizanosalata (a smoky aubergine salad), dolmadas (stuffed vine leaves dripping with olive oil and fresh lemon juice), keftedes (tender beef and lamb meatballs) and saganaki (creamy baked feta). There was also a hearty helping of olives, greek salad, tzatziki (creamy cucumber dip) and a glorious melt in your mouth Moussaka (a cheesy beef, tomato and aubergine dish).
We're loving Rhodes, it's a beautiful island with so much to offer - thousands of years of eventful history (I still can't figure out who 'controlled' Rhodes and when), super-friendly locals, crystal clear seas, fantastic scenery, and absolutely fabulous food, cooked simply and perfectly, using the freshest ingredients.
Keftedes with Tzatki
· 4 slices white bread, torn into pieces
· 2 tablespoons milk
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· 1 onion, quartered
· 2 tablespoons fresh mint
· 1 teaspoon salt
· ground black pepper to taste
· 250 grams minced beef
· 250 grams minced lamb
· 3 eggs
· 1/2 cup flour for dredging
· vegetable oil for frying
1. Moisten the bread pieces with the milk in a large bowl, and set aside.
2. Place garlic, onion, mint, salt, and pepper. Process until the onion is finely chopped. Add the onion mixture to the bowl with the moist bread, along with the beef, lamb, and eggs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly blended.
3. Roll the mixture into balls measuring 4 to 5 cm in diameter. Place the flour in a shallow pan, and roll the balls in the flour to coat. Shake off any excess flour, and place the meatballs onto a plate or baking sheet, pressing to flatten slightly. This will keep them from rolling away.
4. Heat 2cm of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs, 8 or 10 at a time, and cook until nicely browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes; drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Alternatively, place the uncooked meatballs on a lined baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius, turning once.
· 3 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 tablespoon vinegar
· 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 teaspooon white pepper
· 1 cup greek yogurt, strained
· 1 cup sour cream
· 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
· 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1. Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined.
2. Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.
3. Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Chill for at least two hours before serving.