Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Giarratana onion: perfect for stuffing and roasting


Have you ever heard of the famous onion
of Giarratana? It is a particular quality of Sicilian onion that grows in this little village situated in the province of Ragusa, southern Sicily.



Quite big in shape, it has a skin with white and pinkish grades and it has a very sweet delicate flavor. 

It is the main agricultural product in the village of Giarratana and every August there is a festival that celebrates it.

It can be cooked in several ways, but this Sicilian recipe I am gonna present you today is definitely my absolute favorite side-dish and we often preparate for one of the main festivities, although is extremely simple and you really need few ingredients.


 
Ingredients and Preparation for 4 people:

- 2 big Giarratana onions
- breadcrumb

- E.v. Olive oil
- salt 

- origano 




 
Preheat the oven at 200°. As easy as it looks, now all you have to do is peeling the onions and cut them in slices like shown here in the pics. 

Place them in two large oven trays where you previously have put some baking paper (or if you have the silicon sheet even better) and some oil of olive on top. 

Once you have place the onions, add some breadcrumb, salt and again olive oil and cook them in the oven at 190 or 200 degrees.
 
When they are ready they have to be golden brown in color and very soft in consistency inside, but also slightly crunchy outside.

Now you sprinkle some oregano on top and transfer them on a serving plate, ready to be eaten. 

Everyone will love them, and the kids will start eat them with pleasure. They are just marvellous.
Enjoy!



Thursday, September 8, 2016

The most refreshing drink in Sicily is called "Acqua e Anice"


Do you know what Sicilian people used to drink in ancient times during the hot and muggy Summers? It was simply called "acqua e zammù", literally water and zammù, sold from peddlers in the corners of the street or sometimes in typical kiosks. Zammù is a word that apparently has its origins in the Arab domination (IX° cent.) and comes from the word sambuca, a type of anisette that was distilled in Sicily to make a liquoer and then was probably replaced with star anice seeds.

Photo source: Tuttolionssicilia2013
My grandma used to have this old picture framed and hung on the wall of her living room. It shows a man, called the acquavitaro, preparing some water and zammù to a customer in a corner of the street.

I remember when I was a child we used to go to visit her on a sunday afternoon and I always found mysef staring at that picture in black and white with curiosity about some scene of the past that I wasn't able to recognize.

My grandma loved water and zammù, like the rest of the family


In 1813 the Tutone family continued the tradition of the zammù starting to sell the now called ANICE liquoer in a kiosk in Piazza Rivoluzione in Palermo, and we can say without any doubt that they are until today the undisputed ruler of this amazing product, as they have made it and sold it for more than two centuries now.


Here on the left you can see the typical bottle of the Anice Tutone as you will find it today in shops and markets

The star anice not only is incrediby thirst-quenching, but it also helps digest, so it is perfect in the middle of the day as well as after a rich meal.
 


Its pecularity is the fact that after pouring four or five drops of this scented liquoer, the water assumes some kind of whitish color and if you don't mix it, it will stay at the top of the glass, just like the picture above shows.
 
Besides, nowadays you can buy candies flavored with star anice from the Tutone Company as well, and, in some gelaterias, you can also taste the lovely Anice ice-cream flavor among the many others, that trust me, when it's 38° or 40° degrees is going to be the highlight of your day!

If you are interested in reading more about the Tutone Company clic here.
And if you are just thirsty and dying to taste some "acqua e anice" well... you know what to do now! :-)
A Palermo l’ acqua e anice è molto più che una bibita rinfrescante, è un usanza antica , un rito che si tramanda da generazioni accompagnando la calura dei mesi estivi e conservando il ricordo del refrigerio ottenuto anche durante i mesi invernali. Non stupitevi allora se accolti in casa  di palermitani, vi venga offerto, quasi come si trattasse di una pozione magica , un bicchiere colmo di acqua  su cui galleggia una nuvoletta di anice  e vi verrà chiesto, dando per scontata la risposta affermativa “Gradite acqua e zammù ?”. Le Origini e la ricetta semplice e rinfrescante della granita all’anice. M.Za. - See more at: http://www.saggieassaggi.it/acqua-e-zammu-piu-che-una-bibita-un-rito-daltri-tempi-che-profuma-danice/#sthash.QFyge7ch.dpuf
A Palermo l’ acqua e anice è molto più che una bibita rinfrescante, è un usanza antica , un rito che si tramanda da generazioni accompagnando la calura dei mesi estivi e conservando il ricordo del refrigerio ottenuto anche durante i mesi invernali. Non stupitevi allora se accolti in casa  di palermitani, vi venga offerto, quasi come si trattasse di una pozione magica , un bicchiere colmo di acqua  su cui galleggia una nuvoletta di anice  e vi verrà chiesto, dando per scontata la risposta affermativa “Gradite acqua e zammù ?”. Le Origini e la ricetta semplice e rinfrescante della granita all’anice. M.Za. - See more at: http://www.saggieassaggi.it/acqua-e-zammu-piu-che-una-bibita-un-rito-daltri-tempi-che-profuma-danice/#sthash.QFyge7ch.dpuf
A Palermo l’ acqua e anice è molto più che una bibita rinfrescante, è un usanza antica , un rito che si tramanda da generazioni accompagnando la calura dei mesi estivi e conservando il ricordo del refrigerio ottenuto anche durante i mesi invernali. Non stupitevi allora se accolti in casa  di palermitani, vi venga offerto, quasi come si trattasse di una pozione magica , un bicchiere colmo di acqua  su cui galleggia una nuvoletta di anice  e vi verrà chiesto, dando per scontata la risposta affermativa “Gradite acqua e zammù ?”. Le Origini e la ricetta semplice e rinfrescante della granita all’anice. M.Za. - See more at: http://www.saggieassaggi.it/acqua-e-zammu-piu-che-una-bibita-un-rito-daltri-tempi-che-profuma-danice/#sthash.QFyge7ch.dpuf

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spaghetti with pesto trapanese, a proper summer delight

 

Have you ever heard of the typical "pesto alla trapanese"? It's pesto Trapani style: fresh, light, tasty, ... I would call it a recipe with character, but also a proper Summer delight!

Pesto in Italian is a generic word that means smashed or crushed. Of course the most famous pesto is the basil one, originally from Genoa, Liguria, but in Sicily, in the province of Trapani they also do another kind of pesto, made of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, almonds. In our language the verb pestare actually means crush, so the actual word pesto comes exactly from there

This cold sauce was introduced by the Genovese ships coming to Trapani from the Oriental countries during the 19th century.

It was originally made of garlic and walnuts, but local people re-elaborated the recipe with their own ingredients: tomatoes and almonds, basically the same thing they did with the cous cous which was made of vegs and meat in north Africa and they changed it with fish.


The typical pasta that accompanies this pesto are the rigorously handmade "busiati"(here on the right), but you can have it also with long-shaped pasta like spaghetti or linguine. (Here another recipe with the busiati)

Ingredients and Preparation for 4 people:

  • 6 fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 60 gr chopped or grounded almonds (already peeled)
  • a small bunch of fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Sicilian pecorino cheese
  • salt & pepper

In ancient times the garlic was crushed together with basil and salt in a kitchen mortar. The e.v.o was added little by little until you actually had the consistency of a proper creamy sauce. Then also the almonds were crushed and add to the mix and finally the tomatoes. 
For the tomatoes:
Prepare a bowl with hot water and leave the tomatoes there for few minutes. When they are soft remove the skin easily and the seeds, and chopped them thinly. If you prefer you can use the mortar for them as well. Aware of the fact that we live in 2016 and probably you don't use the mortar anymore, you can use a hand-blender but bear in mind that is not the exact same result.

Finally adjust with salt & pepper. Leave the sauce to rest while the pasta is cooking, then as soon as it's ready, drain it and in a large bowl mix it together with the pesto. 

Sprinkle with the spoons of grated cheese and you are ready to go. 

Prepare yourself for a fusion of Mediterranean flavors ready to explode in your mouth. Enjoy!

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!