August 30th, 2012 § § permalink
It’s tomato season! Hurry, start picking them from your garden or rush right over to the market & get yourself a bunch. You don’t want to miss out, they are extra good this year. Right now, tomatoes are at their peak, which means a juicier & sweeter fruit.
Salsa di pomodoro crudo, which is uncooked tomato sauce, is a perfect way to highlight their natural flavor. Because the tomatoes aren’t cooked, it’s important to use the ripest tomatoes you can find.
I diced & marinaded tomatoes for a few hours with garlic, olive oil, basil & salt to draw out the juices. The longer they marinade the better the flavor will be.
It’s one of my favorite dishes. It’s light, refreshing & easy.
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D I V A
August 23rd, 2012 § § permalink
The Arabs dominated Sicily in the 10th & 11th century, so it’s only natural that the Sicilian cuisine would be influenced. The use of saffron, citrus, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, apricots, pine nuts & couscous are some of the ingredients brought over from the Middle East & Northern Africa. Agrodolce sauce is one of the products that came out of these influences.
Agrodolce is a sweet & sour sauce traditionally made from mixing vinegar & sugar. Meat is then braised in the sauce, which gives it a briny, sweet flavor. When I was a kid, my mother made a dish similar to the one I posted here, except we just called it vinegar chicken…who knew?! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found out that it had a proper name.
Recently, J & I went to a restaurant that gave me a squeeze bottle of agrodolce sauce to put on the dish I had ordered. I became addicted to the stuff. I could have happily pushed the food aside & drank the agrodolce & been quite content. There was something about that briny, sweet flavor that took me over.
Since I’m focusing on Sicilian recipes this month, I HAD to make pollo all’agrodolce. I loved the way this dish turned out, but I had to ask my panel of taste testers; my husband & my son. My husband said, “This is the best chicken you’ve ever made.” That was great feedback, but he says that about “almost” everything I make. My son was the true test. He looked up at me with a smile & a nod; I knew at that point “I done good.”
D I V A
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August 16th, 2012 § § permalink
Every Southern Italian & Italian American family, has some version of this dish in their repertoire. When I was a kid, walking home from mass on a Sunday morning, you can smell the frying of meatballs & tomato sauce simmering. Since I grew up in a primarily Italian neighborhood, these smells came from every house. By the time I got home, I was starving. As soon as I walked through the door, I would head straight for a piece of crusty bread & dip it right into the pot, to soak up the sauce…YUMMY.
It was a Sunday ritual to have pasta. Along with the pasta, my mother would ALWAYS make meatballs, but sometimes farsumagru as well. Farsumagru is a typical Sicilian dish. It’s meat rolled & stuffed with hardboiled eggs. It’s then simmered in a red wine sauce. When the meat is cut, you can see the eggs inside.
In Diva’s version, I don’t use hard boiled eggs, I use a thin layer of egg crepe (omelet). I put the egg on top of the meat, & begin layering other ingredients. I next put a layer of provolone cheese, thinly sliced pancetta & the star of the show; a link of Italian sausage, which is seen when the meat is cut. For the sauce, I saute onions, carrots, celery & tomatoes; I then add red wine & let the meat simmer in the sauce for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before it’s done, I add raisins, capers, & pine nuts. I love serving farsumagru with pasta for a hearty meal along with a big glass of full bodied Italian red wine..and oh yeah, you can’t forget the bread!
I’m glad we have some left over. I’m going to put some farsumagru between 2 slices of crusty bread, slather it with sauce & call it lunch.
D I V A
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August 8th, 2012 § § permalink
“Ora verde della Sicilia,” means “green gold of Sicily.” This expression is referring to the Sicilian pistachio. These nuts grow well in the volcanic soil due to Mt. Etna. The production of Pistachios in Sicily have tripled since WWII, they’re mostly grown in the town of Bronte. They are very proud of these little hard shelled nuts, so much so, that they have a festival dedicated to them every September.
Sicilian pistachios are slightly different, than what we get here in the states. Their nuts are more of an oval shape, have a slightly greener color & a stronger taste. They are generally used for desserts, but you can find them in savory dishes, as in the case of my pesto.
In my Sicilian pesto, I wanted to highlight the flavor & texture of the nut. The pesto is mostly pistachios, some oil & mint. To keep some of the texture, I left the nuts somewhat chunky. The addition of the raisins came after I had mixed the pesto into the pasta. It was great but I felt like it could do more. I kept thinking sweetness. I don’t really know why, it’s just what my taste buds were telling me. I’m glad I listened to them, the raisins took the dish to another level of deliciousness.
D I V A
August 8th, 2012 § § permalink
About 4 years ago, we went to Sicily with 3 other families. We thought renting a house would be best, since there were many of us…so the search was on. It was a challenge trying to find a villa that could accommodate all 16 of us. One day, our search ended when I found an old castle, close to the town of Messina. It had everything we were looking for; space, location & a POOL. It was perfect. Everyone agreed this was the place.
The castle was gated off, with donkeys & roosters roaming the property. In the house, the walls were lined with animal heads & marble bust of men who had eyes that followed you, as you walked by. The place creeped me out! The kids thought it was cool, but some of us swore it was haunted. In our bedroom, there was a baby’s crib with a large painting of a little Victorian girl hung over it. Why is it that anything Victorian is spooky? Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. There were lots of little weird things about the house, Magdalena the housekeeper was one. Every time we needed her, we had to open the back door & scream her name. Out of nowhere she would appear, like a phantom.
The town where the house was located, was tiny, & most definitely not a tourist attraction. One day the “guys” decided to explore the town to find a restaurant where we could have dinner. 3 hours later, they strolled in, smelling of booze & pizza. During their little adventure, they met Pete. Pete is the owner of a restaurant close to the castle called “Pete’s American Place.” Pete treated them like long lost friends. He sat them down to chat, while the wine kept flowing.
Pete was born in this little town & moved to the States when he was a young boy. He would spend his summers back in Sicily with family. He loved the simple life of the Sicilian people & dreamed of going back. He eventually did & opened “Pete’s American Place.” In the States, Pete lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey, about 20 miles from where we live. What are the chances of this happening? We traveled half way around the world to find a restaurant that’s owned by a fellow New Jerseyan. It goes to show how small the world actually is!
That night we went to see Pete. Across from the restaurant was a small piazza over looking the water. There were kids playing & eating Pete’s homemade gelato, that was to die for. Old women dressed all in black were chatting, while the men strolled around with their hands clasped behind their backs & small handkerchiefs tied around their necks; like my grandfather use to do.
Pete set up a long table with the water in front of us & a small church behind. The amber glow of the street lights gave the piazza a warm, welcoming feel. As for the food, we left the ordering to Pete. He sent out dish after dish of food, plenty of wine & his incredible homemade gelato & granita. We sat in the piazza for hours, talking & laughing with Pete & his family. That night was “one” of the many highlights of our trip.
Before we left for Sicily, one of our friends contacted a college buddy who had moved to the Island of Lipardi. Lipardi is part of a string of islands off the coast of Sicily, known as the Aeolian Islands. He arranged a boat to pick us up at the port in Messina, to take us exploring on the Tyrrhenian Sea. We were taken to the “must see” islands of Lipardi, Volcana, Salina & Panerea.
There are 2 active volcanos that are part of the Aeolian Island, Stromboli & Volcana. At the end of our second day on the water, we went to the island of Volcana to have dinner. When we left the restaurant it was dark, very dark; there were no street lights. We couldn’t see our hands in front of us. People were walking with flashlights. We all whipped out our cel phones so we could see where we were going. I was afraid that one of us would fall into the sea! The kids thought it was fun & yet again, I was creeped out!
When we finally got to the port, we hopped into the boat ready to go back to our haunted castle. The captain of the boat wanted to show us the other side of the island before we headed out. When we arrived, he turned off the engine & told us to look up. We were amazed, excited & scared at the same time. There was lava spewing out the top of the volcano & running down it’s sides. We were so close, it seemed as though we could reach up & touch the hot liquid. Every time it erupted, we all screamed & clapped at the spectacular show. The hot lava lit up the pitch black sky, like fire works on the Fourth of July. It was truly the most AWESOME thing I’ve ever witnessed. I thinks, it’s safe to say we ALL felt that way.
I always talk about moments during my travels that,”move me”. Those moments when I’m touched by the sights, sounds & overwhelming emotional feelings I get from a situation. Seeing the volcano erupt in front of us, is on the top of my list. Four years later, our families are still talking about Sicily being their favorite vacation. I’m really happy to have had this unbelievable experience with not only our kids, but also with our closest friends. It’s a memory & bond that all of us will have together; forever.
D I V A
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August 2nd, 2012 § § permalink
It’s a cookie, it’s a breadstick, it’s a biscuit…no, it’s tarelli! Tarelli are Italian treats that are made from dough of olive oil, white wine, flour & your choice of spices. The dough is then rolled into a rope & the ends are twisted or pinched together to form a circle. These Italian treats wear many faces. They can be sweet or savory; hard or soft; baked or fried. The ones I posted here are my favorite savory biscuit. (I’m calling them a biscuit, because they are the baked softer type.)
A few weeks ago, my husband J & I were in Venice. We stayed at this interesting hotel which was once the Palazzo of Giovanni Agnelli, the founder of Fiat. It’s now a chic hotel called Palazzini Grassi. When we first arrived, our room wasn’t ready, so we were treated to a cocktail, while we waited. Along with our drinks, they served us tarelli for a nibble. I couldn’t stop eating them. They were flaky & peppery. From that point on, I wanted to keep going to the hotel lounge for these biscuits. I wanted to eat all I could before we left Venice…then I remembered Cindy’s tarelli!
Cindy is a good friend of mine, who makes tarelli similar to the ones they served in the hotel.
She always has a batch on hand, for her kids to snack on. What happened to cookies & milk? I guess this is the type of snacks you have when your dad is a chef/owner of 2 Italian restaurants.
When we got home, I broke down & asked Cindy for her recipe. Of course, she was kind enough to share; after all that’s what friends are for. Now I to, can have these tasty little treats on hand to snack on at my house. Thanks Cindy!
D I V A
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