Our stories regarding food, travel and life in Sicily...
Few weeks ago, a nice family Sunday in the woods around Noto Antica offered a fantastic ingredient for a great risotto: wild saffron.
The fields were blooming with wild crocus and I could not resist the temptation to pick my own saffron. So the whole family helped me out and we brought back home a nice bunch of beautiful purple-blue flowers hiding the tasty golden stems.
The work in the kitchen was easy, I took the stems out and made a simple saffron risotto, prepared using butter, white onion, spumante and, obviously, the saffron stems.
For many years "Patacchi" (Jerusalem artichokes), now known with the more elegant name of "topinambur", were a mysterious ingredient to me. I knew they existed, but neither my grandmothers nor other people in the family ever cooked with them.
I remember negative remarks and suspect it reminded them of war times, it was a "poor" ingredient and simply rather not use them. I do not even remember cook books or magazine mentioning topinambur during the 1980s or the 1990s, they were simply a "non-fashionable" ingredient.
Posted on Wednesday 24th of November 2010 under Food and Drink
Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is famous all over the world for their top quality traditional chocolate, but I can assure you that anything that comes out of that corner of Modica Bassa is simply a bite into heaven.
Posted on Monday 22nd of November 2010 under Food and Drink
A couple of days ago I got an email by Lorenzo Piccione, owner of Piano Grillo Olive Grove in Chiaramonte Gulfi, saying:
"Best in Sicily 2011: we are the winner...First olive oil producer...in Sicily".
He referred to the fourth edition of the Best in Sicily Award created by a Sicilian website Cronache di Gusto, which is specialised on what Italians elegantly call "enogastronomia", or simply "food & wine".
I think Mediterranean cuisine would not be the same without falafel, panelle, farinata, humus and the fantastic soups you can make with chickpeas.
The creamy soup I made few days ago is really simple, a great meal for a cold evening.
I got gr 500 locally grown chickpeas coming from the Frigintini area, just outside Modica, and placed them in a bowl to soften overnight, covered with water and a pinch of baking soda.
I love Autumn and its wonderful products and last week I made a lunch using four seasonal ingredients: Porcini mushroom, pistachios and chestnuts from mount Etna, Feijoa form Acitrezza and Lampuca, courtesy the Mediterranean sea.
I used Etna's porcini in a simple pappardelle pasta dish with Parmesan and parsley. Simply great!
Then I prepared Lampuca with a Feijoa sauce.
Lampuca, which is dolphin-fish (mahi-mahi), is in season right now, and is a fish I really love. It belongs to the bluefish family and its meat is firm, tasty and versatile.
Today is "U juornu re muorti", the day when the church remembers with special celebrations those who are no longer alive, people visit the cemetery taking flowers and candles to the graves of dead relatives and friends, and, in Sicily, children find presents `brought' to them by the "muorti".
Now as I am no longer a child and could not expect any toys, I got myself something even better: sweet made by Benedictine nuns in Modica.
It is olive harvest time and the Sicilian countryside smells of freshly pressed olives. An intense, strong, pungent aroma that gets straight to your throat and, in my case, to the heart too. I get moved by this ancient art of turning olives into golden-green extra virgin olive oil which is the essence of Sicilian cuisine.
Every year, the first olive harvest in Italy takes place in Sicily, in the area between Ragusa and Siracusa (between Ispica, Rosolini and Pachino) which is located below the latitude of Tunis in North Africa.
I firmly believe that maintaining local traditions is important, especially culinary ones, but I also think that we cannot stop there, our generations can create new "traditions" for the future. This is why I am always pleased when I find people who dare experimenting with food and ingredients in the name of quality. This is the case of Tarì, a new beer made in Modica by the Rocca dei Conti Brewery.
We are well into autumn now, the perfect time to start cooking soups in the evening.
This is one of my favourite fish soups with cockles, mussels, clams and king prawns.
I got the shellfish from one of my favourite fishmongers in Siracusa and then rushed home to cook.
Just a splash of top quality white wine (I used a 100% insolia), then some garlic, freshly made cherry tomato sauce and chili.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with bread. I got the bread from a bakery in the small town of Cassibile, I love the one with sesame seeds.