Sunday, May 11, 2014

Artisanal gelato and sorbets, their roots are in Sicily!

Photo source:
Sicilian artisanal gelato is not just a nice summer dessert for us. It's the essence of summer, there can't be any serious summer without our extraordinary ice-cream and I have to say, for a lot of Sicilians is a fundamental product all year around. I'll be honest with you, I am not one of those, but still... I love the real gelato the way we do it in Sicily and the way we "have" it in Sicily. There's no other place like ours when it comes to quality and quantity!
Photo source:
Sicilian gelaterie (the places where we buy and eat ice-cream) infact do not know what a scoop is. One ball? Two balls? No way!!!

For us Sicilians is a real indecency.
Our gelato cannot be reduced to scoops, that is why we use a spatula instead (like the one in the pic) and the price depends only on how you will have your gelato.

Cone, coppetta (small, regular or large cardboard bowl) and last but not least... a brioche which is, as we love to say down here, "la morte sua", a typical expression meaning at its best.... in another word: magnificent!
Photo source:
Now a little bit of history... did you know that the famous gelato was created by a Sicilian? 
The story goes back to France in 1686, when a chef from Palermo named Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli created the first modern ice-cream in history (adding milk, eggs and cream) and introducing some new techniques of refrigeration at the French King's court in Paris. Afterwards he continued making ice-cream at the Cafè Procope which still exists today in Paris. Of course there are other theories that place the first modern ice-cream in Florence thanks to Bernardo Buontalenti, but even if true, still the contribution of Sicilians is undeniable.
Photo source:

The ancient way of having a liquid gelato infact is considered Arab heritage, as the Arabs used to prepare "sherbat", cold drinks with sugar, fruits, vanilla or cinnamon in which they added snow taken from Sicilian heights. 

Snow used to be kept in specific large holes dug in the ground, all covered up with straw. “Sherbat” corresponds to the word we use today: sorbet (in Ital. sorbetto). One of the most popular and ancient flavors in Sicily are the lemon and the jasmine ones.

So... you can see ice-cream is not just a dessert for us, it's part of our dna. It's even a full lunch on a torrid hot day. And what makes it so special is the high quality of the local products used: pistaches from Bronte, chocolate from Modica, nuts from the Nebrodi mountains, strawberries from Ribera. 


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Homemade pizza alla Norma: definitely the right night!

Do you have from time to time that uncontrollable desire of eating something made with your own hands, which is also genuine and unbelievably mouthwatering? If the answer is NO, you will think I am some kind of psycho, but... if the answer is YES... great... join the club!
It actually happened to me just yesterday, when I wanted to make some homemade pizza alla Norma and it took me just a couple of hours for preparing the whole thing. The result was fabulous!!! Here is the recipe I used. 

For the dough: 
1 kg strong white bread flour
25 gr brewer's yeast
1 table poon sugar
4-5 table spoon of e.v. olive oil
600 ml lukewarm water
20 gr salt

For the pizza:
tomato sauce - few  leaves of fresh basil - mozzarella cheese - 1 fried aubergine / eggplant - a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese

Before starting the preparation of your pizza, make sure you have all your ingredients measured and ready to use. 1. On your kitchen surface mix the flour with the salt and make a well in the middle. 2. In a jug mix the yeast with "some" of the warm water and the sugar, whisk it using a fork and leave it there for few minutes. 3. Pour it into the well; 4. Add the oil of olive and start kneading until you have a smooth, elastic and compact dough. 5. Keep adding the remaining water, little by little, letting absorbe it and give it the shape of a ball. 

Place the ball in a large bowl dusted with flour at the bottom, cover it with a cloth and let it rise in a warm place, far from airstreams, (like the oven for example) for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. 
While the pizza is rising, you can cut the aubergine/eggplant in slices and fry them in a pan filled with olive oil. Now it's time to roll out the pizza with your rolling pin. 
Keep some more flour next to you and use it on the rolling pin so that the dough won't ruin or make holes. Choose the tickness according to your taste, then place it on a baking tray.

Heat the oven on 180°. Now we are ready to make our pizza!
Spread 2-3 table spoons of tomato sauce, few leaves of fresh basil in little pieces, cover all up with mozzarella cheese and place the fried aubergine/eggplant on top. Finally sprinkle with little grated parmesan cheese. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes, but if you have rolled out the dough quite thin, better to check after 10 minutes. 

Once is ready, serve it hot along with a cold beer! Enjoy ;-)