Sunday, October 30, 2016

All Souls Day and the traditional Sicilian "cannistru ri morti!"

Have you ever heard the Italian expression "canestro dei morti"? And what about the Sicilian "u' cannistru ri morti"? Maybe from your grandmother or grandfather?

The word "canestro" means basket and nothing is more typical in Sicily, and in particular in the city of Palermo, than this traditional basket prepared for the kids on the night between the 1st and the 2n of November. Unfortunately nowadays less and less families keep this tradition alive but is still important to remember it for our future generations.

In a previous post I had already talked about the 2 days celebration with which we start the month of November: the 1st is the All Saints Day and the 2nd is the Commemoration of our Dear Ones who died. On the 1st people go to church, on the 2nd they usually go to the cemetery. We have the Frutta di Martorana and the Sugar dolls (i pupi di zucchero). 

But there is more...

Small version of the Taralli cookies, traditionally
placed in the basket for the kids on November 2nd.

In our tradition, on the 2nd of November children used to receive a present. It was basically a basket (u' cannistru) full of cookies, sweets and sometimes toys. 

Why? Well... they were told that these presents were coming from the loving dead relatives that, even though departed, still cared about them and loved them, so they were making feeling their presents through this basket, whose name "basket of the departed" (cesto dei morti) is self-explanatory.

In the basket there was the delicious and colorful Frutta di Martorana.

But what else was there? Usually some traditional local cookies prepared only for this occasion: taralli, reginelle, tetù and catalani (which you can see in the two pics below).

Originally these cookies were prepared in all the bakeries (panifici), as it was a very big deal for all the families; and the tetù e catalani which are mixed in colours, used to be prepared with a mix of all the left over cookies. Probably in some villages or small towns of Sicily they still make it in this simple way.

Finally, in the basket, you can also find the so called "ossa di morto", (which literally means dead bones), another kind of biscuits who is quite hard, as the name suggests. 

Macabre? Well, as you can see we are even more creative that the whole Halloween theme, we even got to eat the symbol of the bones of our dear dead ones!!!

So... if you happen to be in Sicily in this period, remember this significant tradition, try the cookies, have some Martorana, ..... you definitely don't wanna miss out!

See also another typical recipe of this festivity here: the Rame di Napoli.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tuna, potatoes and... voilà: you've got your "fish"!

Have you ever heard of the "pesce finto"? This typical southern recipe, whose name literally means fake fish, is a very quick one and so delicious!

You only need some tuna and some boiled potatoes to make the "fish", and few more vegs for decoration. Even though tuna and potatoes are two cheap ingredients, you will prepare something lovely and colorful that looks really impressive. 

I remember when I was a kid, my mum used to prepare it for dinner during summer, in particular those evenings when, desperate, she hadn't had any time to prepare something in advance. And not only this dish is incredibly easy to make, but it's also great fun when it comes to the decoration part, so you can plan it in advance, as something you want to do with your children.
You can go from a very simple one to a more elaborated one. It's only up to you and how much you want to exercise your creativity!

Ingredients and Preparation for 4 people:
2 - 3 tuna cans of 225 gr. (better if in sunflower oil)
3 medium/large sized potatoes
salt & pepper
<<Decor is totally on you!>>

Infact you can put anything you like on top: carrots, any pickles, fresh or dried tomatoes, olives, capers, bell peppers, lemon zest, even sliced hard-boiled eggs if you like them!

All you have to do is: rinse and boil the potatoes with the skin in salted water (use the type you would use for your mash). Let them cool down, then remove the skin and place them in a large bowl. Adjust with salt and pepper.
Add the tuna, carefully eliminating the exceeding oil as soon as you open the cans and with a fork mix the two ingredients all together until they become a thick and compact paste.

Now the fun part starts! 

The idea is obviously to make it look like a real fish, both in shape and decoration, like it's shown in the main pic above, (for example the gherkins pickles are perfect to make the fish scales, I coudn't use them because when I checked in the fridge they were gone already), but if you are in a hurry and don't really have too much time, you can also place it on a normal dish, like here on the right.

Just use your creativity with what you find in your fridge, then leave it there to cool for minimum half an hour or to make it quicker place it in the freezer for 20, 25 minutes.

NOTE - This dish is fabulous when you want to organise a party or a dinner with friends.

It's the perfect starter because: it's tasty and quite light, not complicated to make and everyone welcomes it a big deal because of the colors and the amazing presentation. You can prepare it hours in advance, stick it in the fridge
and forget about it until is time to eat.

Some people also add some mayo onto the decoration, as it is a perfect match with both the ingredients.
Serve it with rustic bread or "filoni", as we call them, or instead, with some different types of crackers. It will be gone in a flash! 

Enjoy! :-)