Monday, March 28, 2011

Genovesi from Erice, perfect marriage between pastry and cream

The typical Genovese from Erice made by famous Maria Grammatico Patisserie
Do you know what a genovese is in Sicily? It is a pastry filled either with ricotta cream or a very delicate milky-custard cream. The most famous genovesi, at least in the western part of Sicily, are the ones made in the medieval village of Erice, in the province of Trapani. 

They are delicious, soft and tasty, especially if eaten warm. Here there is the recipe of the genovesi made by the famous Patisserie of Maria Grammatico in Erice.

Ingredients and preparation: 

250 g hard wheat flour
250 g flour 00
200 g sugar
200 g butter or margarine cut in pieces
4 yolks
Some table spoons of cold water
Icing sugar to sprinkle on top

2 yolks
150 g sugar
40 g starch (wheat or corn)
½ lt milk
grated lemon zest

Pastry preparation:
1. Mix both the two flours with the sugar in a large bowl.
2. Add the pieces of butter, then the yolks one after another, stirring slowly with a professional spatula. 3. Add the water until the pastry is soft and elastic. 4. Form a ball without kneading too much otherwise it will get hard. 5. 
Wrap the pastry in plastic and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 6. Roll it out giving them an oval shape, like shown in the picture.

Cream preparation and baking:
1. Preheat the oven at 200° degrees. 
2. In a bowl beat the yolks with the sugar using a whisk. 
3. In a sauce pan on a low heat melt carefully the starch in a half glass of milk, then add the remaining milk and mix well. 
4. Pour the mix of yolks and sugar into the milk slowly. Keep stirring for 10-15 minutes, until it becomes solid and smooth. Add the grated lemon zest. 
5. Once ready put the cream in a bowl and let it cool down. 
My homemade Genovese
6. Once is cold take a couple of spoons of cream and fill the oval shaped pastries, one after another (about 2 cm in diameter). Then stick together the two parts giving the shape of half moon, like in the picture.
7. Once they are all filled, place them on an oven tray and bake them for 8-10 minutes (200° C) at the most. You should have about 15 genovesi. 
8. Finally, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve while still warm.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And the award goes to...

Yesterday morning I woke up and found a nice comment on my post. This normally makes me happy, but when I followed the link I was even happier and very touched by the fact that someone, the Addicted Baker blog, had chosen me together with other 14 excellent blogs because she liked and appreciated my recipe for the Saint Joseph' Sfinci.

I want to thank The Addicted baker from the bottom of my heart, because it means that passion does have recognition sometimes!!! I wanna pass this award to some other blogs that I like:

1. My home cooking (where I learnt to cook my very first apple pie and there are amazing recipes)
2. Cooksister (I love her way of writing especially the lattest post)
3. Italian foodies (lovely Italian recipes and not only Italian)
4. Oh my sugar high (Absolutely gorgeous sweets and desserts)
5. Jim's pancakes (I love his pancakes and the shapes as well)
6. Kara's party ideas (just the idea of organising parties makes me smile, very nice blog)
7. The decorated cookie (how a normal cookie can become art)
8. Extra icing (the cakes I'm dreaming of make)
9. Gluten free goddess (another interesting way of eating)
10. Traveler's lunch box (I like its recipes)
11. All things sicilian and more (very nice blog that talks also about my land)
12. Food and thoughts (I agree with eating and thinking what to eat)
13. Simple recipes (nothing is better than a simple recipe!)
14. Dashi Dashi (I like how they care about japanese cuisine)
15. The Addicted Baker (a lovely person who gave me the award and a lovely blog that is teaching me a lot)

Thank you so much, I hope it makes you smile and happy too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Sarde a beccafico", the unique Sicilian sardine rolls

Do you know what "sarde a beccafico" are? And why they have got this strange name? This is a typical Sicilian dish made of fresh sardines filled with our traditional ingredients: breadcrumbs, olive oil, pine nuts and raisins. Beccafico (which is a little bird similar to a warbler or quail, literally means beak figs). These were little birds called so because they liked to beak figs. In  ancient times Sicilian Nobles used to hunt and eat them. They said that their  meat was nice and tender so they were eating them with all the guts.

The poor people having more sardines than birds started to cook them adding some lemon and orange juice to the filling, to mitigate the strong smell and taste of the fish.

Ingredients and preparation for 4 people:
500 gr fresh sardines

200 gr breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar
50 gr raisins
50 gr pine nuts
Juice and zest of one lemon (or if preferred half lemon and half orange)
20-22 bay leaves

Clean the sardines and remove the backbone. In a pan on a low heat, brown the breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and remove from heat as soon as it gets golden. Add raisins, pine nuts, lemon zest. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, then start filling the sardines, each at a time.

Once you had put the mix roll it up very carefully, because they are extremely delicate and easy to break.Put a leaf of bay to separate each roll and if you prefer stick a small wooden stick on each roll.

Mix the sugar with the lemon juice (or lemon and orange juices) and sprinkle on the fish to moisten and perfume the dish before baking it.

Now bake in a preheated oven (180°C) for about 10-15 minutes. It is a perfect starter or a great side-dish, hot or cold it doesn't matter, you are going to love and enjoy it!!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saint Joseph's Day and the traditional "Sfinci" - The video

Do you know what Sicilians eat on Saint Joseph's Day, the 19th of March? The traditional dessert that we prepare is called "Sfinci di San Giuseppe" and they are soft fried puffs with ricotta cream. According to history were the Arabs that introduced the sfinci here, they were initially covered in honey and afterwards replaced with ricotta cream. The name probably comes from isfang which means soft fritters.

A special thanks to the Pasticceria Amato, (via Favara 14/16), just in front of the Massimo Theatre in Palermo and in particular to Antonio Amato and Mr. Pino Amato that showed us how they still prepare these memorable sweets for the festivity.
Have a look at the recipe and the video. I am sure you'll enjoy!!!

For the dough: 250 gr flour 00 - 1/2 lt water - 62 gr lard - 3,5 gr salt - 7-8 eggs (medium size/60 gr. each) - ricotta cream - candied oranges and cherries - vegetable oil or lard to fry
For the ricotta cream: 500 gr sheep fresh ricotta cheese - 300 gr sugar - 80 gr dark chocolate

1. Sift the flour and add the salt
2. Put the water and the lard together in a  sauce pan on a medium heat and let them glue together. Just before boiling remove from gas and mix gently with the flour stirring the whole mix with a wooden spoon. The mix has to be extremely smooth.
3. Transfer now the mix in a blender and add one egg after another until stiffness is very creamy and soft.
4. Put some vegetable oil or lard in a deep pan and wait until very hot. Then, take a spoon of dough and dip them in the oil. Fry until they puff and become golden brown. Remove from oil and try to drain them on some paper.
5. After few minutes with a spatula or a knife and spread some ricotta cheese on top.
6. Decorate the sfince with a thin slice od candied orange and a cherry.
For the ricotta cream:
The sheep ricotta cheese must be very fresh and not too liquid. Mix the ricotta with the sugar. Stir until it turns very creamy, then add some dark chocolate chopped in small pieces.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The traditional pizza from Palermo is called "Sfincione"

Do you know what "sfincione" is? This is the traditional name for our Sicilian pizza. Probably the name derives from the latin spongia, which means sponge, or from the Arab sfang, meaning a sweet soft fritter.

It's a traditional recipe made of a very soft dough done with simple and genuine ingredients like: tomato sauce, onions, anchovies, the typical caciocavallo cheese and breadcrumbs. Some people also add sliced artichokes. The secret of the making of sfincione is first the softness of the dough, and second the perfect proportion among the all ingredients, better if they are done one layer after another.

When you walk along the streets of Palermo is very common to see a small vehicle (similar to a pick-up but on three wheels) that sells portions of sfincione with a recording voice sent out through a megaphone that says how good is this kind of pizza. And indeed it is delicious!

For tradition we eat sfincione especially on two Festivities' Eve: the night of the 7th of December, before the Immaculate Conception Day and on Christmas' Eve, the 24th of December, but you can find it in bakeries every day of the year. If you pass by you may not forget to enjoy it!

Recipe for the dough: 500 gr flour 00 - 500 gr hard wheat flour - 1 ts sugar - 1tbs salt - 25 gr brewer's yeast - 1/2 lt warm water - 1/2 glass of olive oil or 100 gr lard -

Recipe  for the condiment: 500 gr tomato sauce - 4 chopped onions slightly stewed - 50 gr anchovies - 350 gr caciocavallo cheese cubes - oregano - breadcrumbs - olive oil

1. Sift the two flours and put them in a bowl together.
2. Add salt and sugar.
3. In a smaller bowl put the yeast and add some warm water until it dissolves.
4. Little by little add the yeast with the water to the flour mix and start stirring all the ingredients together forming a dough.
5. Remove it from the bowl and transfer it on a kitchen surface (a bit floured), adding the remaining water and the olive oil (or the lard) and kneading for about 15 minutes until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it the shape of a ball.
6. Now the dough has to rise under a blanket in a warm place for about 2 hours. It has to double its volume.
7. Preheat the oven at 180° or 200° degrees; (It really depends on the oven).
8. Remember to stew and chop onions thinly, chop anchovies in small pieces and the cheese in cubes as well. Then, prepare some tomato sauce.
9. In a pan put some breadcrumbs with a drizzle of olive oil and toast it until golden brown.
10. After the 2 hours stretch out the dough and press into a large oiled baking tray. (It's even better if you can let it rise in the tray for another half an hour.)
11. Cover the dough with the tomato sauce, the onions, the anchovies.12. Put the tray in the oven for about 15 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and add the caciocavallo cut in small cubes, then cover all in breadcrumbs.
14. Put back inside the oven for some more minutes, about 10 minutes, again it depends on the oven and on how thick is the dough. Check after 5, just to be sure. 15. Bake the pizza in the oven at 180° degrees, until the bottom of the crust is golden brown when you lift it up to look.  
16. Finally drizzle some more olive oil on top, sprinkle with oregano, cut in squares and serve hot!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sicilian food: origins, history, curiosities

Do you want to know something more about Sicilian food and its history? Today I would like to tell you something about the origins of our cuisine, or at least how was divided in the past centuries. One of the most famous teller of these stories in Palermo is a journalist and expert Gaetano BasileHe normally distinguishes three different types of cuisine that we used to have here: the first one was called the cuisine of the Monsù, and it was prepared for the Nobles.

Monsù is the Sicilian term for the French
Monsieur and infact meant the cuisine prepared by important chefs for the rich and noble people, just like the writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa describes in his famous masterpiece: "Il Gattopardo" - English version: The Leopard. (picture above taken from the homonymous 
A second type, which is the most common, is the popular cuisine, basically made of dishes that the poor and simple people, who were the majority of Sicilians, used to cook daily. 

They were trying to imitate the Monsù Cuisine by simply revisiting some rich plates and often changing the main ingredient. If the Nobles had meat or fish they had egg-plant/aubergine or cheese instead. That is why this cuisine is considered the most unique and creative. An example is the famous Caciocavallo all'Argentiera, of which I have already talked you about.

The third type is the renowned Sicilian street food. Even today you can find stands along the streets that sell the famous "pane ca'meusa" (spleen sandwich) or the "panelle & crocchè" (chickpea fritters and potato croquettes) or the "stigghiole" (grilled lambs' guts, here on the right pic).

So there is a lot to taste in Sicily when it comes to food. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mezze penne with broad beans and fresh ricotta cheese

Do you know how to cook pasta with fresh broad beans (or fava beans) and fresh sheep ricotta cheese? Here in Sicily we love mixing vegetables with cheese. These vegs automatically make me think at my grandma, nonna Nuccia, and at the country house we used to go to during summer. At about 11 o'clock in the morning sitting on the patio she would ask my mum to start shelling the beans, and there she was marching to the kitchen and preparing all the necessary for the "operation": the newspaper for the pods, the big enamel bowl for the beans. God bless you nonna!

For 4 people you will need: 400 gr pasta (penne or mezze penne) - 1 onion - 150 gr. broad beans - olive oil - salt - ricotta cheese - grated cheese (like Parmisan or Pecorino)

Photo source:
First of all, you need to shell the broad beans. Open the pod, take the beans out and also remove the little cap on top. In a sauce pan on a medium heat put a drizzle of olive oil, then chop and sauteè the onion with the oil. Add a big pinch of salt and the broad beans. 

After about 7-8 minutes add some warm water (2 cups). Cover with the lid and let cook for about 20 minutes on a low heat. In the meantime you can prepare your pot for the pasta on a medium heat. When the fava beans are cooked just switch the heat off and let them be until pasta is ready.

As soon as the water boils add salt and put the penne (or mezzepenne or fusilli) in the boiling water. Cook them until "al dente" (or as you like), just following the instructions written on the packet. Then drain and transfer them on serving plates mixing also the broad beans (or in a more professional way you can mix the pasta in the sauce pan directly.)

Once the dish is ready put some fresh ricotta cheese on top. Many people love to add some grated cheese as well, such as caciocavallo, pecorino or parmesan. It's a perfect dish for vegeterians and its taste is very good and delicate, and healthy too. 

Photo Source:

NOTE - If you can't find fresh fava beans, you can use the canned ones, but the success of this recipe is all in the freshness of the 2 main ingredients: fava beans & sheep ricotta which is one of the most sought-after Sicilian cheese. 
I hope you enjoy!