Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sicilian "polpette di melenzane", yummy veggie fritters


Have you ever tried this amazing Sicilian recipe called in Italian "polpette di melanzane"? I know you are asking: "what does it mean?" It's aubergine/eggplants fritters.

Let's be honest:
Summer in Sicily without aubergine, eggplant or, melanzana, as we call it in Italy, is not a proper Summer. I would say without hesitation that they are the queen of the summer table in Sicily.


 
At the top of my head I can think at least six or seven different dishes that we prepare with this lovely and incredibly versatile vegetable in this season; (caponata, parmigiana, cotolette di melanzane, involtini, pasta alla norma, ecc...) 

This recipe, the polpette, are fritters made of a mix of boiled aubergines/eggplants, breadcrumb, grated local cheese and egg, and we can eat them in two different ways: either plain fried in e.v. olive oil or with tomato sauce (pic on the left).

The preparation is exactly the same until the final step. Either they are fried and served straight away, or fried and covered in tomato sauce, they are both delicious and unique in taste.

 
INGREDIENTS AND PREPARATION FOR 4 PEOPLE

- 2 big aubergines/eggpants
(or 3 medium ones)

- 100 gr grated local caciocavallo cheese (or pecorino or any other tasty cheese you like)

- 1 egg + 4 tablespoons of breadrumb

- salt & pepper

- a pinch of nutmeg

- 7-8 leaves of fresh mint thinly chopped


* NOTE: Some people love to add also a handful of raisins and pine nuts.


First thing first: the aubergines/eggplants need to be boiled. Put a pot of water on a medium heat, and while the water is warming up rinse and cut the aubergine into pieces. Once the water starts to boil, put salt and drop the pieces of the veg until they become soft and tender. 

Using a pasta colander, leave the veggies to drain all the exceeding water and cool down for at least half an hour. Once they are cold and the water has been completely drained, place them in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients at the same time: breadcrumb, egg, cheese, nutmeg, chopped fresh mint, salt and black pepper. 


On a high heat place a frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot take a full spoon of the mix (or use two spoons to make a flat kennel) and start frying them until they are golden brown. 

Turn them on the other side and once they are ready, place them on a kitchen paper to absorb the exceeding oil, then serve them on a plate while they are still hot.  

The idea behind is that you get the crunchy and tasty fritters that are still soft inside. They can be eaten like finger food or as a starter or side dish. In any case, trust me, they will disappear in a flash!

*Also the good thing about this recipe is that you can make your heathier version simply by avoiding to fry them, and just roast them on a very hot grill pan.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Sicilierie": traditional Sicilian food in the heart of Brussels


My beautiful foodies,
few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit the heart of Europe, in particular Belgium and  the lovely city of Brussels, and, among the delicious Belgian products I tried, I bumped into a proper Sicilian deli in the centre of the capital. Obviously I cannot tell you how excited I was. Ahah!

The place is called << Sicilian delicatessen from Italy >> and offers the most exquisite and typical products of our homeland.

The almond and pistachio
traditional Sicilian cookies
Not only the renowned arancine/i and other rotisserie pieces, but also expressed pasta and salads, fresh patisserie with the world famous cannoli and the pistachio and almond's traditional cookies (pic on the left).

Besides the prepared food, you can also shop there for Sicilian products and ingredients, such as local cheese and salami, pistachio's pesto and other pasta seasoning, the eggplant/aubergine caponata and a lot more. 


I tried the pistachio arancina, a lovely summery salads made of barley, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and of course the cookies in the pic here on the left, which literally melted in my mouth. One of the most divine sweets ever!

Manager Antonio and me
Sicilierie opened its doors less almost three months ago and I succeeded in having a chat with both the manager Antonio, here on the right with me, and one of the owners, Mr Claudio Angiolucci from Acireale (Ct).

They told me they decided to choose Brussels for their business as more suitable, not only for the excellent location of the city but also for its openess to different peoples and cuisines, thanks to numerous tourists, but above all to the great benefits of having the European Parliament and other international offices located in the capital.

This great idea, now put into practice, is the result of "a brilliant sinergy among different people that decided to take a risk and go for it: 2 chefs, 4 entrepreneurs and an expert of International business and finance" says Mr. Claudio.

The place is very refined, in bright colors, white furniture and there is a relaxing atmosphere thanks to the friendly staff and owners. You can find SICILIERIE in
Rue de l'Ecuyer 63/65, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium.
 
I personally would like to thank all the people I talked to: from owner Claudio to manager Antonio, from chef Rosalia to lovely waitress Andrea, for being so helpful and make me and my friend Elisa feel at home and really really welcome.
GRAZIE DI CUORE!


So... please if you happen to visit Brussels don't hesitate to plan a visit for lunch or simply for a snack in this cosy place to taste and breathe Sicily, even if you are in the heart of Europe!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Sicilian salads: healthy, tasty and colorful


Have you ever tried this delicious and colorful summer Sicilian salads? Full of all the Mediterranean taste and incredibly healthy, it's perfect for a light lunch coming back from the seaside or as a side dish for dinner to accompany a nice steak or a lovely barbecue.
It's also the perfect dish that you want to prepare in advance, at least a couple of hours before, (even 3 or 4 is fine) as it is a dish that needs to be tasted cold.

Ingredients for 4 people:
500 gr. fresh green beans
1 red onion thinly chopped (raw)
3 fresh big tomatoes
250 gr. tuna can (in sunflower oil)
seasoning with salt and black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and oregano. 

How to prepare it:

1. Cut the edges of the green beans and rinse them under running water.
2. Put a pot of water on a high heat and as soon as the water boils add salt, a pinch of baking soda and drop the green beans in the pot. The baking soda will prevent the beans to change color and will leave them bright green. 

3. Let them cook for around 20-25 minutes then check them. As soon as they are soft and tender they are ready and you can turn the heat down.
4. Drain them and let them cool in a bowl.
5. In the meantime rinse and cut the tomatoes.
6. Peel
the onion and thinly chop it. Once chopped put salt on top and leave it in water for few minutes, then rinse it under running water and dry it in a cotton kitchen cloth.

7. Add the tomatoes and the onion to the green beans in the bowl, finally open the tuna can and let the excess of oil drip off completely, then mix the tuna with the rest of the salads and season it with salt, a pinch of black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and abundant oregano.

Put the salads in the fridge for at least one hour before serving it with slices of rustic bread or small panini. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fresh peaches in white wine, our summery fruit salads


Have you ever tried this delicate peach salads during the hottest days of the  summer?

When I was a teen-ager we used to spend summer in our country house in northern Sicily and my dad used to go for grocery and buy a whole basket of yellow peaches (about 5 kilos) as the price was a lot more convenient.  

So... to use them all and avoid any waste with 38° degrees or so, we used to peel them, cut them into pieces and dress them with half glass white wine.



Perfect if you do it at least half an hour before dinner, so the peaches and the wine has the time to macerate and create a lovely sweet juice together. If you want you can add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in your bowl, or, a cookie on the side, but we used to have them just plain as the conclusion of our dinner and for me this is absolutely the best way, otherwise you will cover the delicate taste of the peaches and the scent given by the wine. Sometimes less is more!

Don't waste any time then: get a basket of juicy peaches and in case you have got some left that are a bit too ripe, remember you can always make a lovely peach jam.





A great white wine for this peach salads could be the Mandrarossa DOC Laguna Secca, a chardonnay with a pale yellow and golden-green color.

On the nose this wine evokes hints of orange peel and prickly pear ripe, well integrated with hints of oleander flowers. 


The taste is powerful, enveloping, with good and pleasant minerality that makes it persistent in the mouth. 

It is also great paired with roasted prawns or medium consistency cheese. Serve it at 10° degrees. 

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sicilian tapas, delicious finger food for our guests


My beautiful foodies,
today I am gonna show you some creative ideas of food we can offer to friends when they come to visit us. Starters, finger food, in this occasion I actually came up with the specific name "Sicilian tapas" just because for those who love football and are watching the Euro2016 in France tomorrow we (Italian National Team) are going to play against our Spanish cousins. 


 
So what better occasion to mingle and offering some tapas that are made of Sicilian products

When you are gathering with friends to watch a game, which I am sure you do tomorrow as tradition wants, people do not really want to sit down for a proper meal, so the best thing to do is preparing different dishes of finger food that you actually get to taste in front of the telly in a very informal way.


From the olives seasoned with e.v. oil of olive, oregano carrots and celery (here on the left) to our typical dried tomatoes (on the right), or mixed pieces of our delicious local cheeses like primosale, caciocavallo, vastedda del Belice, ecc... (big pic above).



Also we can offer the
mini pane e panelle (second pic above), our small pizzete, or
what we called "focaccine" (here on the left).

Focaccine are
basically small pieces of pizza bread stuffed with whatever you like, in the picture there is some parma ham, but it can be more traditional with anchovies and fresh ricotta, or with a modern twist with rocket salads, breasola, parmisan flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice on top.


So here you are, few delicious ideas that you can offer to your Italian and Spanish friends when they come over to your place to see a football match or any other thing really, a movie, the olimpic games, ecc.  


Pair everything with a lovely structured and scented Sicilian white wine, like the Mandrarossa Fiano, Ciaca Bianca.

The Fiano white wine has a pale yellow color with green hues. The aroma of jasmine flowers and grapefruit is quite intense and it also brings lemon juice to mind.

It is also charaterised by mild sensations of basil and bay leaves, that's why pairs perfectly with aromatic herbs, like oregano or mint or basil, fresh cheese, salads but also light fish starters.

So besides wishing good luck to my team for tomorrow, there is only one thing left to say for me: Enjoy!!!
 


Friday, June 3, 2016

My first reci-view is "Swordfish Palermo style" with director Egidio Termine


Dear Friends and Foodies,
the Sicilian Cuisine Blog is very excited to introduce our first video recipe/interview. For those of you who love Sicilian food, movies, but also miss the sound of some proper Italian language, well... this is the video for you!

My guest is superb actor and director: Egidio Termine. Together with him, I am preparing a very traditional recipe called: "Pescespada alla palermitana", which means "Swordfish in Palermo style."

In this interview Egidio talks about his childhood memories, which amazing celebrities he worked with and last but not least his brand new movie: "Il figlio sospeso" (The unsure child), who will compete at the Taormina Film Festival, this coming summer.

I defintely want to thank Egidio Termine for being such a lovely guest for us and I wish him all the best and success with the new movie and the Festival. Also a huge THANK YOU to Patrizia Laria for shooting and editing the video.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and have a good laugh in watching it, as I did in making it!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fancy a barbecue? Choose the "involtini alla messinese"


Do you know how to make very easy beef skewers in Messina style? Well... let's go back for one second...
If you have ever lived in Sicily at some point in your life you know that from the end of April/beginning of May until October, sometimes even November, the weather is gonna be sunny and warm, days are longer and there is nothing you love more than spending time in your house by the sea or in the countryside, preparing a lovely barbecue.

Who doesn't love that smell of food cooked on the big grill in open air?


When I was a child we used to go to our country house in the hills surrounding a village called Carini and I used to go on my swing and observing my father starting the fire for the barbecue with "engineer" precision. I used to look for little wooden sticks to burn, so that I could say I had actually helped him making the barbie. Then, when my soft and juicy breadcrumbed beef steak was ready I would eat it with such happiness and pleasure, tasting every bit of it. No meat has ever tasted as good as that.

Another amazing recipe you can have in a barbecue is the "involtini alla messinese", which literally means beef skewers in "Messina style". They are so easy to make and so tasty, and especially if cooked on a grill they emanate that incredible smokey smell, making you want more and more!
My mum does her personal version of them, but is not too far from the original.



Ingredients for 4 people:

500 gr veal cutlets (very thin and tiny)
200 gr very tasty local matured cheese (normally provola piccante or caciocavallo)
100 gr grated local caciocavallo
300 gr breadcrumb
salt & pepper
e.v. olive oil

Parsley thinly chopped and a clove of garlic (in the original recipe but not in my mum's)

My mum also adds some green olives and pine nuts in the breadcrumb mix, as you can see in the pic here on the left

Best way to explain how to make those tiny rolls a quick video is better than a thousand words. Have a look here

Serve them with whatever side dish you like, I personally made a mix of normal and sweet potatoes baked in the oven. Delicious!!!

 

Cooking time: On the barbecue is around 3 minutes per side so between 5 for both. 

If you are indoor and still want to prepare them, there is no reason why you shouldn't do it.

 
Place them on a baking tray in the oven for 10 minutes at a temperature of 180° degrees. Check after 7-8 minutes, if almost cooked then add some red wine on the meat and leave it in the oven for the remaining 2 minutes. That would give an extra delicate flavor to the dish!

The taste will be incredible and the result is simply divine!