I fell in love with the island of Kimolos the first time I set foot on it about 15 years ago, while sailing in the area. It’s small enough to get around on your own two feet and has an enchanting simplicity – I could easily picture myself retiring on the island, in a small whitewashed house with a wood-burning oven in the yard, raising a couple of goats and growing tomatoes and grapes.
Part of the Cyclades, Kimolos sits right next to the larger island of Milos and small uninhabited islands like Polyegos, Agios Efstratios and Prasonisi. It has been continuously inhabited since at least the late Neolithic Age (5,300-4,500 BC), while legend has it that the island was named after its first inhabitant, Kimolos, the husband of Side, who was the daughter of Taurus.
In recent years it has become a popular holiday destination, especially for Greeks who are looking for a smaller, quieter destination. They come to swim and snorkel and get their fill of fish and seafood. The island’s cuisine also prominently features local produce like tomatoes, a specific variety of cucumber, onions, wild greens, mushrooms, capers, wild herbs like oregano, fennel and thyme, goat milk products, honey, eggs and poultry.
Among the delicacies produced on the island are two main cheeses – manoura and chloro – both made out of goat milk. The first is a hard cheese, coated and aged in grape must, with a slightly spicy result, while the second is fresh, white and creamy, slightly sour, with an herbal aftertaste. Other local products include their traditional rusks with pink peppercorns (the dried berry of the shrub Schinus molle, common on many Greek islands and in other parts of Greece), capers, samphire (kritamo) and sundried tomatoes.
Some of the popular local recipes include tirenia, open-faced cheese pies made with the local fresh cheese; avga me kapari, a kind of scrambled eggs made with onions and capers; and kolokithokapari, a variation on the prior recipe made with zucchini. But the most famous recipe of all from Kimolos is ladenia, a type of pie that resembles a thick-crust vegan pizza, made with olive oil (ladi means “oil”) and topped with sliced tomatoes and onions.
Not only is ladenia simple to make but it also tastes and smells like those dry, salty islands – one bite immediately transports me to Kimolos. Moreover, the traditionally vegan recipe (it’s often topped with only tomatoes, onions and sometimes capers or olives) is healthy and a perfect end-of-summer treat.
If you want to dress it up, you can add cheese, either a crumbled fresh cheese like feta or slivers of an aged cheese like aged Greek graviera or, if you can’t find that, pecorino or parmesan. For a special occasion, I like adding sliced louza, one of my favorite Greek cold cuts made of cured pork tenderloin. You can sub in some sliced prosciutto, bresaola, jamón ibérico, spicy salami or any other cold cut of your choice.
For the crust
500 gr good quality all-purpose flour
10 gr dry yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
330 gr lukewarm water
2 tbsp olive oil + 2-3 tsp for oiling the bowl and dough
For the topping
3-4 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 red onions, thinly sliced
70 ml olive oil + 30 ml for generously oiling the pan
2 tsp dried oregano (ideally wild Greek oregano since it’s so aromatic)
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp of capers or sliced kalamata olives (optional)
Sift the flour in a large bowl. Mix in the dry yeast, salt and sugar, and form a well in the center. Add in the olive oil and warm water and knead by hand until it’s all incorporated. Don’t overknead, as it will make the final result denser. Shape your dough into a ball, grease the bowl and dough ball with olive oil, return the dough to bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise for about 1.5 hour until double in size. Uncover.
Use a large baking dish (I use a 35 cm diameter – approximately 14 inch – round pan) and oil it generously. Place the dough in the dish and spread it out using your fingers until it reaches the edges. Spread out the sliced tomatoes and onions on top. Sprinkle with oregano, freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Drizzle the remainder of the olive oil (be generous, this is called ladenia, so it needs the olive oil!) and bake in a preheated oven at 170 C, in the middle rack, for 60-65 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with capers (or the toppings of your choice).
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