AYIATHA TIS KERKYRAS
Another take on the pan-Mediterranean garlic sauce that accompanies fried fish and boiled vegetables. But Corfu’s version of ayiatha, as it is pronounced in the local dialect, calls for bread and almonds, as opposed to potatoes, as the base. Vinegar makes this garlic sauce slightly harsher in flavor than those that call for lemon juice. Locals tend to use strong red-wine vinegar, which will give the final dish a dark grayish-rose color. Ayiatha will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator, but it is best to eat it fresh.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 1 small head garlic (about 6 small cloves)
- Three 1-inch-thick slices stale rustic bread,crusts removed
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 to 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste
Separate the garlic cloves and peel. Run the bread under the tap, wring dry, and crumble. In a large mortar, crush the garlic with a little salt until it is like a thick paste. Slowly add the bread, almonds, oil, and vinegar in alternating increments.
Pound very well after each addition. The ayiatha must be creamy. The whole process will take 10 to 12 minutes.
Pounding aliatha, ayiatha, or skordalia in a mortar takes time and energy. You’ll need a large mortar, made of either granite or wood. I prefer wooden ones because they impart another, albeit subtle, flavor component to the finished sauce. If pounding manually isn’t your cup of tea, you can simulate the action by pounding the sauce in a stand mixer withthe paddle mechanism—not the blade, which breaks down the potato or bread too quickly and causes the aliatha to become gummy. That’s why I would never recommend a food processor.