Should I play it cool or just scream “Long live pumpkin season”? You are definitely going to scream from pleasure when you take a bite from this Greek fried pumpkin, called “kolokytha savore” in Greece. Slices of pumpkin (or your preferred winter squash) coated with flour (or cornstarch) and shallow-fried until they achieve the perfect balance of crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Then, they're combined with rosemary and white wine vinegar, which imparts a savory and luxuriously rich flavor.
A Cretan traditional recipe
This is a traditional recipe from the island of Crete. Cretan have honed the art of transforming vegetables into extraordinary dishes, a need shaped by difficult long periods of poverty. Their cuisine bursts with the astonishing flavors of locally grown produce, such as grains, aromatic herbs, vibrant greens, legumes, and whatever was in season.
From hearty stews to savory pies, these humble yet delicious creations are a testament to the Cretan people's ability to elevate vegetables into culinary masterpieces, celebrating both their rich history and the bountiful flavors of this picturesque island.
Additionally, this recipe has a quite long and super interesting background. To begin with, let’s just say that is a culinary “loan” from the Italian cuisine. Here is what you are wondering now! How an Italian recipe has become a beloved dish of Cretan cuisine?
Find out below!
The history of the recipe
Not interested in food history, even if it is as interesting as in this post? Ok, no problem ………Jump to Recipe
The rest of you keep on reading about a recipe that has been evolving for over 1,000 years.
The Silk Road, the famous historic trade route, connected diverse cultures and civilizations from around 100 BCE to 1500 CE. Among the traders on this route were Jews who served as intermediaries between China and the West. To observe the Sabbath's rules, which prohibited work and fire, they devised a method to preserve cooked fish, mostly sardines, by immersing them in boiled vinegar.
This unique preservation method allowed them to have a ready meal on the Sabbath and also served as convenient travel food, offering a tasty and long-lasting option. Its convenience made it popular among sailors and travelers.
In 15th-century Venice, Sephardic Jews added sautéed onions, raisins, and pine nuts to create "pesce en saor," (“pesce”= fish and “saor” is the Venetian version of the Italian word "sapore,"=taste or flavor), enhancing its flavor.
It spread to Constantinople, which had extensive trade relations with Venice, where Byzantines embraced the dish and referred to all sauces as "σαβούρε" (“savoure”) (from the Latin "sapor,"=taste). The dish became popular particularly in the Ionian, Aegean Islands, and Crete where the Venetians ruled, under the name "savore," or "savoura," derived from the Byzantine term.
Fried pumpkin with savoro or savore dishes
Today, the adaptations of the Venetian dish are multiple all over Greece. Very often, we make "savore" (or"savore") with all kinds of fish, liver, and snails. In other areas, locals used to add bay leaves, pine nuts, and tomato in a lovely red sauce version.
Cretans don’t only use fish, as the original Venetian recipe requires, but also pumpkin in an exquisite vegetarian version of the Italian "sapore" dish. A centuries-old dish, born out of the traders’ necessity, has adapted to the Cretan peasant kitchen. I find it super fascinating.
I know I am sometimes (ok always) over the hills excited about food history but, seriously, now: this a recipe that has been evolving between two continents (and great civilizations) for over a millennium to end up on my humble blog today. Do you share my enthusiasm, even just a little?
A few cheap ingredients are needed for this recipe and most likely they are already in your pantry.
Any variety of pumpkin/winter squash will work well here. If you’re fresh out of pumpkins, substitute with butternut squash, as I did. Another bonus for butternut squash with this recipe is that it’s so easy to cut. Use either 2 small squash or 1 medium squash.
The rest of the ingredients
Flour or cornstarch: Both are fine for this recipe. Using cornstarch to make this recipe gluten-free is quite important for some people and I am so glad when I can give them variety.
White wine vinegar and rosemary: White wine vinegar will provide acidity, sharpness, and a marvelous sour taste while rosemary is the only herb you need to elevate this dish even higher. This combo is highly recommended and you need to try it at least once in your lifetime.
How to make Greek fried pumpkin
I know what you are thinking when you read “fried” in a recipe. Greasy pieces of food that oil your fingers drip to your wrist, and when you eat them, you taste nothing but oil. Disgusting!
You won’t need to deep fry your pumping so that you get a marvelous crispy coating. I’ll show you how to achieve those results with a shallow fry.
Salt the pumpkin and let it rest for 15 minutes. Drain the liquid (water, if any) and coat the pumpkin with flour or cornstarch.
Shallow fry the pumpkin until al dente. Set the pumpkin aside.
Saute the rosemary for a minute and deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar.
Simmer to reduce. Add the fried pumpkin back to the pan. Stir everything together for 1 minute, or until the pumpkin pieces are evenly coated with the olive oil-rosemary-vinegar sauce. Transfer to a plate immediately.
Serve hot as an appetizer, a side dish, or a main over rice/pasta.
Store in the fridge, preferably in an air-tight food container. It is even better the following day.
What to serve with fried pumpkin
Super easy recipe, right? Place your fried pumpkin on a nice plate or platter and garnish either with chopped spring onions (so good over this dish) or chives.
This is an amazing appetizer, a side dish but it stands alone as a great main dish along with a green salad or a crunchy cabbage salad or lettuce salad. It is also beautifully combined with pasta, grains, and even eggs. For example, serve it over steamed brown rice, pasta, and couscous (my favorite combo). To die for!
In Crete, they serve it as a mezze which is a variety of small, flavorful dishes served as appetizers or snacks. A mezze dish can be either hot or cold, and they are meant to be shared among diners, promoting a communal and social dining experience.
Substitutions & variations
To begin with, as already mentioned, you may use any kind of pumpkin or winter squash and substitute flour with cornstarch.
If you need to add more ingredients you may make the Italian version, called “pesce saor”. Especially if you love more sweetness with your veggies, this is the perfect variation for you! Add onions, pine nuts, and raisins along with the rosemary (at step#3), and then pour the flavorful "savore" sauce over the fried pumpkin.
Make ahead & storage tips
Preparation: Prepare the pumpkin sticks in advance by peeling, and cutting. Place them in an air-tight food container, a plastic bag, or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, preferably in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where it's cooler and more humid. Store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to fry for up to 4 days.
Refrigeration: If you have leftover fried pumpkin sticks, store them in an airtight food container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. To maintain crispiness, place a paper towel in the container to absorb any excess moisture.
Freezing: Fried pumpkin sticks can be frozen for longer storage. Lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until solid. Then, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. They can be reheated in the oven or air fryer. Frozen fried pumpkin sticks should be consumed within 2-3 months.
Reheating: To reheat refrigerated or frozen pumpkin sticks, use an oven or air fryer for best results. This will help them regain their crispy texture. I wouldn't recommend reheating in a microwave because it is possible to become soggy. I would like to remind you that the fried pumpkin sticks are delicious cold. Make sure to remove them from the fridge at least half an hour before serving.
WHAT ABOUT LEFTOVERS?
This recipe is so versatile. You can get creative and turn leftovers into delicious new dishes. Here are some ideas:
Here are a few ideas:
Pumpkin Fritters: Chop the leftover fried pumpkin into smaller pieces and mix them with a bit of beaten egg and breadcrumbs to form a fritter mixture. Shape this mixture into patties and fry them until golden brown. Serve with a spiced feta cheese dip or tzatziki.
Pumpkin Salad: Use the leftover fried pumpkin as a topping for a salad. Combine them with fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese. Drizzle with a vinaigrette dressing or just extra virgin olive oil.
Pumpkin Sandwich: Place the fried pumpkin slices between two pieces of homemade bread or in a pita bread with some greens, sliced tomatoes, and a sauce of your choice. It makes for a flavorful and unique sandwich filling. Another unique way is to use them as a filling for these amazing hand pies
Pumpkin Pizza: Use the fried pumpkin as a pizza topping. Spread tomato sauce or pesto on a pizza crust, and add cheese, pumpkin slices, and other toppings of your choice. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
Pumpkin Soup: Puree the leftover fried pumpkin and use it as a base for a creamy pumpkin soup. Add more veggies, vegetable broth, and seasonings. Top with a scoop of Greek yogurt for a comforting soup.
Pumpkin Pasta/rice/couscous: Toss the pumpkin slices with cooked pasta or the grain of your choice.
Remember to adjust seasonings and flavors as needed to suit your new dish.
MORE DELICIOUS RECIPES FROM CRETE
An out–of–the–ordinary Mediterranean savory pumpkin pie with feta cheese and Mediterranean herbs. An amazing combination of sweet pumpkin roasted with tangy feta cheese.
One-pot Greek pumpkin stew called “Kolokitha Stifado” in Greek: a luscious stew that can easily be turned into a hearty, silky soup coming right from the Cretan cuisine to your table.
Cretan-style honey pancakes are made with only 3 basic ingredients and they are egg and yeast-free. They come from eastern Crete and they are stuffed with local soft goat cheese and served with honey.
The sun-kissed sweetness of plump tomatoes combined with the rustic crunch of iconic Cretan rusks, golden olive oil, tangy feta cheese, and olives.
If you have already made my fried pumpkin recipe, I would be super grateful to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood! Above all, I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Thank you so much!!!
GREEK FRIED PUMPKIN – KOLOKYTHA SAVORE
- 1 lb (500g) peeled pumpkin or winter squash, cut into 2”x½” (5 cm x 1 cm) sticks
- ¼ cup 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- ⅛ cup 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- Freshly ground pepper
- Place the pumpkin on a deep plate or bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt. Toss with your hands to coat the pumpkin evenly with salt. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Drain off the liquid (water) if any from the pumpkin, add the flour or the cornstarch, and toss to coat completely.
- Prepare a large plate or platter and top it with a few layers of paper towels.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
- Shake gently the coated pumpkin to remove excess flour and add it to the skillet. Don't overcrowd the skillet.
- Cook one side until the bottom turns crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pumpkin to cook the other side, for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it turns crispy throughout and cooked through.
- Turn off the heat. Transfer the cooked pumpkin using a slotted spoon or a spider strainer to the prepared plate (or platter) to drain the excess oil.
- Add the rosemary for 1-2 minutes and remove. The longer you leave it, the more intense the rosemary's flavor.
- Turn off the heat (if you haven't already done it). Pour in GRADUALLY the white wine vinegar. Be EXTREMELY CAREFUL for potential burns.*
- When steam and splatters are settled, turn the heat to medium-low. Cook and stir until the liquid has evaporated to the preferred consistency.
- Add the fried pumpkin back to the pan. Stir everything together for 1 minute, or until the pumpkin pieces are evenly coated with the olive oil-vinegar sauce. Transfer to a plate immediately.
- Serve hot or cold. It gets even better the following day.