Sunday, January 25, 2015

Caponata under attack, threats by stock cubes

Definetely there is no peace for Sicilian cuisine these days. Soon after the tweet about arancini, we had to witness a second attempt to kill another extraordinary and yet historical dish from Palermo: the CAPONATA. 

The caponata, for those who don’t remember, is a divine dish based on a sweet and sour sauce made of vinegar, olive oil and sugar. The more popular is the one with aubergines/eggplants, but there are also versions with carrots, green apples (pic above) and artichokes which I personally tried.

Responsible for this attack on the heart of Sicilian food is an advert on national television in which two women that are supposed to be from Palermo (one has a fake accent though) prepare the caponata using stock cubes for broth. The stock is produced by a well-known Italian company which I obviously won’t name. So... the spontaneous question that come to our minds simply is: Why? What stock cubes has to do with such a unique dish? 

These questions so far have got no answers, apart from the unsuccessful attempt that the company made to explain that they only wanted to propose a new version of our dish. With stock cubes? Seriously? Well done marketing department!!!

Let me explain how it works.
Sicilians are unique people. We can bear to live with corruption, organised crime, horrible traffic, inefficient burocracy and dirty streets, but nobody can touch our food. Nobody! 

And infact 48 hours after the regrettable tv advert, people started to rise up with rage and indignation in defense of this traditional dish, creating Facebook pages with titles like "Don't profane the Sicilian caponata!" and ashtag like #savecaponata, swearing that they would start boycotting the product. Some articles I read were making fun of the company, some others were asking it to remove the advert from been broadcasted again.

Now… on an even more serious note that this… I just want to add my thought.
There are lots of Sicilian people (professional chefs, food lovers and bloggers like me) that every single day bust their ass to preserve our recipes and our tradition over the years, just like our mothers and grandmothers taught us,
and in 2 minutes of bad publicity everything falls apart because these guys decided that want to put some stock in the caponata? What the hell were they thinking? Maybe tomorrow some other genius wakes up and says that have a new version of the Sicilian Cassata made of peanut butter and Philadelphia cheese?

I am sorry but this is wrong. I have been telling it for ages… you don’t mess up with Sicilian food or... you gonna be in trouble. 

Spread the word.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Expo Milan 2015 and the tweet about "arancinI"

The real traditional Sicilian "Arancina alla carne"

What a storm! It's the case of the day. Seriously, since yesterday in Palermo everyone is talking about the tweet posted by the Official Expo Milan 2015. They basically tweeted a version of the arancine recipe, made in Eastern Sicily. Apparently a real catastrophe not only because they present this food stuffed with hard-boiled eggs but even worse because they call them arancinI, with the masculine genre. What a tragedy!!!

Why? What does this exactly mean? I am going to get to the point in a second.

The Arancini from Eastern Sicily tweeted by Expo Milan 2015

The most famous blog from Palermo  
Rosalio published an article about it, Street Palermo Tour wrote about it on Facebook, a friend of mine even sent me an email about it. Everyone had something to say... or better said something to complain. We only need a comment from the mayor of the capital, Leoluca Orlando and the picture will be complete!

I'll explain to you how things work, once and for all. 

Traditional Sicilian "Arancina al burro"
From our point of view, and when I say "our" I mean us Western Sicilians and "Palermitans" in particular, this comes as a real unhappy tweet because the classical arancine that you find all year around in bars are two types: alla carne (with mince meat and peas like the top pic) and al burro (ham and cheese, like the pic here on the left.)

As I always try to explain in my blog though, Sicily is a big island, we have 9 provinces and "gastronomically speaking" (please allow me this term), there are lots of differencies and versions for the same dish. In eastern Sicily they put hard-boiled eggs apparently in a lot of dishes, included the poor arancine. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr...

What else? Oh yes,... "linguistically speaking" I am warning you: this debate will never ever end. In Palermo and western Sicily we call them arancinA/arancinE, femenine, because the word comes from the way we call the fruit arancia (Engl. orange). They remind us of the oranges because they are rounded and as golden as the fruit, which are also another typical product of our beautiful land. 

The rest of Sicily stubbornly keeps calling them with the masculine arancinO/arancinI, which makes no sense. To make it worse in the last two decades the writer Andrea Camilleri and the famous tv show Inspector Montalbano, set in the southern province of Ragusa, contributed to spread the word in the masculine genre... and now the tweet from the Official Expo is doing it again. It's unhappy because it passes off that recipe as the original one, which is obviously NOT. And that's why the storm, the case, the catastrophe.

Never forget how important is food for us Sicilians!

It's vital because it's ONE of the few certainties that we have in life. We know that panelle are flat, cazzili are oval, arancine are golden rounded balls, cannoli are filled with ricotta cream. These are certainties for us. That's why I am telling you one more time: this debate will never ever end. It is just getting started!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sicilian pork loin cooked with golden apples

Have you ever tried the famous "maialino nero dei Nebrodi"? It is a breed of black pork that comes from the Sicilian mountain chain of Nebrodi.

It is a delicate and tender kind of pork meat that we usually prepare for festivities or special occasions and can be cooked in different ways. The recipe that I want to suggest today is one of my all times favourite and is with golden apples. The combination is just sublime and you will eventually wonder why you didn't discover this dish a long time ago. 

Ingredients & Preparation for 4 people:

Pork loin (500 gr)
3-4 golden apples
half of a medium white onion
a glass of white wine 
salt & pepper
100 ml olive oil
a mix of dried herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary)
2 glasses of water

1. Start off by peeling the onion and the apples and cutting them in slices.
2. In a pan with high rims or a specific pot for meat (like the one in the pic above) pour a drizzle of oil and sautè on a medium heat the pork on all sides until is golden brown adding salt and pepper. Once is done place it on a dish.
3. In the same pan and same sauce (the mix of olive oil and juice coming out of the meat) cook the onion and the apples slices on a lower heat. Add some salt, the pinch of herbs mix and the glass of wine.

4. After the first 5 minutes add the water and continue stirring from time to time.

5.  Re-place the pork in the pot together with the apples and let it cook with the lid on a very low heat for around 20-25 minutes. After 10 minutes the loin must be turn on the other side.
6. Put the meat aside, cut it in thin slices of about 2 cm each and place them on a serving dish.

7. If the mix left in the pot is too watery just reduce it on a higher heat for few minutes, then place it on the pork slices. The mix of onions and apples can also be blended with a hand mixer or blender, the result will be a more homogenous sauce, but I personally prefer taste the pieces of apples together with the pork. Up to you!
8. Serve the dish while still hot with some bread like ciabatta roll. You will polish every single bit of it. Enjoy!