Sfincione is the pizza of Sicily: contrary to its Neapolitan counterpart, which is generally round, sold in individual portions, with a thick cornicione, a thin centre and not too much topping, sfincione is generally baked in large trays and sold cut up in hefty portions (even if there are also small, individual sfincioni, called sfincionelli, approximately 300 g each); it is quite thick all over, with a soft and pillowy dough (sometimes a little lard is added to the dough, which I greatly approve of) and it is laden with toppings. It is another thing altogether and something I urge you to explore – sfincione lends itself to domestic home baking much better than Neapolitan pizza. Continue reading
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”.
Giardiniera is the classic Italian mix of assorted, pickled vegetables, preserved either in vinegar or in extra virgin olive oil. It is traditionally made in late spring and summer, when lots of good vegetables are at their best and abundant- giardiniera being a clever way of preserving the bounty from the vegetable patch (orto, in Italian). It is generally used as an antipasto, to accompany salumi (charcuterie) but it also goes well with lesso (mixed boiled meat) and it can be used in panini (sandwiches).
This one here is slightly different though: it is a mix of summer vegetables cooked in a thick, unctuous, sour-sweet tomato sauce, flavoured with bay leaves and cloves – a sort of Italian chutney, beautiful to look at and to eat. Continue reading