Sunday, June 29, 2014

"StrEat Palermo Tour": where you eat like a real Sicilian!

Typical Sicilian lunch you can have during the tour
As I often write in my blog, "it's all about food here in Palermo". A very important part of our cuisine has poor origins and it's easily categorised as "street food".
For centuries, us Palermitan people have been eating our specialties in the corner of a busy street or standing in front of a peddler frying panelle straight away. That's normal for us. One thing we like to do as much as eating food is talking about food. Where is the best pane e panelle? Did you like the arancina from that place? Have you tried that pane ca' meusa? We love to discuss about our favourite food and the best places to find it.

Now, tourists visiting our beautiful city can have the same experience of a real Palermitan and can stop wandering in search of our traditional stuff. How? Thanks to Marco Romeo, 32 years old, white cap and red backpack and above all a passport ready for you. It is called "Passaporto del Mangione" (the pic here on the right;). It literally means the passport of a gourmet, someone who enjoys eating... using a modern term we could say: "a foodie". 

Marco, who is also a licensed tourist guide, will take you around the ancient and evocative allies of Palermo and will make you try the most renowned street food: arancine, panelle, crocchè, sfincione, spleen sandwich and obviously a glass of excellent Sicilian wine. To finish off, the last stop is for dessert: a traditional cannolo or some artisanal gelato.

Laura our photographer, Marco and me together for a memorable selfie

I had the pleasure of asking our tour guide some questions while walking with his group few days ago.
- Marco, tell us when and how you started this activity...
I started last september. I came up with this idea because before, I used to do these tours all the times when friends were coming over to visit Sicily, so after a while I realised: why don't do it as a real job? And I have to say, the response was amazing since the very beginning. I get to meet a lot of people and I don't feel like working most of the time.

A shot of Sicilian 'Zibibbo' wine
- Is it something you can live with or is it just a seasonal job?
Well, it has been quite good so far, obviously there have been some months in which I didn't work that much, like february for example, but on the whole was ok.
- Did you already know the places where you take the tourists? Yes, I did. I also love travelling myself, so I tried to think what I like to see and eat when I go abroad.
- How is the feedback of the people joining your tour? Very good. People are happy to eat traditional things but also to see some monuments or the typical open markets while walking around.
- What's your dream for the future? 
What I would love to do is keep working with tourists here in Palermo during spring and summer, and then use the other part of the year to travel, discover new places and cultures. 
I definetely want to thank Marco once again for this opportunity. I spent a lovely time with him and his tourists. Re-discovering parts of my own city with different eyes is always a pleasure and for tourists is also an amazing and unforgettable experience.
I highly recommend it to those who want to have some fun, but above all who want to see, smell and taste the real Palermo. 

Here you find his website.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Street food: Palermo is n° 5 in Forbes' top 10 cities worldwide

Few weeks ago the famous magazine Forbes published a chart of the World's top 10 cities for Street Food and look who is in their fifth place? Obviously Palermo, the capital of Sicily and the undisputed reign of the most delicious and unique street food of all times. 

Unfortunately whoever wrote that bit on my city left out the renowned and, together with pane e panelle, most popular street food of Palermo: the spleen sandwich or... as we like to call it in Sicilian, "u pane ca' meusa" (pic on the left).

It's a lovely pagnotta (rounded bread) stuffed with pieces of fried cow spleen, lungs and other organs like windpipe. It is always served with a slice of lemon and you can have it either "schietto o maritato" which literally means single or married. In other words... plain or with cheese on top... usually caciocavallo or also fresh ricotta.

If you ask any person born in Palermo, they will tell you that these are the two most defining street food of Palermo, followed by all the rest (frittola, sfincione, potato croquettes, octopus salads, ect...)
Not trying the spleen sandwich in Palermo, when you look for street food, it's like not visiting the Colosseum when you go to Rome in search of Roman remainings. So... do believe in what Forbes said about Palermo being n. 1 city for Street Food in Europe and n. 5 in the world, but for more details about the food... just check with a local first! ;-))

If you want to have a look at the original piece, clic here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My grandma's beef skewers, easy and extremely tasty


Have you ever heard the word "spiedini"? We basically use it for something we eat on a wooden stick and are cooked on a skewer, barbecue or oven, that has the shape of a roll or a ball. We have them with beef, pork and even swordfish in Sicily. A couple of months ago, my mother and I prepared these lovely skewers, the way my grandma used to make them when I was little.

You only need mince meat, some sliced bread, olives, Sicilian cheese and little pieces of salami. Their are very easy and very tasty and everyone can add one or more ingredients according to their personal taste. Slices of bacon would be really nice as well, don't you think?
Usually in Sicily when we do something with minced meat, it is never beef on its own. First of all, we mix it with eggs (an egg every 250 gr of beef), salt, pepper, nutmeg, breadcrumb, grated parmisan and herbs. Mix all together and give it the shape of small meatballs, flattening them a little bit.

With this mix, that we generally call "tritato", we do pretty much anything from meatballs, to hamburgers,  from meatloaf to our spiedini.

Ingredients & preparation for 4 people

For the tritato meatballs: 
300 gr beef minced meat
100 gr. grated grana or pecorino
3-4 spoons of breadcrumb 
a pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 egg

For the rest: 12 big green olives - 16 slices of bread - 100 gr. primosale - 100 gr. Napoli salami
Once your meatballs are ready, cut the cheese and the salami in big cubes and the slices of bread in little squares. Now, you can start making your spiedini putting in each wooden stick a piece of bread, a meatball, an olive, a cube of salami, a cube of cheese, another olive, another meatball and finish with another piece of bread. If you want, you can also spread a veil of butter on the bread to make it creamier.

At this point, place your skewers on a tray in the oven at 200° C for about 20 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil at the bottom. The meatballs cook, the cheese melts, the bread grills, the salami becomes soft and the result is just a joy for your palate.

Perfect accompanied with a veggie side-dish to balance your lunch with the right amount of carbs, proteins and fibers. I would go with lemon artichokes and fresh tomato salad, because they both moderate the strong taste of the spiedini. They are perfect for a summer barbecue among friends... and don't forget to bring some red Sicilian wine. Enjoy!