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”.
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
A savory strudel from Trieste, almost an Italian hot savory pudding.
A potato gnocchi-dough roll filled with spinach and ricotta, boiled, sliced, showered with Parmigiano and baked. Comfort food. It looks impressive but it is not that difficult to make. It is a dish firmly rooted in the Italian home cooking repertoire and something one is unlikely to find in restaurants.
Traditionally, it would be served with sugo d’arrosto (i.e. the juices left after roasting a piece of meat), with ragù and, my favorite, with butter and Parmigiano; I have also served it with a tomato sauce and some melting cheese – rather untraditional but delicious. Continue reading
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