September is glorious, no matter where I’ve lived. The heavy heat of summer is gone, the days are still warm and lovely, and the nights a pleasure to sleep through. I’m a big fan of wide open windows, curtains blowing in breezes, and the sounds of country living.
In the northern States and in Austria, fall colors are telling us that summer will soon be over, and that we should probably start collecting firewood. In Mykonos, the masses of charter tourists are gone and are replaced by hip independent travelers who can travel when the kids can’t. In Kalamata, where every kind of tourist season has ended, and the beaches are marvelously empty, many locals start wearing their fall boots, even when the weather still calls for bikinis. I would normally say their new fall boots because Greeks are very fashion conscious people, but what with the ongoing financial crisis, they probably have to make do with older models.
Mr. Fabelhaft and myself are taking advantage of our lovely outdoor deck as much as we still can. We were sitting out there, having an early evening glass of wine, when I reminisced how I used to have this weird obsession with living in really old, whitewashed, Mykonian houses. These were usually single roomed, rectangular, very thick walled structures, with small windows that helped control the temperature. In the summer the houses were cool, and in the winters they helped keep the interior warm.
They often had small unused fireplaces in a corner that were once used for cooking. Rarely did they have formal bathrooms.
I preferred these houses out in the middle of nowhere. My excuse was that I had grown up in suburban New Jersey and was therefor used to living at a distance from the downtown happenings in NYC. In Venice, California, I had been at a distance from downtown, LA (even though Venice was pretty damn cool itself), so of course, on Mykonos, my living out in some fields, or near the light house, was totally justified.
Often these houses lacked some kind of basic utility. In one, there was no electricity, but it did have a nice clean well I could haul water out of (and warm in a black bucket in the sun), for my daily ablutions.
In another, I had electricity but no well. That was solved by a cleverly built tank that was built on to the top of the house. It was filled by having one of the four noisy and leaking water trucks that roamed the island come by and drive down my dirt road to do its job.
The best house of all that I lived in back then, belonged to a Mykonian fashion designer named Yiannis Galatis. He was also well known at the time for trying to preserve these gems of Cycladic architecture.
It was a small home built onto the side of a steep hill, composed out of single roomed rectangular structures, either on top of, or next to each other. There was a beautiful downward sloping garden and a lovely entrance gate.
Between the white sugar coated cubes (that’s what they always reminded me of) was a small courtyard with a fireplace and two perfectly placed pine trees (they smelled so GOOD) between which I could hang my hammock.
The view, of course, was unadulterated Mediterranean-ness; the sea, the island’s hills, stone walls and fig trees, a few houses scattered amongst the fields of dried grass. One of my favorite afternoon nap locations.
Mr. Fabelhaft poured me another glass of wine and asked me what we’ll be cooking the next day. I turned my head to see what the garden dictated.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy (If You Like) Pink Sauce
This dish is far from Greek, but it would fit beautifully on a table decked with appetizers, mezes, and tapas. Fried tomatoes can accompany ouzo as well as a steak, and when leftover and cold, make filling and delicious vegetarian sandwiches. If you eat them on their own (which I also highly recommend), make more.
4-5 medium sized roundly shaped very green tomatoes (you want to avoid any ripeness as this will only lead to mushiness)
1 1/2 cup of buttermilk OR 1 cup of thick Greek yogurt (I prefer full fat) with just enough milk to make it just a tad runnier – about 1/4 cup
2 cups of cornmeal
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground sweet red pepper
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
dash of Cayenne pepper (optional)
oil for frying
Cut the tomatoes into 1/2″ (or 1cm) slices. Place them in the bowl with the buttermilk or yogurt/milk mix and let them marinate for at least a half hour.
While they are marinating, mix the cornmeal with the spices.
Dredge the tomato slices through the cornmeal mix, then fry to golden brown in medium to hot oil. Drain on paper, cool to almost room temperature, then serve with the spicy (if you like) pink sauce.
Spicy (If You Like) Pink Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish
small amounts of your favorite spicy red pepper sauce
(you’ll know best what amount suits you best – if at all)
Blend all ingredients except hot pepper sauce together well. Serve with Fried Green Tomatoes, using hot sauce as an added garnish where desired.