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: davigel.it
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!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Sicilian Cuisine Blog and my first official interview for 'Italian reflections'

Very proud and very grateful to Adrian Petersen for publishing the very first interview since my blog, Sicilian Cuisine, was born on January 2011.

When I first started it some people told me it wasn't going to be successful because of the "language barrier". "In English? Italians are not going to understand it!" - they used to tell me.

Well... today after 2 years and a half and after these little huge things that I have accomplished all by myself I have to say I was totally right and I am looking forward to having more and more to come !!!!!