Preparation / Directions:
The Greek gift for having a word for it applies richly to snails, usually called "salingaria" on the mainland, but "hohli" on Crete and "karaoli" on Cyprus. Hohli are a favorite Cretan food, and the delicious cooking methods explain why. Snails are scrupulously avoided except in summer, when they are considered safe to eat. Since snails absorb the odors and taste of foods on which they feed, Cretans catch them after a rainfall, put them in a covered container, and feed them for several days on wheat, flour, and perhaps some thyme.
Then the real fun begins. The amounts of the other ingredients in this recipe are based on a pound of snails. One pound of snails serves 1 or 2. First be sure all the snails are alive, then wash them thoroughly in cold water and place in their shells in a container large enough to hold them. Pour hot water over them to cover and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt for each quart of water and continue to boil for 20 minutes, skimming off foam.
Drain the snails, then wash in cold water and drain again. In a deep, heavy pan, heat olive oil almost to the boiling point, using 1/2 cup olive oil per pound of snails. Add the snails and fry for 10 minutes, turning carefully with tongs to avoid spattering oil. Pour in 1/4 cup red wine vinegar for each pound of snails. Remove from heat and stir constantly for a few minutes. Remove the snails to individual plates and serve hot with a little of the remaining sauce, and some bread and wine, as an appetizer or first course.
SNAILS BRAISED WITH TOMATOES Prepare the snails for cooking as directed above. In a deep, heavy pan, heat 1/2 cup olive oil per pound of snails, add some salt for seasoning and then the snails. Cover, lower the heat, and cook for 10 minutes, turning once. Add a grated onion and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley per pound of snails. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes, then add a pound of peeled, chopped tomatoes for each pound of snails. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Serve with fried potatoes and baby zucchini salad.