Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mamma Carmela's special Sicilian pesto sauce - The video

This recipe is really unique. It is called Sicilian pesto sauce but it's not the famous pesto trapanese (even if ingredients are very similar) and it is obviously not the renowned pesto genovese with basil. It is a pesto sauce created by Mamma Carmela, a lady who used to have a lovely little Trattoria in Palermo. Her husband and her run that place for more than 40 years. There they met actors, singers and thousands of tourists who went to taste her typical dishes.

Her Trattoria was renowned for the Sicilian dishes and the familiar way of cooking them, infact going there was like having lunch at home. Last year unfortunately after a gas explosion this restaurant was destroyed and Mamma Carmela with her family decided not to continue the activity with a new one, being already in advanced age.

Exclusively for the Sicilian Cuisine Blog her daughter Patrizia gave me the recipe of her famous special pesto and we also did a short video. This is the way I want to remember the lovely evenings spent at their trattoria. Thank you so much!

Ingredients & preparation for 4-6 people: 
6-7 big tomatoes - 2 cloves of garlic - fresh mint - fresh basil - 50 gr almonds - half of a dried red pepper - salt - sunflower oil or olive oil (about a glass). She used to put sunflower oil because "it was a bit lighter" - she said.

1. Wash the tomatoes, the basil and the mint.
2. Put all the ingredients together in the blender, just like shown in the video here on the right.

Now: if you want to eat it with pasta, just prepare it as usual, drain it and place it in a bowl, mixing the pesto with the pasta well, and serving straight away. 

If you want to use it for bruschettas, toast your sliced bread (better if the rustic type) and put the pesto on top of the toasted slices. 

It will be a scrumptious starter for your guests with such a strong character!

*Warning: This pesto is really strong, so careful because it is going to be hot and tasty! Just try and see for yourselves!

Thanks to Patrizia Laria for the video editing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fennel and orange salad, the ideal mix after a big meal

Do you know how to prepare fennel and orange salad? In my family we love to prepare this dish for big occasions, not only because it's light and tasty but also because in this way you don't have to think of preparing another course for fruits. 

Besides, fennel is widely known for its healthy properties: is very digestive, make increase energy and 
help to eliminate the excess of liquid in the body. 
Orange is sweet and juicy and this salad is always the perfect solution to finish a three or four courses meal or in general a big lunch, just before landing on the sweet sugary world of desserts.

For 6-8 people you will need:
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 3 oranges (better if the sweeter quality)
- olive oil
- salt
- olives at will

1. Cut the fennels in quarters, removing the hardest part on top and bottom. Soak them in water for about 15 minutes, then with a sharp knife cut them quite thinly.

2. Peel the oranges removing also the white pulp and the seeds, then cut them in small pieces.

3. Place both in a large bowl and dress the salad with olive oil and salt and add some green olives if you like. Better if you don't keep it in the fridge more than 2-3 hours. Serve fresh at the end of your meal and enjoy!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marsala cream pudding with strawberries, a spring version of Tiramisù

Do you know how to prepare a Marsala cream pudding? I sometimes like to post recipes that are not necessary of the strict regional tradition (we obviously eat Italian dishes too!!!) but sometimes I do like to experiment introducing a Sicilian ingredient or product in a popular recipe.

This is the case of this kind of "Spring Tiramisù" as I like to call it, because has strawberries (and strawberry juice) instead of coffee and above all it has a delicious cream made of mascarpone cheese plus the unmistakable flavor of Sicilian Marsala wine.

Ingredients & preparation for 8 people:
- a classic sponge cake cut in four thin layers**
- fresh strawberries (3 small baskets)
- 3 eggs
10 ts of sugar
- 500 gr. mascarpone cheese
- 4-5 ts of Marsala wine (more if you like a stronger taste)
- cocoa powder

For the cream: 
1. In a large bowl mix the eggs with the sugar until they become homogeneous.

2. Add the mascarpone and the Marsala wine and mix well the ingredients together until the cream become light and fluffy, then place it in the fridge.

For the dessert:
1. Gently wash the strawberries. Remove the leaves on top and select the ones that are riper and squashier.
2. Blend these last ones with a 1/4 cup of water to make it less dense. You will use this juice with a kitchen brush to moisten the sponge.

3. Cut the rest of the strawberries into pieces, but leave aside 2 or 3 strawberries for the final decoration. 

4. As soon as you finish with the strawberries, take a bowl or a deep plate with high rims and start making the tiramisù.

5. First put a thin layer of cream mix, then the first layer of sponge cake, then moisten with some strawberry juice, using a kitchen brush (because it cannot be too much), then 2-3 spoons full of cream to cover all the sponge surface and finally the pieces of fresh strawberries. Keep doing the same thing for the second layer and the third one.

6. Cover with the last layer of sponge, moistening again with the strawberry juice and finish all the cream. It has to be all covered in cream in the end. Sprinkle abundant cocoa on top and decorate as you like with 2 or 3 strawberries. Put in the fridge for at least one hour and serve cold. 

It is not a local dessert but it definetely has a lovely Sicilian flavor. I am sure you will go crazy for it!!!

**Sponge cake is very similar to our "Pan di Spagna" the basic recipe we use for many cakes and desserts in Sicily, the only difference is that we make it with starch instead of normal flour.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marzipan sheep, the symbol of Easter in Sicily

Do you know what "Pecorelle di pasta reale" are? We call it sheep of marzipan, which is made of almond flour, and in our Christian culture they are the symbol of Easter in Sicily. In some parts of our island they fill the marzipan with a kind of preserve of nuts, especially pistaches, or citron marmelade, but you won't find it in Palermo, where we use plain marzipan.

Sheep, in particular lambs, represent the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that during the Holy Week suffers and dies for Mankind and then, after 3 days, rises again on Easter sunday. 

We want to remember His sacrifice even at the table, with this little jewels of marzipan, 
made in proper molds or shapes of chalk, which are the result of faith and tradition.


Friday, April 22, 2011

"Pasta ch' i sardi" one of the most famous Sicilian dishes in the world

Do you know how to prepare the famous Sicilian pasta with sardines? First of all let's specify that in Sicily we learn that the period for fishing and eating sardines is during the months that have a "R letter". (In Italian are February, March, April, September, October, November, December).

Said that you should know that the main ingredients of this dish are: sardines and wild fennel. As I always write about very traditional dishes it's very common to find different versions of the same dish, depending on which province of Sicily you are from, but also on the individual family tradition.
On the whole, I would say that there are two main recipes for this pasta: the red one and the white one. What does it mean? It means the version with the tomato paste and the version with saffron instead.
Ingredients & preparation for 4 people: 
- 400 gr. bucatini (long and thick shaped pasta like in the pic above)
- 250 gr. fresh sardines
- 400 gr. wild fennel
- 5 anchovy fillets
- 30 gr. sultanas
- 30 gr. pine nuts
- olive oil
- a small onion thinly chopped
- salt
- 6 ts of breadcrumbs
- 20 gr. saffron powder (for the white/yellow version)
- tomato puree or concentrated tomato extract (for the red version)

1. Wash sardines well under running water. Then wash also fennel and boil it in a large pot with salted water. Once it is cooked, drain it but do not eliminate the water. On a cutting board chop the fennel thinly and leave it aside.

2. In a sauce pan put a drizzle of olive oil on a medium heat, add the chopped onion and let it brown for a couple of minutes.
Add the anchovy fillets cutting it in small pieces using a wooden scoop or spatula just like in the pic on the right. They have to melt and become a paste.

3. Then put sultanas and pine nuts mixing all together.
4. Take half the quantity of the sardines, (leaving out the ones that are not broken that will be used after) and mix them in the sauce in small pieces too.

5. At this point add the saffron if you are doing the white/yellow version, or add some tomato puree if you prefer the red one (pic on the left). It's important to melt the concentrated tomato that has to become again a sort of paste. You can put a bit of fennel water to help melt the tomato puree.

6. Finally put the chopped fennel in the pan, together with a dipper full of the water in which has cooked. Mix well and place on top of the fennel the remaining sardines that should all be in one-pieces.

7. Let cook the sauce with a lit for about 10-15 minutes on a low heat. (Picture below)

8. In the meantime cook the pasta (bucatini or ziti) in the remaining fennel water as usual and drain it. If the water is not enough for all the pasta add some more water but remember to check the pasta on salt before draining it.

9. While pasta is cooking, in a small frying pan on a medium heat prepare the breadcrumbs with a drizzle of olive oil and stir the two ingredients until they become homogeneous and kind of dark brown in color (but not burnt).

10. Now you can either place it on a serving dish covering it with all the condiment and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and eat it as it is or doing the same process but placing it on a oven tray and bake it for about 10 minutes at a temperature of 200° C. Serve hot.

Close your eyes for a second and enjoy the great Sicilian taste, the earth and the sea forever bond!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Colourful bell peppers in sweet and sour sauce

Do you know how to prepare peppers in 
sweet and sour sauce? As you already may know, the sweet and sour sauce is very common in Sicily. Its origin goes back to Middle Age, when the Saracens brought it into the Sicilian cuisine, and it stayed here ever since.
Ingredients & preparation for about 4 people:
- 1 green pepper 
- 1 red pepper 
- 1 yellow peppers
- 1 small onion
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
- 1/3 cup sugar 
- salt

1. Wash the peppers under running water. With a sharp knife cut them in half and remove all the seeds and the core, then cut in strips like the ones in the picture above. Clean and chop the onion thinly.

2. Put a frying pan on a medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and the onion. Leave it cook for about 5 min.
3. Add the peppers' strips and let them cook until become slightly golden, turning them every 5 minutes.

4. Once cooked, pour the vinegar and add the sugar. Stir well using a fork or a spoon, finally add some salt.
5. Leave the peppers into the sauce for 5 more minutes so that they become tasty enough, then remove from heat and place on a serving dish. This side dish can be eaten either warm or hot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brociolone or falsomagro: the Sicilian beef roll for important occasions

Do you know how to cook the traditional Sicilian brociolone? This is an extraordinary dish that Sicilians prepare for important events or festivities because, even if it takes a bit of time, it's very delicious. We also called it in Sicilian "falsu magru", literally meaning "false slim" (ital. falsomagro). Why? Probably the name was related to the fact that the beef roll looks quite light from the outside, but that's just an illusion because once it's cut in slices you can see all the layers of stuffing and the several ingredients (onion, salame, omelette, breadcrumb and caciocavallo cheese), which are rolled out in a big thin slice of beef that the butcher normally prepares specifically for this dish.

In ancient times probably meat was not particularly nice and tender so the Chefs of Nobles, the famous Monsù, created new fillings to stuff the meat. Every Sicilian family puts a different stuffing inside, because nowadays everyone has its own version. My favourite, which is one of the most traditional, is the one with omelette, caciocavallo, breadbrumbs and salame.

To prepare this dish you will need:
- a big slice of beaten beef (about 800 gr & it must have the thickness of half of a cm)
- 150 gr of thin sliced salami
- 60 gr grated caciocavallo cheese
- 100 gr provola or fresh caciocavallo cheese in small cubes
- 3 eggs
- 5-6 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 1 large onion
- 3/4 of a glass of red wine
- 1 glass of water
- olive oil 
- salt & pepper


1. Cut the onion in half and chop it. On a low heat put a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and half of the onion and the spoons of breadcrumbs. Adjust with salt and pepper.
2. Remove from heat, let the mix cool down and add the cheeses (both grated and in cubes).

3. With the 3 eggs make an omelette, but careful because it has to be very thin and a bit smaller than the size of the beef, otherwise it will come out of the meat.
4. Oil the beef and inside, than put the ingredients in the order that you prefer, for example:  the thin slices of salami, then the omelette and finally the mix of breadcrumbs. You have to cover all the space making three different layers of stuffing.
5. Roll it out very carefully and make sure that the filling do not fall from the sides, then using a kitchen string tie the roll very well and firmly.

6. Now it's time to brown the meat roll in the appropriate pan. Again put some oil at the bottom, the other half chopped onion, salt & pepper on a minimum heat. Place the roll inside the pan and let it cooked well, turning it every 4-5 minutes.

7. When the beef has become finally brown add just less than a full glass of red wine and let it evaporate completely. Then add a full glass of water and cover the pan with the lit. 8. Let it cooked for another half an hour, checking every 10 minutes and turning the meat so that it can cook on every side. After 30 minutes check the cooking point sticking a fork inside the roll, if it comes out easily means that the beef is also cooked on the inside, otherwise leave it for another 10 minutes and check again later. (Another alternative would be finishing cooking the meat in the oven for about 20-25 min.)

9. As soon as it is cooked remove it from the pan and once it has cooled down cut the roll in slices, thick not more than 1 cm.
10. Place it on an oval serving dish or a tray and put the sauce that has remained in the pan, on top of the slices.

If the sauce is too dense or concentrated add a little bit of hot water and mix with the fork. Then cover the roll slices with this delicious sauce and serve hot! 

This dish is perfect for any festivity and in particolar on Easter day, which is so close now. Not only is exquisite, but also colorful and beautiful in its presentation.

You will definetely enjoy it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Pasta a minestra" and "Pasta asciutta": what are they?

Do you know what is pasta a minestra? And what about pasta asciutta? As you know, in Sicily, just like in the whole of Italy, we eat pasta every day and for us is a great deal.

We normally distinguish in these two main differences: pasta a minestra and pasta asciutta. 

Pasta a minestra means soup or potage with also small pasta cooked in it, the specific one that we use for soups. In any case it is something that has a more liquid aspect rather than the usual plates of spaghetti or penne. In the picture on the left there is a plate of pasta a minestra with green cabbage, and we also have the version with pasta asciutta.

By contrast, pasta asciutta is the very famous one, like spaghetti alla carbonara for example, or penne, linguine, anelletti or any other kind of pasta that we cook with a condiment that is not liquid!!! Here on the right a plate of pasta asciutta with broccoli, but we also have the version with pasta a minestra.
Besides, we have soup with pasta all year around, not only in winter but also in summer with the fresh vegetables that the seasons offer.
I know it may sounds strange for those who are not used to eat pasta everyday or have it with soup as well, but that's the way it is here!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cauliflower pie, another way to eat cauliflower!

Do you know how to cook a tasty cauliflower pie? In Sicilian cuisine we use a lot this vegetable. We like to put it especially on pasta, we even have three different kinds, but in my family we also prepare it in a very simple way for dinner.

Ingredients and preparation: 1 cauliflower (medium size) - 2 eggs - breadcrumbs - 100 gr. grated caciocavallo cheese - salt - black pepper - 60 gr. salami (the original recipe is without but sometimes we add it)

1. Cut the cauliflower in pieces removing the hardest part and soak it in water with half a teaspoon of baking soda that will help cleaning it well and eliminating possible bugs. After 10 or 15 minutes wash it under running water and put the pieces in a colander.
2. In the meantime put a casserole with water on a medium heat, when it starts boiling add salt and toss the cauliflower in the pot. As soon as the vegetable is cooked (must be soft) drain it and let it cool for some minute.

3. Preheat the oven at 180° C.
4. Take a large bowl and put almost all the ingredients together: cauliflower, eggs, cheese, salami if liked (cut in pieces) and some black pepper. 
5.When the mixture looks creamy and well mixed, place it on a pie dish or a baking tray for the oven.
6. You can either spread it quite thin or thicker if you prefer. Sprinkle on top some breadcrumbs with small knobs of butter to make the top a bit crispy.
7. When the oven has reached the right temperature cook the pie for about 20 minutes, until it becomes kind of golden brown.
8. Place it on a serving dish and enjoy when it's still hot! Very nice if you accompany it with a tomato salads dish.

It's really good and if you leave out the salami (which is optional) you have a great dish for vegeterians too. So enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Turkey breast in Sicilian oranges sauce, a taste of mildness

Do you know how to cook turkey breast in a lovely and delicious orange sauce?
I don't think this recipe has its origins in Sicily actually, because you may find it in other parts of Italy as well, but that's the beauty of our cuisine. Not everything is exclusive, we prepare this dish and we 
do like it a lot! It has such a delicate taste, it's delicious and very easy to prepare too.

For 4 people you only need:
- 4 thin turkey breasts
- 00 flour (about 50 gr.)
- some butter (about 125 gr.)
- 1 orange
- salt & pepper

This second dish is so good and literally ready in 15 minutes!
1. Take one turkey breast at a time and dust it with flour on both sides without exaggerating with it. Do it also for the other slices of turkeys.
2. On a high heat put a frying pan and about 30 gr of butter.
3. As soon as the butter is melted place two slices of breast turkey in the pan and let them cooked on both sides until get golden brown.
4. Do the same thing for the remaining turkey without forgetting to put some more butter in the pan before placing the breasts.
5. When your turkey is all cooked, lower the heat and put in the pan all the remainging  butter, a big pinch of salt, the juice and some pulp of an orange and gently whisk with a fork all the ingredients making a sauce. You can also add a spoon of flour 00 to make it a bit thicker.
6. Place the turkey on a serving dish and pour the sauce on top. Serve hot and you will have an amazing orange flavored dish for a pleasant dinner among friends. Enjoy!