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Kevin72

The Cooking and Cuisine of Sicily

359 posts in this topic

July brings us the cooking of Sicily.

I’m really pumped about this month of cooking, most especially to see how everyone else does with it. Last year when I cooked from Sicily (also in July), I had a great time; I would just find myself grinning while prepping the food. It’s so aromatic and exotic and full of weird combos that you don’t see elsewhere in Italy. Things you’d never think would work together wind up being the best dishes; I’d encourage finding some out-there Sicilian recipes and giving them a spin (my favorites from last year: duck with chocolate, cantaloupe caponata, baked pasta with and orange and cinnamon-scented sausage ragu).

I’m going to try to acquire an actual Sicily cookbook this month, since usually I just go by the references in my other books. A booksearch on Amazon for Sicily reveals the following books:

Ciao Sicily by Damian Mandola, Johnny Carrabba

Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her Pastries

by Victoria Granof

Sicily: A Way of Life in 50 Recipes

by Janine Saine

Foods of Sicily and Sardinia and the Smaller Islands

by Giuliano Bugialli, John Dominis

The Flavors of Sicily

by Anna Tasca Lanza

"Pinch" of Sicily : A Collection of Memories and Traditional Recipes

by maria sciortino

Cucina Paradiso: The Heavenly Food of Sicily

by Clifford A. Wright

The Heart of Sicily : Recipes & Reminiscences of Regaleali, a Country Estate by Anna Tasca Lanza

Sicily (Flavors of Italy , Vol 2, No 4)

by Mariapaola Dettore, McCrae Books

Southern Italian Cooking : Family Recipes from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

by Jo Bettoja

Pomp And Sustenance : Twenty Five Centuries Of Sicilian Food

by Mary Simeti Taylor

Cucina Siciliana

by Clarissa Hyman

Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood

by Maria Grammatico

Sicilian Feasts

by Giovanna Bellia La Marca

Sicilian Home Cooking: Family Recipes from Gangivecchio

by Wanda Tornabene, Giovanna Tornabene, Michele Evans

Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa -- by Vincent Schiavelli

So, quite a bit to choose from, over and above the chapters on Sicily in the regional cookbooks we’ve been referencing. I have Schiavelli’s book and really enjoy it, Sweet Sicily is dessert-oriented but still very worthwhile.

Classic dishes and preparations would take up pages, but suffice it to say, lots of seafood, especially compared against Sardinian traditional cooking. Sicily’s been ruled by nearly every Mediterranean power at one point or another and has embraced an elaborate layer of influences and dishes. Sweet and sour is a common preparation, but what is interesting is how varied the theme plays out: it’s a lot more than vinegar, sugar, raisins, and pine nuts. Chocolate is thrown in for a dash of bitter to balance out the dish in some recpies; in others the sweet comes from fresh fruit or honey instead of just sugar; in others the sour comes from citrus instead of vinegar. There’s a wealth of antipasti to choose from: many of them deep-fried. Pastas abound, but there’s also an interesting tradition of rice dishes and timabelle. Finally, vegetables are abundant and you could almost make a month out of vegetarian dishes, and a month more just on the variations on caponata, the sweet/sour condimento found here.

Even more pages could be devoted to the elaborate Sicilian sweet tooth: gelato, cannoli, zeppole, bigne, cassata just scratch the surface of some of the more famous sweets originated or perfected here.

Let’s get cooking! I’m really excited to see what everyone does . . .

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Hooray! I'm really excited about this month: the first one in which I'll be able to participate, and even better, Sicily is one of my favorite parts of Italy. It's a big, big island, with a really wide range of climates and terrains; as a result, the food varies widely from place to place. It also has the longest culinary tradition in Europe: the first known cookbook was written by a Sicilian, 2500 years ago, give or take a bit.

I'm looking forward to experimenting with some of the more far-out dishes that Kevin mentioned; but so far I've stuck with a couple of simple favorites. I started the other night with a very basic pesto alla Trapanese (adapted slightly from Gabriele Franca, La Cucina di Trapani e Provincia.) It differs from the Genoese version by adding tomatoes and a little pepper, and by using almonds (so central to Sicilian cooking). For my money, it's better than "regular" pesto: it's more vibrant and bold, if a little less subtle. I don't have a photo, alas, but I've put the recipe up on RecipeGullet.


Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)

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I love the enthusiasm that is so apparent when both of you talk about Sicilian cuisine. I'm going to be busy tomorrow baking and cooking for 100 guests :blink: , but maybe I can whip up a little Sicilian lunch. :smile:

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Finally, Sicily. I've never been there but this is undoubtedly one of my favorite regions. I doubt we will have trouble finding stuff to cook this month. The problem is actually finding the time and space to cook so many recipes and sweets.

My Italian/Sicilian liquerus sure are ready for an after dinner sip. Here is what I have so far:

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from left to right; green walnut (Nocino); wild strawberry (Fraguledda), actually I used a mixture of berries here due to the lack of the real thing with delicious results; Limoncello; and an Amaretto like liqueur of roasted almonds, insipid color I know, but tastes outstanding.

I also have Alkermes, but that is most certainly Florentine...so we'll leave it to another month :smile:


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Psyched here, too! Grew up in a largely Sicilian Italian-American neighborhood and have lived in others later, though, never, alas have I been further south than Naples.

Elie, I look forward to your meals.

Since it has been useful in the past, I am linking Kevin's nerdy resolution here on the entries related to Sicilian food. I am crossing my fingers for local eggplant at the farmers market before the month is through. Watermelon will appear shortly, I know.

A book I picked up some time back is Mimmetta Lomonte's Classic Sicilian Cooking which combines personal family history with recipes. I've not made much more than Condimento al Pescespada or swordfish sauce with pasta. Delicious!!! Eager to do more.

Back in December when I was baking gifts, I read Alberto's recipe for cookies filled with something special he brought back from Sicily. Tried to track down the ingredient in vain :sad:.

This past weekend, at Whole Foods :wub: (sometimes you do got to love them), I saw interesting jars on the top shelf. The labels said "Hazelnut" and "Almond Paste $9.99." However, when I got up on the ladder, I found a single jar of bright green pistachio paste which must have been put in the box by mistake. So it was given to me for free :cool: Now, WWLD :unsure:?*

*What Would Ling Do?


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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here is my first Sicilian meal from Sunday.

Started of with Spaghetti with Almond-Pistachio Pesto from Italian Country Table. It has no cheese of any kind, just nuts, mint and olive oil. A very good combination and perfect summery pasta

The pesto in my "authentic" mortar

gallery_5404_94_381993.jpg

finished dish

gallery_5404_94_482336.jpg

The Secondo was a fresh gulf Red snapper baked in a salt crust. The fish was impeccably fresh and I stuffed it with some orange and lemon slices and herbs. This has to be one of the best ways to cook whole fish, reults in the juiciest most flavorful meat ever.

gallery_5404_94_103497.jpg

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On the side I served my take on a Sicilian potato salad. Basically boiled poatoes dressed with vinegar-sugar simmered onions and raisins, a good dose of olive oil of course. It actually was a very good combination.

gallery_5404_94_127620.jpg

I also made Orange-Endive salad. PRetty and excellent as well. this recipe minus the endive is from Cucina Paradiso

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For dessert we had Espresso Granita topped with Grand Marnier spiked whipped cream. It really does not get any easier than that and the final result is a perfect summery dessert. Had more of that the next day for breakfast like they do in Palermo, or so I heard.

gallery_5404_94_215270.jpg

Later that same night, ice cold Fraguledda.

gallery_5404_94_385057.jpg


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Elie, that's a great looking dinner. And absolutely, granita makes a great breakfast! I don't know what they do in Palermo, but in Messina, they serve it on a brioche with a nice big dollop of cream. Breakfast of champions!

Here's my dinner from Sunday. A little less ambitious, but it was pretty great...

Antipasto: prosciutto and melon. Okay, this isn't particularly Sicilian, but I had a really great cantaloupe... and some good Parma ham... and what was I gonna do with them?... and why am I apologizing? It was freaking awesome.

Primo: pennette alla Norma. Y'all probably know the history of this dish, created to honor Vincenzo Bellini (a Sicilian, from Catania) on the opening of his opera Norma. (We listened to Jane Eaglen's recording of Norma during this course.) It's another one of these simple dishes: eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, ricotta salata. But it's fantastic. (You'll have to take my word on the ingredients; this photo sorta over-emphasizes the ricotta...)

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Secondo: branzino al forno. Continuing on with a loose Catanese theme, I decided to make a simple fish preparation, of the sort that's really common in eastern Sicily. I'd actually planned to bake this with salt (great minds think alike!) but it turned out I didn't have enough in the pantry. So I stuffed it with lemon, garlic, fennel and herbs and baked it in a foil wrap. And it was pretty good.

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Contorno: asparagus with lemon and olive oil. As you can see, this dish got no respect: "Ma dai! This isn't Sicilian at all! I turn my nose up at your asparagus, signore!" What are you gonna do? It sure tasted good...

179419397_f87e762b6b.jpg

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Or maybe it is Messina I'm thinking of, yes the ones who eat it on brioche. I've done that before, but I had not time or forthought to bake brioche this time around.

Why isen't the Asparagus Sicilian? If a Sicilian had good asparagus, a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing might be all he (or she) would do. ok, maybe grill it first over hard wood...and skewer it with anchovies and sprinkle some Pantelleria capers on it...:smile:


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Elie, that's a fantastic dinner. I think I'm going to make that pistachio pesto some time soon. Is there nothing else in there but nuts, mint and oil? I seem to see some reddish bits in the mortar?

Oh and it's so hot and humid here in Amsterda, that I am really craving that granita! Would make a great afternoon snack!

Andrew, that picture of the cat and the asparagus is hilarious. And the fish with fennel looks great.

I've planned a little Sicilian cooking for this evening, so more later!

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Elie, that's a fantastic dinner. I think I'm going to make that pistachio pesto some time soon. Is there nothing else in there but nuts, mint and oil? I seem to see some reddish bits in the mortar?

Oh and it's so hot and humid here in Amsterda, that I am really craving that granita! Would make a great afternoon snack!

Andrew, that picture of the cat and the asparagus is hilarious. And the fish with fennel looks great.

I've planned a little Sicilian cooking for this evening, so more later!

Chile flakes probably. The pesto is:

Almonds

Pistachios

pinenuts

All nuts roasted

mint leaves

Chile flakes

salt

pepper

olive oil

Granita could not be easier, 3 cups espresso and 1 Cup sugar. That's all.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Great meals, Elie & Andrew, both inspirational!

The salt crust is truly impressive. I've only baked potatoes in a salt bed before. I'll have to try this.

And yes, the gatto, so different from some of its less fortunate Roman peers, is adorable. Good thing you didn't try to pose it with the fish.

Since I have just started to read Buford's Heat, it's hard to read about stuffed branzino without thinking of the description of grilling them on a diagonal facing one way first, then flipped and placed in the opposite direction...


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Wow nice start to the month!!

Elie, your drink selections look out of this world! That ice cold Fraguledda would be perfect in all this humidity we are having up here in NYC. I have a batch of lemoncello cooking using your recipe in the named thread, I can't wait!

mike


-Mike & Andrea

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While we're all pretty familiar with the best web sites for recipes by now (and tend to stick to books anyway), I have found some interesting links to share. I'll post some recipes later, but for now, I will start with information:

Alas, 'tis not the season for blood oranges, but we have already acknowledged the importance of citrus fruit to Sicily. Here's what Slow Food thinks you might like to read.

As for pistachios, here's something on Bronte's claim to fame.

Here, you are smack in the middle of the the Museo devoted to our understanding of olive oil, including Sicily's role in securing its importance to Italian culture.

An article in Bon Appetit here.

Something from The NYT, still readable. For future reference, it's on pasta and written by Florence Fabricant, August 24, 2005.

The list would not be complete without a bow to Alberto and his entry on sfinciuni.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'll add to our Sicilian bookshelf The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. While it's not a cookbook (or about food per se) it's almost certainly the greatest novel written about Sicily, and it features a couple of great food-related scenes. Here's one, describing a dinner party and the dish of honor:

The Prince was too experienced to offer Sicilian guests, in a town of the interior, a dinner beginning with soup, and he infringed the rules of haute cuisine all the more readily as he disliked it himself.  But rumours of the barbaric foreign usage of serving an insipid liquid as first course had reached the notables of Donnafugata too insistently for them not to quiver with a slight residue of alarm at the start of a solemn dinner like this.  So when three lackeys in green, gold and powder entered, each holding a great silver dish containing a towering macaroni pie, only four of the twenty at table avoided showing pleased surprise; the Prince and Princess from foreknowledge, Angelica from affectation and Concetta from lack of appetite.  All the others (including Tancredi, I regret to say) showed their relief in varying ways, from the fluty and ecstatic grunts of the notary to the sharp squeak of Francesco Paolo.  But a threatening circular stare from the host soon stifled these improper demonstrations.

Good manners apart, though, the aspect of these monumental dishes of macaroni was worthy of the quivers of admiration they evoked.  The burnished gold of the crusts, the fragrance of sugar and cinnamon they exuded, were but preludes to the delights released from the interior when the knife broke the crust; first came a spice-laden haze, then chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, sliced ham, chicken and truffles in masses of piping hot, glistening macaroni, to which the meat juice gave an exquisite hue of suede.

I love how Tomasi uses the pie as a symbol of a peculiarly decadent Sicilian luxury-- no insipid French soups here!-- filled with spices and truffles and surrounded by gold. The reactions of the diners, and the miniature character sketches they provide, are also terrific.

Now, who's up for baking a big ol' macaroni pie?


Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)

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This past weekend, at Whole Foods :wub: (sometimes you do got to love them), I saw interesting jars on the top shelf.  The labels said "Hazelnut" and "Almond Paste $9.99."  However, when I got up on the ladder, I found a single jar of bright green pistachio paste which must have been put in the box by mistake.  So it was given to me for free :cool:  Now, WWLD :unsure:?*

*What Would Ling Do?

Honestly, my first thought would be to make pistachio mousse and layer it with puff pastry and make Napoleons. Or maybe pistachio-cream filled cannolis, half dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in crushed pistachios...isn't the almond paste used to cover cassata traditionally tinted with pistachio paste? You could do a modern cassata, with a pistachio pound cake, or maybe use the pistachio paste with the ricotta filling...or you could make pistachio ricotta fritters and dust them with icing sugar. The pistachio flavour should come out nicely because ricotta is very mild. What about a chocolate and pistachio semifreddo?

Awesome dinners, everyone. I was at the library today looking for Sicilian recipes...I haven't decided on what to make yet, but this sweet and sour eggplant dish caught my eye, and it looked very simple and different.

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While we're all pretty familiar with the best web sites for recipes by now (and tend to stick to books anyway)

i don't! i don't have the money to be buying more cookbooks at the moment... i love the websites.

accordingly, i did some searches, and this one is very much a work in progress, but is pretty cool where there actually are recipes.

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Now, who's up for baking a big ol' macaroni pie?

excellent idea. i'll be over next week.

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I can see this topic will make for great viewing.

Elie and Andrew, great-looking meals! One question, Elie: Was there enough residual salt in the salt-baked fish for it to taste salty?

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And we're off!

Elie, what liquor did you use, proportions, etc. for the digestivi?

I had meant to make at least a batch of limoncello for this month but time got away from me last month.

I love fish in a salt crust, too. May be my favorite fish presentation.

Great meal, also, Andrew. And that cat's expression is perfect.

Pontormo, if you check out Sweet Sicily by Victoria Granof, there's lots of recipes for pistachios, including a pistachio pastry cream.


Edited by Kevin72 (log)

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..I haven't decided on what to make yet, but this sweet and sour eggplant dish caught my eye, and it looked very simple and different.

A really good sweet & sour & spicy eggplant caponata is this Batali recipe. I have made it a couple of times and it's fantastic. And it even has chocolate as one of the ingredients :biggrin:

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Okay, the Great Leopard Macaroni Pie Project begins today.

Step one: find a recipe. Online and in cookbooks, I'm mostly finding recipes for pasta 'ncasciata (aka "pasta incassata"), which is a specialty of Ragusa. Some of the recipes look pretty close to what's described: ham, chicken livers, eggs, with a nice ragu baked into the pie. But they all lack the sweet element. Maybe that's a difference between Ragusa and Palermo? Or maybe it's the difference between 2006 and 1860, and people just don't go for that kind of mixture any more. Or maybe it's Tomasi's fantasy or exaggeration.

ANYWAY, I have what looks like a good recipe in Le Ricette Regionali Italiane. But I'll keep looking for something that's closer to what's in the book.

Step two: find a mold. Hmm... time to do some shopping!

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..I haven't decided on what to make yet, but this sweet and sour eggplant dish caught my eye, and it looked very simple and different.

A really good sweet & sour & spicy eggplant caponata is this Batali recipe. I have made it a couple of times and it's fantastic. And it even has chocolate as one of the ingredients :biggrin:

I made it a month ago, and it was delicious:

gallery_41870_2503_47118.jpg

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What a great photograph---chocolate in caponata? I overlooked that recipe, but plan to make something else from Batali tonight.

And thanks Kevin & Ling. I don't think my public librarires have that particular cookbook, but I am sure I'll come up with a filled cookie or pastry of sorts before the month is over.

MrBjas, as per your request, here are some of the Web sites I found that seem to have a wealth of recipes for Sicilian dishes. I am including Mario Batali's shows even though a quick search suggested that many of the ones originally posted by the Food Network have expired.

About Sicilian dishes.

Agrigento among other Sicilian towns; click around the site for different locations on the island.

Epicurious feature, though I don't think there are recipes tied to the article as was the case with Sardinia.

Cookaround.com

Virtual Italy

So-so site that starts out looking promising.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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More:

Here and

Mr. Wright

and

Mario.

Interesting? I think I saw recipes, too.

And since Andrew mentioned The Leopard with relevant citation, here's a list of classic movies

set in Sicily; Criterion's new release of Visconti's movie based on the novel mentioned is worth renting for a night you're cooking Sicilian at home.

And if there IS anyone here who hasn't seen The Best of Youth, I'm nagging again.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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