Tuesday, December 5, 2017

10 days of Sicilian food & culture in Palermo for the 3rd edition of the Street Food Fest


Are you ready for a complete full immersion of Sicilian Street Food? Well... you'd better be because is coming up in few days a Christmas edition of the Sicilian Street Food Festival in the heart of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, from the 7th until the 17th of December. 

It is going to be a true celebration of food not only from our island but also from different countries like Uk, Thailand, North Africa, Usa as well as other parts of Italy to have a more international atmosphere and a bigger variety of stalls.

The designated area will be in the so-called lower "CASSARO" which is the area that stretches from via Roma down to the gorgeous Piazza Marina in the oldest part of the city.

During the whole period people will be able to listen to live music events, attend cooking shows and of course taste any type of street food. There will be chances to learn more about Sicilian tradition and cultural identity. Street food is a massive part of Sicilian people and its roots are quite old.

Besides, thanks to an Association named "Terra d'amare", guided tours will be available for tourists and locals (why not?), anyone that wants to discover the beauties of the city: ancient monuments and open-air markets, churches and historical buildings, not to mention charming hidden corners.

So... what are you waiting for? Don't you want to have a bite of the succulent Sicilian food and culture? Immerse yourself in this amazing world of diverse and unique smells, colors, textures, flavors and stimulating cultural outlooks.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Homemade little gifts for your Christmas or Secret Santa? Here some ideas!


December has definitely arrived: cold, a bit wet but always extremely charming. Going out in December is so beautiful as you get to see Christmas decorations in the shops and all those colorful lights everywhere. In some kind of magical way Christmas fills your heart with joy and hope and lifts up your spirit... or ... well, at least this is what happens to me every year.

But there is also the negative consumistic aspect: the stress kicks in, too many things to juggle, presents to buy, the festivity to organise, the big family lunch, and maybe at work they even asked you to organise the Secret Santa? 


Well,... sometimes all we need is a good organisation and a couple of fresh ideas to avoid being swallowed by the crazy Christmas vortex.


I thought I might share with you some ideas of lovely and thoughtful little presents I prepared for some friends and colleagues. 

If you want to give something really nice but personal, that shows how much you care, then just go for some homemade delicacy: some cookies for example, your favorite jam or chutney, the Sicilian pistachios pesto, just to name a few.



Homemade? Yes! I know what you are thinking.

"I don't have time, I am not great a cooking", but listen to me first. 
Let's say you have few close friends and a couple of colleagues to whom you want to give something for Christmas.

Instead of rushing from a shop to another, trying to save as much money as possible, just plan few hours in the kitchen.

In 2 or 3 hours you can either make a jam or prepare cookies for at least 8 people. You save lots of money and you dedicate the time to all of them at the same time! Isn't it great?

Of course if you have more time you can even decorate your biscuits as much as you like and let your creativity prevails. It took me only 2 hours and a half to prepare all the cookies and do the packaging as well, and the homemade touch, I am telling you, it is so appreciated!

 

If you feel like is not enough in some cases, you can always combine one of those things with another little gift like a Christmasy mug or a kitchen towel or glove, (or all of them), just like it shown in the pic on the left and below.

In the first one I filled this lovely mug with the cookies.  



These kitchen towels are from 'Penelope' textile shop, Palermo - Italy




In the second one I wrapped the packet around the kitchen towel, making sure it looked pretty. 



And why not add a nice glittery card too?!

 

In the third one I prepared the pesto of pistachios because I know one particular friend of mine is crazy about it. I bought this cute little jar, filled it with the pesto and give it to her with a cute red ribbon. 

She absolutely loved it, because it took her by surprise. She definitely did not expect that!


So, ...although I know this festivity period is overwhelming and sometimes we get caught up in the thousands of things that we have to do, try to enjoy its charme and its profound meaning. Do not stress and do not despair, because the way I see it, Christmas is not about making expensive gifts, it's about showing that we care and we think of others as much as we think of ourselves.

We all agree then? Let's plan few hours ahead in our Calendar to prepare something genuine and full of love. Something special for our special loved ones. It is incredibly worth it!

Enjoy!








Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Scacce ragusane, delicious food from the deep south of Sicily


Have you ever heard of the famous "scacce ragusane" or the "schiacciata modicana"? I am talking about the beautiful Ragusashire, where Ragusa and Modica are situated, two beautiful jewels in the deepest south of the triangular island. To clarify even more is the area where famous Inspector Montalbano lives and where curious tourists can check out his home.

My nonna Nuccia (my nana) grew up in the town of Modica and she loved this typical "schiacciata", which in Sicilian is called scaccia, made with basic local ingredients, but still incredibly tasty and delicious!

You can find different fillings and shapes, but the most ancient and traditional one is filled with tomato sauce and local onion (the perfect one would be the type from Giarratana), while the other one is tomato sauce and the typical local cheese: caciocavallo ragusano.

The dough is very simple and it is rolled out so thinly that you do different layers of the pastry before baking it in the oven.  

Bear in mind that this is a traditional recipe of the Ragusa province (where Modica is also part of), so you won't be able to find it in any other parts of the island.


Ingredients and preparation for 4 scacce:
  • Flour gr 500

  • Water ml 250
  • Brewer's yeast gr 30 (2 blocks)
  • Extra virgin olive oil 75-80 ml
  • Fine salt: 2 teaspoons



    1. Warm up half of the water in a glass or in a small bowl (125 ml) and put the brewer's yeast inside. With a teaspoon gently stir until it is all melted.

    2.
    Place the flour on the kitchen counter (or in a large bowl) and make a hole in the middle, then mix the salt and the oil, then start pouring the water with the yeast little by little.

    3. Knead the dough until is smooth and homogenous, then separate it in blocks of about 350 gr and let them rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes.

    4. Once the dough is soft and bigger, it needs to be rolled out very thinly.
    Photo source: blog.giallozafferano.it/mastercheffa
    5. At this point you can stuff the schiacciata with the filling of your choice, that you had prepared before. Careful on how you fold the pastry because has to be done exactly like this pic on the right
  •  
  • The two parts has to be folded like a book (pic 2) and the final width of the folded scaccia has to be roughly 8 cm. (pic 3)
6. Brush the top part with olive oil or with a beaten egg. Place the schiacchiata on an oiled oven tray (or with some baking paper) and bake at 200°. They will be ready as soon as they turn into a golden brown color.

For the fillings:

As I said, the most traditional ones are with tomato sauce and matured caciocavallo cheese or tomato sauce and onion, also called by the locals "cipuddata" (ital. Cipollata), but in our family we have always made a combination of those three ingredients.  

This is the perfect match as the onion has a sweet gentle taste while the caciocavallo is salty and sharp, so they balance each other out perfectly. 
 


Cipuddata:
Roughly chop the onion and let it fry in a pan with a drizzle of oil for 10 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and season it as usual with salt, pepper, nutmet, sugar and fresh basil.

Once the sauce is ready let it cool and cut the caciocavallo in cubes (pic on the right), then add it to the passata.
Once is ready place the condiment of your choice on the dough and fold it as shown in the pic up above.

Other fillings are tomato sauce and fried aubergine, ricotta and spinach or, ricotta and local sausages. Scacce are ideal for picnics, for friends get-together at home, or for your kids to take to school. It's the simple flavors that makes it exquisite and no matter which one you choose the result will be absolutely delicious!!! 

Enjoy!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Most sought-after Sicilian delicacy? The pistachios pesto!

 

Have you ever heard of the pistachios pesto from Bronte? The pistachios pesto is a Sicilian delicacy that can go with pasta as sauce combined with other ingredients, as well as on bruschettas, pizzas, and even second dishes. 

As Eastern Sicily is the land of pistachios there are many recipes that have this amazing colorful nut especially in the provinces of Catania and Siracusa. The quality of the Bronte's nut, also called the green gold, is renowned worldwide and considered unique, if you woud like to read more about this amazing Sicilian product click HERE.

Few weeks ago my mum gave me some grounded pistachios because she knows how much I love it. She thought it to be used in a cake, as I love to bake especially in this period of the year when the cold starts kicking in.

It's the November feeling, as I call it, that feeling that makes you wanna stay inside, all warm and cosy, that makes you wanna cook something special despite the laziness, while you watch a funny movie on tv.
 


And that is exactly what I did, but I didn't bake a cake this time, I decided to go for the pesto instead, as I had never tried the homemade version before. And I have to say I made the right decision, as I was extremely happy with the result.

The recipe is incredibly easy to make and tastes fabulous!


Ingredients & Preparation for 4 people:

200 gr grounded pistachios from Bronte, Ct (or any others you have)

3 tbs grated Grana or Parmisan cheese
5 large leaves of fresh basil
30 gr pine nuts
1 clove of garlic (*Optional but I recommend it)
A pinch of salt & pepper
8 tbs e.v.o (extra virgin olive oil)

The preparation could not be simpler: put all the ingredients in the blender (or a mixer bowl) and start to drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth, creamy and oily.

Try to adjust with salt and pepper and if you think that the pesto is still too thick you can add some more olive oil and/or add a spoon of creamy cheese of your choice, like philadelphia or ricotta cheese to give it a more smoother creamier texture. Not too much though, as you don't really want to ovepower the delicate pistachios taste. Everything needs to be balanced! 



*NOTE:

Please keep in mind that if you are going to use the pesto for your pasta sauce, you will also add some hot pasta water so definitely better to keep it a little more thicker than too watery. Here on the left you can see the right consistency.

Keep it in the fridge for not more than 3 days.


Sooo let's go ladies and gents... what are you waiting for? Are you nut about the pistachio nut like me? If the answer is yes, you have to try this gorgeous recipe and let me know how it goes... in the meantime I am gonna toast some bread for my bruschetta ;)

To read some other recipes with this lovely Sicilian product click HERE.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bay leaves tea, my grandma's remedies against stomachache


Have you ever tried a bay leaves tea? It is one of the most exquisite flavored herbal tea,  and it has incredible benefits too.

Since the Greeks and the Romans bay has been symbol of glory, peace and protection. The leaves have antioxidant, digestive and anti-cancer properties. Besides, the bay tree is an evergreen, so you can find the leaves all year around.


It's perfect to help you digest if you had a big lunch and you feel too full, great when you have an upset stomach. When I was a child and I had stomachache, for example, both my mum and my grandma would rely on this incredible as well as easy to make tea to help me get through the pain.


As the pictures show, all you are going to need is: 2 bay leaves and a big chunk of lemoz zest.

How to prepare it - Rinse the leaves and the lemon under running water, then turn the heat on.

In a small pot or a normal kettle (not the electric one) pour some water with these two ingredients together. Let it boil for 7-8 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it set for another few minutes. When you pour it into a cup, it should be very yellow in color.

You can have it plain or add a small teaspoon of sugar. That is a personal choice.

Try this exceptional herbal tea and you will love it!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Any food lovers looking for a great holiday in Sicily? Read on!

The "Venus Castle" situated on the rock in Erice (Tp).

Are you a crazy foodie that love to try new dishes and new cuisines? Would you like to plan a visit to Sicily to enjoy the sea, the sun and the renowned food? Are you passionate about wine tasting and want to find out more?

I have got the answer to your questions and is called "Enogastronomic Tour". It's, hands down, the best deal for those who want to enjoy a typical holiday visiting historical cities without leaving out the passion for food and wine.


In the province of Trapani this tour is organised by the Hotel GranVeliero with a one week vacation in amazing places full of culture and history like Marsala, Palermo, Erice and San Vito Lo Capo with its amazing beaches

One of the most famous Sicilian dishes: sarde a beccafico
You will stay in a comfortable hotel (rooms with bathroom, wi-fi, and breakfast included) and you will learn about the local cuisine and the ingredients, experience the open food market and cook new recipes with a professional Sicilian chef. On the sightseeing side there will be an English guide that will accompany the group during every excursion.

In a nutshell it's going to be an amazing holiday full of colors, smells, emotions and flavors. Something unforgettable... just like Sicily.
For more details or enquiries drop me an email at siciliancuisine@gmail.com

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sicilian king prawns in breadcrumb, paired with Sauvignon Blanc

 

Are you a shellfish lover? If the answer is a big fat YES than you will be absolutely captivated by this simple but gorgeous Sicilian recipe with king prawns.

When I was a child, I remember my mum could not make it very often, considering it was six of us at home and prawns are usually quite expensive, so those rare occasions in which she prepared this scrumptious and luxurious dish it was absolutely a feast for us!

Ingredients and Preparation for 2 people:
200 gr king prawns - 6 ts breadcrumb - 1 lemon - green olives (around 12) - a small bunch of fresh mint (around 12 mint leaves) - salt & pepper - extra virgin olive oil.

FIRST THING FIRST: go to your trusted fishmonger and ask for 200 gr of the freshest king prawns or even shrimps, already without the shell. The bigger and more meaty they are, the better. Besides, some fishmongers in Sicily will get rid of the shell if you ask him nicely, so you don't have the hassle to do that once you get home.

Put your prawns in the fridge while preparing the seasoning and the breadcrumb. In a medium bowl put 6 big tablespoons of breadcrumb. In a  little bowl mix some extra virgin olive oil with half lemon juice and a big pinch of salt (also a tiny pinch of black pepper if you like it).

Chop the fresh mint leaves very thinly and add them in the juice which we call "marinata", then pour the marinata in the breadcrumb and mix it well all together. Only in the end add the green olives also cut in small pieces. 

 
Once this mix is ready turn on your oven at 180° and prepare an oven tray with a drizzle of oil at the bottom, where you are going to place the shellfish.

Immerse every single prawn in the seasoned breadcrumb, making sure is covered in breadcrumb on both sides, than place them one after another on your oven tin, just like shown in the pic here on the left. When you have finished pour the remaining breadcrumb on top of the prawns and cook in the oven for around 10-12 minutes.

 
Serve warm with the remaning half lemon on the side accompanied by something simple that will perfectly match with the flavors of mint and lemon that will stand out together with the fish. Something like rocket or mushrooms.




The result will be a superlative second dish that you will dream for many many nights to come.


Pairings...
To make it even more unforgettable you can pair this dish with one of the most scented and structured Sicilian white wine: the Mandrarossa Urra di Mare DOC, a 100% Sauvignon Blanc cultivated in Menfi (AG), southwestern Sicily, in a small district of the village closed to a Natual Reserve that is called precisely Urra di Mare.



This fabulous wine is characterised by fruity notes of apricots and grapefruit, but also aromatic herbs like basil and mint and its colour is yellow changing  into gold.

The taste is fresh but persistent in the mouth, which makes it ideal for shellfish dishes or grilled fish recipes.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Mr. Sirah from the Mandrarossa family, best friend ever... I mean wine!


A real friend never lets you down, especially during hard times. Right?
The other night it was pouring down heavily, my train was delayed and when I finally got back home I was exhausted. I had one of those days in which you don't stop for a second, and when you can finally relax, lie on the sofa and watch some telly, your brain just won't let you, because is still busy thinking a gazillion things.

I decided I needed a good friend to keep me company, one of the few that never disappoint you because they are truthful and sincere, so I went for my massive cellar (a tiny cabinet in the kitchen...) and uncorked one of my favorite Sicilian wines, the Mandrarossa Syrah from Cantine Settesoli, Menfi (AG).
Photo source: mandrarossa.it


The Syrah cultivated in
this part of Sicily (south-west/Agrigento province), also known as Shiraz, is unique and definitely a superb product.

Essentially for two reasons: the sandy soil where the grapes grow and the perfect weather that gives the wine a fruity, tasty but delicate flavor.





It is a quite structured wine with a red intense color and purple tinges and
notes of figs, lavender and elderflower. 

It can be used as a "mono-cultivar" (100% sirah) or blended with Nero d'Avola.

Best served at room temperature (16-18 degrees).
 


The perfect pairing for this red are dishes like grilled vegetables, semi-matured cheese and the traditional macco di fave, the fava bean mash.

As I was ready to eat, I looked outside the window and the rain had stopped. I could see the light of the moon. I switched on the heating, cut a slice of bread, had some grilled aubergine with cheese and poured myself a glass of this lovely wine, and I soon felt warm and reassured.

Never underestimate what a good friend can do for you.