Story and photo by Manos Angelakis
A Cretan version of ratatouille…"Sofgatha".
Since the time when La Serenissima (Venice) governed most of Crete (1205 to 1669), the Sofgatha recipe has been part of the cooking repertory of Cretan housewives and is very similar to a ratatouille. It is using the fresh garden vegetables most Cretans grow - residents of Crete have gardens as part of their homes, as they mostly live in 1, 2 or 3 story buildings with flower gardens in the front and vegetable and herb gardens in the back for use in the kitchens. Potatoes and peppers (capsicum) have been a later addition to the recipe, added after the Spanish brought them to Europe from the Americas.
3 long (Chinese) eggplants
4 medium zucchini or yellow spring squash
1 green bell pepper
2 red bell peppers
4 large potatoes
4-5 zucchini flowers, if available
2 medium to large onions
4 garlic cloves
1 1/4 lb. ripe tomatoes or 28 oz. canned tomatoes
1 tsp dittany (origanum dictamnus)
2 tbs fresh cilantro
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Slice eggplant, zucchini and peppers in pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches long. Thinly slice onions and garlic. Peel the tomatoes (if using fresh) and potatoes and cut in large dice.
Brown the onion and garlic in the olive oil; add the eggplant and zucchini and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatoes and potatoes and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and the water and lower the temperature until the water is just simmering. Cook for about ¾ of an hour, then add the aromatic herbs and the zucchini flowers and continue cooking until all the water is absorbed and there is only oil and tomato sauce liquid left in the pot.
Freshly baked bread (a baguette-style bread is preferable) is the usual accompaniment of the dish; the bread is dunked in the olive oil and tomato sauce.
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