Sicilian cooking is not just opulence and extravagance. This dish of chards with tomatoes, garlic and peperoncino (chili pepper) is a good example of cucina povera: a handful of a few basic, cheap ingredients delivers a hugely satisfying contorno di verdura (vegetable side dish). “Giri” is how chards are named in the dialect of Palermo and “Assassunare” derives from the French “Assaisonner” which means “to season”: in Sicilian culinary terms when something has been sautéed in oil and garlic, to get impregnated with that lovely flavor, they say it has been “assassunatu”.
Caponata is another hallmark of Sicilian cooking: a sweet and sour dish of deep fried aubergines and celery, simmered in tomato sauce, with sultanas, olives, capers, bitter chocolate and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or almonds: it id munificent and delicious, tasting exotic and complex. Continue reading
Noto is a small, beautiful provincial town in South-east Sicily, where every street, every piazza, every facade, every balcony is an ode to the baroque and its love of spectacle, dynamism and pomp. Everything outside and inside is opulent and decorated to excess – horror vacui, fear of emptiness.
The same fancifulness and richness can be found in many Sicilian dishes, cassata first of all. Continue reading
In her last book, even the arch-traditionalist Marcella Hazan said that making egg pasta dough in the food processor is fine. She was finally acknowledging what home cooks and restaurant chefs had probably been doing for a long time, but it was also testament to her intelligence: food and cooking must evolve to stay alive. It would be foolish to ignore that cooking is an ever changing reality that resists being imprisoned in dogmas: we do not eat, cook or think about food one year for the other.
As much as I love traditions and traditional food, I am also very open to “new ways” in the kitchen, as long as they make my life easier and/or my food better. The pressure cooker is a good example. Continue reading
Crudaiola is one of the most delectable and simplest Summer sauces for pasta or rice. Diced fresh tomatoes, plenty of basil, a little garlic, a generous glug of olive oil and a pinch salt – a delicious no-brainer. Actually, there is one more crucial ingredient the cook must not forget: time. For the magic to happen, crudaiola must be made in advance, the early morning for lunch, for instance. During this time, the ingredients interact with each other and the sauce is transformed from good to excellent. Continue reading