Saturday, December 14, 2013

Santa Lucia's Sicilian tradition in London? Yes we can!!!

The traditional cuccìa, Palermo typical dessert on December 13th.

I am very happy to share with you the success of my first Sicilian dinner in London on the occasion of the festivity of St. Lucy or Santa Lucia as we call her, last friday December the 13th. Do you know why the festivity of Santa Lucia is such a big deal in Palermo city?

Mediterranean starter

   Our tradition imposes to avoid everything made of wheat like pasta, bread or biscuits, except the "cuccìa", a typical dessert made of boiled wheat in grains and mixed with ricotta cream, the classic filling for cannoli and cassata. For this reason real queens of the day are rice (particularly arancine), potatoe pies and panelle.

   With some lovely guests from Uk, Australia and, of course Italy, we had shared our tradition and remembered the story of this incredible Sicilian Saint especially how she saved the people from Palermo from the famine, back in 1646.

Thanks to everybody for the fantastic night spent together and of course... W Santa Lucia! :-p

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sicilian food: for some people is "bizarre"

Yesterday I came across this amazing video about Sicilian cuisine. Protagonist is Andrew Zimmern, an American chef visiting Sicily and looking for "Bizarre food", which is actually the name of his tv show. This episode is set in our beautiful island, from Palermo to the deep south, I thought it was a great idea to share it with you. I hope you like it!!!

Thanks to Eternallyprofound for having uploaded this video on youtube.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All you need to know about garlic healthy properties

Some people love it, some other hate it, probably for that terrible breath that leaves on everybody's mouth when we eat it. I am talking about garlic, one of the kings in Sicilian cuisine. Raw or cooked you find it in innumerable Mediterrenean recipes, but the majority of people probably doesn't know the amazing healthy properties of this incredible herb, used as a medicine throughout history to help treating a large varieties of diseases such as:
  1. Common cold and sore throat 
  2. Blood system and hypertension
  3. Everything connected to the heart: heart attack, coronary condition, high cholesterol
  4. Osteoarthritis and artherioscerosis
  5. Prevention of some cancers: lung, prostate, breast, stomach, rectal  and colon cancer
Especially during this time of the year in which winter is about to come (or in some countries has already arrived) just keep in mind that eating raw garlic in food can be a big help to strengthen your immune system, fight seasonal colds and also an amazing prevention for more serious situations.

The bruschetta as a starter could be an idea, pasta with Sicilian pesto could be another one and a potato side-dish a third one. These are only few recipes that I suggest to refresh your mind. Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

A creative Sicilian delivers the entire 'pizzeria' at your home!

Yesterday I read a very funny (not to mention amazing) story on a website called Palermoviva. A creative Sicilian pizzaiolo living in the province of Palermo this past summer started delivering pizza with its "ape".
Which is the piece of news? You could ask. Well... this guy does brings you pizza but also brings you an entire mini pizzeria outside your home, where he actually prepares and cooks your pizza on the spot. Isn't he a genius?

The people who have tasted it say the pizza is very good!

I like what the article says: "People think that us southerners are all lazy, but when you have to face an economic crisis, you start being really creative about the type of jobs you can do".

So the message is that you can fight the crisis with your own initiative! Enjoy!

Pics and article come from

Friday, November 1, 2013

Colorful Sicilian Marzipan Fruits: history and origin

Photo Credit:
The so called "frutta di Martorana" (Martorana's fruits), also known as "pasta reale" (royal pastry) or "marzapane" (marzipan), are typical Sicilian almond sweets that we prepare and eat only in the period before and soon after the day of November the 1s and the 2nd, which are dedicated in our Christian tradition respectively to All Saints and to the commemoration of the Deads.

Main ingredient of these sweets is the "pasta di mandorle", almond pastry, which took its name Martorana after the aristocratic woman Eloisa Martorana, who made build a Benedicte Monastery near the church of S. Maria dell'Ammiraglio at the end of the XII century. This church is infact also known as Martorana. 

Nuns to celebrate the festivity of All Saints used to prepare these almond sweets that reproduce forms and colors of many fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, tomatoes, carrotts, chestnuts, peaches, apricots, mandarines, figs, apples, pears and a lot more.

Regarding the names, it was also called "pasta reale" because was particularly appreciated at the table of the King of Sicily Ruggero II, while the term "marzapane" has Arab origins: marzaban was a measurement used to indicate the capacity of a wooden box, where usually were sent almond sweets coming from Armenia or Cyprus.

Afterwards with the same pastry they also started to make sheep for Easter, to remember the sacrifice of the Lamb. And since those years the tradition has been kept alive for the generations to come.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Harim Network: food experience in Jordan with Andrea Alì

Mediterannean food is conquering the world! It has already started with a great 4 days cooking course held in Ammam, Jordan, with the Italian Chef Andrea Alì, that will end today.

Organized by Euro-Mediterranean Academy and the society La Panthera establishment, the famous chef Andrea Ali has been a guest at JAU Jordanian University, College of Hospitality and Tourism Education. In Jordan, he has brought his specialties and the most famous Italian recipes, revisited by his personal culinary genius, such as pasta alla Norma, meatballs, tiramisù and the famous ARANCINE!

His cooking is simple and authentic; it is the expression of a tradition that enobles the raw materials of the land, particularly of the Iblei Mountains, on which it is located his prestigious restaurant: “Andrea Sapori Montani”, in Palazzolo Acreide (SR). Inside, local and seasonal ingredients, strictly zero km, which comply with the principles of Slow Food to which he adapts his "cooking philosophy."

The course of Italian Cuisine in Amman will end with a competition among aspiring chef participants who will award the winners with a trip in Italy to visit and live the experience of Italian cuisine in Andrea’s Alì restaurant.

Thanks to this new international project signed by Harim Network, we hope new collaborations will start and the new generation of chefs made in Jordan will discover the Italian culinary heritage.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cauliflower fritters, another way to eat cauli!

Do you know how to prepare some delicious cauliflower fritters?
This dish is great to make children eat this vegetable, as they don't usually like its strong
funny smell. But, if you prepare some fritters like these ones, crunchy outside and soft and tasty inside, I am sure they will love them!!!

Ingredients & preparation for 4 people:
a small cauliflower
1-2 eggs
grated caciocavallo cheese
salt & black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg or turmeric (optional)
e.v. olive oil

It's always difficult in recipes like this, specify the exact quantity for the ingredients. I usually wash the cauliflower and boil it first in salted water. As soon as it is cooked let it drain on a colander so that it gets rid of all the water that contains. Then, in a bowl place our vegetable and mix it with an egg and 3 table spoons of breadcrumb and 3 of grated cheese (if you don't have caciocavallo choose another you like). 

If the mixture is still too soft add more breadcrumb and cheese, if it's too hard add a second egg. A pinch of black pepper to finish with, and nutmeg or turmeric if you like it too. That's it... we are ready to fry!

On a large pan, pour some e.v. olive oil on a high heat, when the oil is hot take a spoon full of the mixture and with the help of a fork or a second spoon slowly place it on the pan. Do the same for the rest of the mix until the pan is full.

Careful because they cook quite quickly. Once they are ready on one side (few minutes) turn them on the other side and when they are golden brown take them out of the pan and place them on kitchen paper for a little while to absorb the exceeding oil, then on a serving plate. They must be served and eaten while still hot!

This is a lovely side-dish that will turn a boring veg in such an excitig recipe! :P


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sicilian experts: An interview with Chef Giuseppe Di Cristina

We always talk about Sicilian food and recipes but today I am particularly glad to post this interview to a young Sicilian Chef who, because of his profession, is entitled to speak about this topic more than me: Giuseppe Di Cristina. (Qui la versione in Italiano). 

Me: Hi chef, let's start with a brief introduction about your work and background.
Chef: First of all thanks for this interview. I am honoured to answer your questions. I started to work at 14 years old at the restaurant Villa Flora (Palermo) while I was attending the 1st year of Catering school. From there I moved to several places trying to learn like a sponge the different types of catering and food service, both in Sicily (Mondello, Cinisi, Caltagirone, Campofelice di Roccella, Marsala and Palermo again) and in other parts of Italy (Pavia, Borgomanero (No), Courmayeur (Ao).
At 25 I became sous-chef working at La Nave and after 5 years I realised I was ready for the big jump: be in charge of a kitchen on my own!
So in 2010 I started this new experience at the restaurant Torre Battilamano in Termini Imerese (Pa), then on the Alps in Cervinia (Ao) and back to Sicily at the Four Seasons in Lascari near Cefalù. Only recently I decided to become a freelance, working on my own, organising courses and teaching in professional schools.

When did you realise you wanted to become a professional Chef?
When I was a kid, smelling the parfumes coming from the kitchen when my mum and grandma were cooking.

Which is your favourite Sicilian dish and why
Being not only a chef, but also a scuba diver, I would say by all means the swordfish rolls, with red orange, raisins and pine nuts. I have always thought that this recipe is the great union between sea and land, which expresses the deep bond of Sicilians with the two resources of our island.

In your experience how do other people perceive our cuisine? Which is the most requested dish?
Sicilian cuisine is very well appreciated. There are no other regions that can boast our triumph of colors, parfums, smells and flavors in every single month of the year. The dishes that people ask the most, especially from my experience working in the Alps near the French border are two: the Sicilian Cassata and the Caponata.

What inspires you when you decide to create a new recipe?
Great question! Actually it depends on the occasion. I usually focus on the topic: if the dish is for a restaurant or for a particular party, or for a contest for example. In any case I decide the main ingredient and I start to examine in my mind every possible technique of cooking it and also if matches with other ingredients. 

From there I try and experiment with different colors and parfumes. Palate and brain become like lovers just like when a painter starts creating on his canvas. I have to say that 8 times out of 10 the final result is exactly like I had imagined it. Recently what inspires me the most is the woman of my life that is like a real Muse to me. Nowadays, when I create a dish, I do it thinking about her.

Can you name two Sicilian Chefs you appreciate? A senior and a junior one?
The senior is Pino Cuttaia, the most talented I have ever known, especially because has humility, a virtue which you don't see often. The junior that I appreciate is Roberto Pennino. He is one of the 'Maestri Pasticceri' of the entire island and is not even 30 yet. He is also great at carving vegetables. 

Meat or fish? Fruits or desserts? White or red wine?
Sea is definetely my element so I have to say FISH! I love desserts, especially soft creamy ones, while for the wine I prefer the red one.

Which is your favorite street food?
Panelle of course!!! In Palermo they are loved by kids and grown ups of every age. Plus... that lovely soft bread we eat them with... just amazing.

What do you think about the big success of culinary tv shows or reality?
I think they could be created better. Our category has obviously gained a lot of visibility, but in some cases there are people who talk about cooking without having a proper knowledge or understanding of it. 

If you would like to celebrate an event and not cooking, where would you go?
In the province of Palermo I would go to three places: Il Ghiottone Raffinato, il Cafè 113 in Casteldaccia and Il Normanno in Cefalù.
Which is the worse stereotype about Sicilian Cuisine?
That we don't have a tradition of meat dishes. This is totally wrong. In ancient times the tables of aristocrats were always full of game like rabbits, hares, wild boars, quails, partridges, ecc... not bad for an island, eh?!
Is there a foreign cuisine you particualrly appreciate and why?
Yes, it's the Austrian one, for its magnificence especially in Patisserie.  

Which is your next project?
In October I will start again with the cookery courses at DiCristina’s, my company. I love sharing my knowledge with people that are not professionals but have passion for food and cooking. 

GREAT! Thanks a lot for your time and answers, Chef! :-)
Please let me thank you for having contacted me and given me the honour of this interview on your blog. Thank you so much. 

Chef Giuseppe Di Cristina

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breaded eggplants or as we call them: "melanzane a cotoletta!"

Cotolette di melanzane
Do you know how to prepare some amazing breaded aubergines or eggplants?
This is a Sicilian recipe that we called "melanzane a cotoletta". Melanzane means aubergine/eggplant, while the expression a cotoletta explains the way we cook it, as I wrote in my previous article. My friend Lucia and I prepared them last week.

Ingredients & preparation for 4 people: 
- 1 rounded aubergine/eggplant (the ones we call tunisine)
- 2 beaten eggs
- breadcrumb
- olive oil
In Sicily we mostly use these kind of eggplants because they are sweeter and absorb less oil during the frying process.
1. As the pictures explain first let's cut the eggplant in slices not too thin. Place them in a colander with salt on for about 15 minutes than wash them under running water and dry them with a clean cloth;

 2. Prepare the "eggplants cotolette" just like in the video shown here (beaten eggs and breadcrumb);

3. Put on a high heat a large pan and fill half of it with olive oil and fry them on both sides until golden brown (pic below). 

4. Prepare a plate with kitchen paper to help absorb the exceeding oil, then serve them warm with a refreshing salads like tomatoes or rockets. 

When we were kids and my mum was preparing any kind of cotoletta, there was usually some beaten egg left, so she used to add some more breadcrumb and fry it at the end like a thick omelette. We loved it and we always fought to get the biggest piece of it!!!

Try them at least once, they are delicious and you will have a scrumptious lunch that is definetely worth the time spent frying!

See the video here!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The basics of Sicilian Cuisine: the "cotoletta" preparation!

Hi dear food lovers and blog readers, last week I asked on my facebook page the best way to translate our word "cotoletta" and I had some interesting answers, thanks very much!

I was with Lucia, a friend of mine and I was helping her in preparing some amazing eggplants in breadcrumb, so I thought to write a few lines about this preparation that we love so much! Be careful though because here in Sicily we have 2 similar ways of preparing breaded dishes: a lighter one (usually referred as impanatura) and a more complex one (the real cotoletta).
1) Light- We call it "impanatura" (literally means breaded) and is usually used only for meat or fish, we run it only in breadcrumb or sometimes in olive oil first and then breadcrumb (like this we do veal, chicken breast or swordfish);
2) Complex - We run both meat or vegetables first in beaten eggs and then in breadcrumb. Then we fry whatever is that we are preparing. So, the distinction is very important and is based on the ingredient you are preparing!!!

In this video that I shot, my friend Lucia and I were preparing some eggplants in breadcrumb (you can find the complete recipe here).

I thought it was the best way to explain how we prepare any food
"a cotoletta". Enjoy both the recipe and the video!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A refreshing Mediterranean iced tea with an exotic twist!

Have you ever prepared an iced tea that is refreshing and tasty and has an exotic twist as well? That is very easy to do. You only need few ingredients: your favourite flavor of tea, sugar, lemon, a small bunch of fresh mint and a piece of fresh ginger, big more or less like a clove of garlic.

So let's start by making a normal tea in the teapot, leave the tea in infusion for at least 15 minutes. Add 2 or 3 spoons full of sugar while the water is still hot, 10 mint leaves or more, an entire lemon cut in slices and the piece of ginger without the skin.

Leave everything together until the tea has reached the room temperature. After a good couple of hours (at least two) remove the slices of lemon and the ginger.

Put the tea in a jug or a bottle and place it in the fridge for other 2-3 hours. You can also take the mint out but I love it so much I keep it there until the moment I serve it. 

With this heat dear friends, don't miss the opportunity of preparing this lovely refreshing drink at home, definitely healthier than the ones you buy it. You can offer it to your friends when they come visit you or to your husband when he comes tired and hot from work. I am sure that they will love it and appreciate the fact that you had this sweet thought and prepared it with love just for them.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Do you want pane e panelle?" My first interview to an Italian newspaper

Dear readers and food lovers,
as I had happily announced few days ago on my Official Facebook page, this summer I had the honour of being interviewed for my blog by
an Italian National newspaper, always interested in finding new Sicilian bloggers to talk about. How exciting!!!

Here it is a recap of my interview translated just for you :-)

What is your blog about?
The blog combines three passions of mine: food, writing and English language. So it talks about Sicilian recipes but not only. For instance, I have written of Sicilian expert Gaetano Basile's new book about food, about the Sicilian chef Natale Giunta fighting against organised crime and about one of the favorite place of judge Paolo Borsellino: the Focacceria San Francesco in Palermo. Obviously common denominator are always Sicily and food.

Why are you writing in English?
Many reasons. I wanted to export Sicilian cuisine, connect with all the numerous Sicilians that live abroad and that miss the colours and parfumes of our wonderful cuisine, and also let other people in the world know about our food and tradition as well.

It's a mortal sin leaving Sicily without trying...
A lot of stuff: panelle, pasta al forno, cous cous, grilled primosale cheese with black pepper, fresh ricotta cheese, brociolone, caponata, fried sardines.
Arancine and the whole rotisserie, pistaches ice cream flavor from Bronte, gelo di mellone, marzipan (pecorelle or frutta di martorana) and everything coming from our patisserie, starting with cannoli and cassata.

Three blogs that you like. because I like the fact that combines fashion and food. L’ora del libro, an Italian blog for those who love reading and Cliomakeup which is all about beauty products and make up.

Three stereotypes about Sicilian cuisine.
The caponata is made only with aubergine/eggplants and not with bell peppers.
The parmigiana has fried aubergine/eggplants and has nothing to do with the city of Parma or with the famous Parmigiano Reggiano.
The ricotta cream for desserts is made with fresh ricotta, sugar and dark chocolate chips only. Some people think there are also pieces of candy fruits, it was an old use, but not anymore.

Which adjective would you use to describe the following things:
Bronte's pistaches: precious
Pane ca meusa/spleen sandwich: poor
Modica's chocolate: historical
Sfincione: with strong character
Caponata: multi-cultural

Tastes and parfumes.
Palermo: pane e panelle and street food in general
Trapani: cous cous with fish and caldofreddo
Messina: pignolata bicolore, lemon and choc.
Siracusa: slushes of any flavours.
Catania: Nerello Mascalese wine.
Ragusa: caciocavallo cheese dop.

Sicilian Chefs. Who do you prefer?
On this matter I have to improve my knowledge, among those who I have appreciated the talent so far there are:
1. Angelo Treno
2. Giuseppe Di Cristina
3. Natale Giunta

Name, origins, job, what you read and what you watch on tv.
My name is Georgia and I am from Palermo. I am a web content editor, I work with social media and web communication. Basically I write, not only for work but for pleasure as well, infact few months ago I published my first novel in Italian entitled: “L’Equilibrista”.
I love Sergio Bambarèn's books, but also the ones that tell true stories. Recently I read two amazing books that every human being on earth should read: Ruta Sepetys' “Between shades of gray” and Immaculè Ilibagiza's “Left to tell”.
On tv I like watching movies that make me laugh and relax, and depending on what happens in Italy, I may also watch programs on current affairs.

Your favorite aphorism.
Carpe diem. It's from the latin poet Horace and means "seize the day". 

Recipe and wine for this summer.
For this torrid summer I would suggest the cous cous with vegs. It's healthy and fresh, and perfect for any occasion. It can go with both a white or a red wine.
I am not a sommelier but I will try a combination with either Corvo Glicine or Cerasuolo from Vittoria. Both rigorously Sicilians!!! 

You can read the original interview here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sicilian wines: from the pleasure to the healthy properties

What do you know about Sicilian wine? Would you like to discover more? Eve Pierce has written a brilliant new piece for the Sicilian Cuisine Blog about our wines and their superb properties. So if you are a wine lover, or just a curious person, don't miss it! Here she is in her own words: 

"Sicilian wines are having a boom right now so it’s a good time to start sampling the wonderful range on offer not only for pleasure but also for health reasons. According to a new book by Robert V. Camuto the number of commercial wine producers in Sicily has grown from around 60 to nearly 300 since 1990. Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey (University of Nebraska Press, 2010) attributes the boom in boutique style quality wine production to the rediscovery and appreciation of the unique “terroirs” of Sicilian wine.

There are more vineyards and grapes grown in Sicily than in any other region in Italy. Sicilian vineyards have been producing wine since at least 750 BC. The island’s main wine production focused in recent history on their famous fortified Marsala and cheap blends of wine as a major export. Nowadays their wines are winning awards and turning heads across the world.

What’s making some of the Sicilian wines even more special is the impressive number of biodynamic and organic wines being produced. It is made easier by the amazing farming conditions on the island where around 300 days of plentiful sunshine beams on vineyards and the 90 plus day harvest is one of the longest in the world. Frank Cornelissen who ages his natural wines in clay amphorae on Mount Etna says that “Thanks to our climate, Sicily is ‘organic’ by definition”.

Most wine drinkers will be also pleased to hear that Sicilian wines in particular are providing positive health benefits. The effects of a Mediterranean diet with a little red wine thrown in are widely believed to be beneficial but researchers at the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Palermo in Italy have found some interesting results when testing Sicilian red wines in particular. 
Some Sicilian reds had a positive effect on many risk factors of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The University of Palermo has also been involved in a study into why cancer incidence rates in Sicily are 20 per cent lower than the rest of Italy and 33 per cent lower than the USA. The results of the study are found on an Italian cancer website and the significantly reduced cancer rates are being attributed to a substance found only in Sicilian wines called Picetannolo which is commonly used in cancer medicines and treatments. There is a school of thought that also insists washing your hair in wine will reduce hair loss, not to mention make your hair glossier. Red wine is supposed to be more effective than white wine. Whether Sicilian wines will make your hair thicker and shinier we will leave up to you to find out. In the meantime we suggest you taste some of the fabulous Sicilian wines before it potentially goes to waste in the bath.

There is a huge choice of Sicilian wines to choose from. By far the most well known red grape is Nero d’Avola offering flavours ranging from jammy to full and spicy, sometimes blended with the fruity raspberry sweet grape Frappato also lovely on its own. The pinot noir like Nerello mascalese is one of the most appealing reds produced in Etna and Carricante is leading the charge for the whites from the region with a robust flavour.

Whether you choose to sample Sicilian wines for pure and simple pleasure or you want to discover the health benefits for yourself, you certainly won’t be disappointed by the great range and unique local wines of this amazing region."

Thanks again to Eve for her very interesting post. If you want to check also the healthy properties of the Mediterranean Cuisine click

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Colors and flavors, it's the cous cous contamination!

How do you like some contaminations of cultures, colors and flavors? In the Sicilian cuisine this is possible thanks to a unique dish that is called cous cous! Healthy, colorful, light and fresh, it is perfect for the summer time! 

If we want to match this recipe with a fashion accessory, the perfect one would be the colorful and trendy necklace of this summer. Check it out on Francesca's fashioncooking amazing article. She knows how to combine the two!

A drop of history: As you may already know the cous cous was introduced in Sicily by the North-Africans which still prepare it with mutton meat and cooked vegetables (carrots, onions, peas) so is  definitely more of a winter dish!

In Sicily the most famous cous cous goes with the fish soup. You find it in the western part of the island: Trapani, San Vito, Erice. By contrast in Palermo we have a different version, perfect for veggies we usually cook it with tomatoes, bell peppers, mushroom, aubergine/eggplant, cougette/zucchini and some fresh scented mint. At least this is the recipe I love making, but if you are inspired by other ingredients, you can add them as you like. Once I put olives, rocket salads and mozzarella cheese as well, but this plain version is the one I love the most.

Ingredients & preparation for 6:

400 gr. cous cous
1 cougette/zucchini
1 aubergine/eggplant
1 big bell pepper orange or yellow (or you can use half orange and half yellow)
3 tomatoes
5 medium sized field mushrooms 
a bunch of fresh mint
olive oil

This recipe takes about 2 hours (plus one hour in the fridge). You start with washing your vegs under running water, than cut them in pieces as small as possible. Put the tomatoes aside on a different plate. Once you have all your ingredients in pieces, on a frying pan put a drizzle of olive oil on a medium heat and sauteè all the vegetables except the tomatoes. Stir them from time to time until they become well cooked and golden brown. When they are ready turn the heat off. Wash and chop the mint and add it in the pan together with the tomatoes and then place the mix in a large bowl.

In the same frying pan prepare the cous cous by following the instructions (usually add some water and salt and let cook it for 10 minutes).
Once the cous cous is ready, stir it with a fork to separate the little grains. Let it cool down and finally add it to the veggies in the bowl. Keep mixing all together for about 5 minutes to reach
the "perfect contamination" and put the bowl in the fridge for at least one hour. Serve fresh but not cold.

This dish is so good we even have a Festival to celebrate it every September!
Personally I love it, during summer, because it is perfect for every occasion: for a lunch when you come back from seaside, for a picnic at the park or for a buffet party on the day of your birthday.  

It's fresh and light, easy to make and all these colors will just cheer you up. Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Food Talk: my Interview for Italian Reflections

Traditional Canapè - Photo Source:
1. Can you remember the first dish you learned how to cook?
I remember I started to cook on my own when I was around 12-13 years old. I told my mom I wanted to  prepare dinner for the family every Saturday night... I usually started with some appetizers like “tartine”, similar to the Spanish tapas, and if I can recall well, my father wasn't particularly happy about the results! Ahahah!
2. What three things are always in your fridge?
Milk and eggs always useful for many recipes. Grated cheese usually grana or parmigiano (sometimes pecorino or caciocavallo which have a stronger flavour). We use it everywhere not only on pasta, but also to give more taste to mixtures and dishes like mashed potatoes, cauliflower pie, meatballs, just to name few examples. 
3. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received?
I have to say I learnt a lot just by helping or watching my mother every time she was preparing something. My father also likes cooking and since I was a kid he kept shouting: “lower the heat under the pot of water, because it won’t boil any faster!" Infact we always prepare the pot for the pasta and just put the fire at the maximum!
4. What inspired you to create your food blog? Did you have a clear idea from the start?
I love writing. Two years ago I wanted to write about food, but never thought about Sicilian cuisine in particular. After searching the web for few weeks I realised there were hundreds of Sicilian recipes in Italian language, but only a few in English and it was a shame! 
I thought it was a mistake because Sicilian immigrants are everywhere, especially in America. So I pictured Sicilian-Americans of second and third generation reading my blog, trying old recipes and finding family memoirs and I have to say that so far, after 2 years and a half, this is exactly what is happening. I get emails from people all the time saying: “my father used to cook that, or I have been looking for this old recipe for so many years…” - it’s so rewarding! If you look it from this point of you it does makes sense!!!

5. What do you know and think about other food bloggers? 
I love reading different food blogs and try new recipes. I always put a comment when something really catches my attention and I also love guest blogging.
I had food and wine bloggers writing for me from time to time. Thanks to my blog I also have the pleasure to chat and share ideas with other foodies and sometimes meet them as well, which is really cool!
6. Let’s talk favourite things, recipe and why? 
What I really love about cooking is the fact that you do not necessary have to stick to the recipe, you can vary and make it personal, trying a different ingredient or a different version. You can follow a recipe but you can also be creative as much as you want! It’s up to you!
It’s difficult to name just one recipe for me, I will go with two: fresh tagliatelle because my maternal granpa was from Bologna so it reminds me all the festivities and Christmas spent to prepare fresh egg pasta.
Photo: Pietro Spanò
And the famous Sicilian Cassata (here on the right) that is a unique pie made of ricotta cream, sponge and marzipan with a huge decoration of candy fruits. I rarely make it because is quite complicated but reminds me of my paternal grandpa, who was a patisserie chef. My father used to help him in the lab when he was little so we prepare it together, he is the expert of Sicilian desserts!

7. Ingredients? 
I believe that what makes the difference in a dish is the perfume or in some cases the contrast between two ingredients. A simple recipe can become mouthwatering just with little secrets like lemon zest, fresh mint, oregano. I put them in a lot of dishes. An example? I put lemon zest in the carbonara or fresh mint in the potato croquettes. 
8. Comfort food? 
Chocolate cake (or muffin) with whipped cream. Do we need to explain why? 
9. Cookbook? 
Cooking for me is directly connected to family and tradition so I would say my mum’s exercise book handwritten. Besides, I bought little books about cakes, pies, cheesecakes and also ideas for parties all written by Ann Wilson. I find them very interesting and different from our traditional food! 
10. Last meal on earth?
Starters: Panelle and fried Sicilian primosale cheese in batter
Second: Fried calamari and Marsala’s escalopes
Side dish: baked potatoes with onions
Dessert: Chocolate cake with whipped cream and apple cake (not pie!)

While thanking Adrian and Italian reflections for this interview I just would like to add that for me food is a very important part of our lives for many reasons. Not only it’s nutrition so we should never ever waste any of it, but it’s also important because through it you get to know people and cultures, experience the others and their traditions, and that helps open our minds and bring barriers down.
That’s why I consider it extremely precious! 

Besides, call me naïf but there is nothing I love more than cooking, eating and sharing dishes among friends!