INTERNATIONAL GREECE: Part 7 - The Ionian Islands: photos, recipe links and video
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The seven Ionian islands lie off the western coast of the mainland between Greece and Italy and extend from far north near the Albanian border to the southern tip of the Peloponnese. The islands were ruled at various times by the Venetians, the French, and the English, and the cuisine that developed here is refined, with strong Italian as well as French influences.
Corfu, more than any other of the Ionian islands, has retained many words from the old Venetian dialect, as well as many foods, some of which seem to have been forgotten in Italy. They include stufato, a hearty winter stew of slowly cooked veal, pork, or poultry with carrots, fennel, or celery root, scented with garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme, and braised veal sofrito, an intensely flavored dish with plenty of garlic, parsley, and vinegar.
There is a sharp dichotomy, though, between this cuisine of the old nobility and that of the rural common people: I remember an aristocratic lady speaking disparagingly about hot red peppers, which are commonly used on Corfu and on Paxi, an island a few miles to the south. While the inhabitants of northern Greece got their affinity for peppers from the Ottoman Turks, who ruled them for many centuries, the people of Corfu and Paxi were probably influenced by the cooking of nearby Albania and the rest of the Balkans. Peasants adopted the peppers, which could be easily cultivated in their fertile soil, in their quest to find substitutes for the expensive spices used by the nobility. These peppers are sautéed in olive oil with garlic and wild leafy greens for a dish called tsigarelli, which is often served over polenta, one of the island's staples.
RECIPES AND VIDEOS BELOW
------------------------ This recipe may be familiar to you as is spaghetti because besides the Greeks, the Italians (Venetians) had an influence on Ionion food.