Eating Well?

My Bucatini con Sarde (click here for the recipe) e finocchietto

 

Hope you are eating well. I’ll come back soon 🙂

 

My cooking from Sicily trip 2016
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Pasta con Fritella – Braised Green Pea Pasta – and Caccamo

Fritella (or Fritedda) is a Sicilian springtime braised vegetable dish or vegetable stew cooked with fresh green fava beans, peas, and artichoke hearts, and can be used as pasta sauce. I encountered this dish for the first time while in Caccamo to see U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu.

fritedda
Fritella – from ‘Best of Sicily Magazine’

Caccamo is at the foot of Mount Eurako or San Calogero, and rises on a hill 520 meters above sea level. It was late March but still chilly and very windy up in the mountains. Hearing wind roaring in an empty flat, which I rented over the weekend, I felt myself pretty isolated in the small town with about 9,000 inhabitants.

 

rush hour traffic jam – on the way up to Caccamo

caccamo
Caccamo Castel (right) and Chiesa Madre (left)
Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio

 

However, the pasta con fritella I had at a restaurant in town made me somewhat relax, and I felt as if Caccamo had welcomed me warmly. This rather simple dish was a kind of  mum’s or good old home cooking, and I liked very much.

 

Ditalini con Frittella – ‘Antica ricetta siciliana con piselli, carciofi, finocchietto selvatico e cipolla’- @ A Castellana

 

I experimented with the pasta several times at home and settled on the recipe below. Just used fennel bulb without any fronds as I wanted to enjoy green peas in season. Tried fresh artichoke hearts but it didn’t work well unfortunately – maybe because they were imported and not so fresh although kept refrigerated. More likely, I didn’t clean and prepare them properly?? Cos I had never cooked before!! Well anyway, smoked hearts in olive oil from a deli worked perfectly, so I used them for my recipe. Much easier than preparing fresh ones, isn’t it? 😀

 

carciofi
carciofi (artichoke) @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2014

 

Another good thing is that this is one-pot cooking!

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
100 g smoked artichoke hearts in olive oil,  drained and chopped
250 g shelled fresh green peas
600 – 700 cc/ml water (to adjust)
1 tsp salt
100 g ditalini or any short pasta you like
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
pecorino cheese

 

 

 Method

  1. In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and fennel bulb over medium heat until translucent.  Add the peas to fry for a few minutes and artichoke hearts for a minute.
  2. Pour in the water with salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pan, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Put in the pasta and cook for 5 minutes or a few minutes less than the cooking time given on the package. Add just enough water to cover if necessary.
  4. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and simmer for further 2-3 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated pecorino cheese.

 

 

On Palm Sunday, Caccamo hosts U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu: a ceremony of eastern origin that recalls Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem; a parade through the main churches with an altar boy, a donkey, elegantly decked and embellished, blesses the bystanders. The altar is the smallest of the aspirated ‘russuliddi’, in clerical garb and accessories completely red. Both Jesus and the 12 apostles are played by boys holding long branches of palm trees, along the way, are intertwined, forming the arches under which passes the birthday boy. (http://www.fhshh.com)

 

 

Castello di Caccamo (Caccamo Castle) built in the 12th Century is among the largest and best preserved Norman castles in Sicily, and one of the largest in Italy. The castle is located on a steep cliff and overlooks the surrounding countryside, including the San Leonardo River Valley and the Rosmarina artificial lake.

If you are lucky (?), you might bump into ghosts in the castle!!

 

Caccamo Castle (pic from TripAdvisor)

view from castle

 

I saw another procession later that day. That was neither religious nor traditional one. The Comune di Caccamo just opened a museum of the castle, which is the first monument in Caccamo, so the town hold a ribbon cutting opening ceremony and a ‘Medieval’ procession. How lucky I was to witness two processions in a day!

 

Maltese Cross? the Knight of Malta??

 

Must Eat in Caccamo

If you visit Caccamo, you cannot miss A Castellana, where I enjoyed fritella. Their pizzas looked good as well, but I highly recommend Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata, which is  a kind of ravioli pasta, stuffed with speck and Provola cheese, with Stracciatella di Burrata cheese sauce. The photo below isn’t nice, but it was fantastic!!

 

Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata

 

How to get to Caccamo

Direct bus services are available from Palermo or Termini Imerese.
For the timetable, check with Autolinee Randazzo.

 

 

 

Lamb and Fennel Stew – recipe from Tasty Eats

 

My ‘Sunday Roast (Braise)’ yesterday

 

Ronit's Lamb and Fennel Stew
Ronit’s Lamb and Fennel Stew (pic from her Tasty Eats blog) – looks much better and must be much much much more yummy than mine!

I have been playing with fennel for the last one month as I’m really into the vegetable lately (read my posts: Macco and Bucatini con Sarde). This is like I did with beetroot last year, so Ronit’s Lamb and Fennel Stew recipe was added to the top of my to-do list as soon as it appeared on the Worldpress Reader. I gave it a try yesterday, which turned out to be satisfaction – no, more than that!

This was absolutely fantastic!! The sauce tasted really beautiful even before oven braising!! (I realised why Ronit recommends orange blossom honey when adding it.) I couldn’t hardly wait for two hours! Well, it was worthwhile waiting though!!  Of course, lamb and fennel bulb were tasty as well!

I basically followed her recipe, but substituted some ingredients that I couldn’t find:

lamb chops
1 tbsp preserved lemon paste (for preserved lemon)
1 tbsp salsa sauce (for hot sauce and pickled hot red chili pepper)
Arak (for Uozo)

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Ronit. I will probably try this again before I drink up the bottle of Arak 😀 and another stew, Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Okra and Dried Apricots, while Okra is in season but before it gets really hot in the summer.

Enjoy Ronit’s wonderful stew!


(Pics and article from Ronit Penso’s Tasty Eats blog with lots of intriguing recipes)

This quick and easy to prepare stew is the perfect dish for this season, when spring somehow refuses to fully arrive, yet the heavier winter’s stews are not as happily accepted. Fennel is a wonderf…

Source: Lamb and Fennel Stew

 

Bucatini con Sarde – Pasta with Sardines and Palermo

To be honest, I don’t care for sardines much. I’m a fan of blueback fish such as mackerel, horse mackerel and Pacific saury, but not sardine. I like anchovy and oiled sardines though – ah, neither herrings but like kippered! Weird, isn’t it? A restaurant in Palermo, however, changed my preference towards the fish (a bit 😀 ).

butterflied sardines
butterflied sardines @ fish market in Trapani, 2013

Sardines are so plentiful in Sicily, and you couldn’t fully enjoy the local food without sardines there. Among them, Pasta con le Sarde, one of the most famous Sicilian dishes, cannot be missed. I know, I know… yet I was still a bit reluctant to try the pasta when I visited Sicily for the first time….

salted sardines @ Ballarò Market – Palermo, 2012

It turned out, however, BINGO!  Maybe because fennel makes the strong fishy taste less and helps the dish mellow along with other ingredients. I LOVE (now at last 😀 ) the unique but harmonious combination of the ingredients: not only the fish and the herb/vegetable but also sweet raisins, crunchy pine nuts and pungent saffron – and maybe salty anchovy as well. I think that’s why I like Pasta con Broccoli, too!

wild fennel flower
finocchietto (wild fennel) flower – Lipari, 2014

Unfortunately, wild fennel is not available here, so I replaced it with fronds of Florence fennel (cultivated fennel) and added some fennel seeds into the water to cook pasta instead of boiling the fronds in it so that it could enhance fennel flavour in the dish.

finocchio
finocchio (Florence fennel/cultivated fennel) – Piazza Armerina, 2013

Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta chî Sardi in Sicilian) is a specialty of Palermo, and bucatini is traditionally used for this dish as well as Pasta con il Broccoli.  The pasta can be found anywhere in Sicily, but  there are many regional variations: with tomato (in rosso), without tomato and saffron only (in bianco), with roasted almonds, baked (al forno) etc….

Also, Pasta con le Sarde can be eaten all though the year, however, it is especially eaten well around St Joseph’s Day along with Macco. The saint day usually falls during Lent. That is the reason this meatless pasta with mollica, toasted breadcrumbs (cf. Bucatini con Broccoli) which symbolise sawdust (Joseph was thought to be  a carpenter), is  served.

bucatini con sarde

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

for topping: mollica
50 g bugget (stale bread is ideal), finely grated
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for pasta
2 liter water
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp salt
200 g bucatini (I used no.6)

for sauce
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
2 fillets of anchovy (3 fillets if small)
20 g raisins
20 g pine nuts
20 g fennel fronds, roughly chopped (big and woody stalks removed)
4 fresh sardines, butterflied and deboned
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
a smidgen (1/32 tsp) of saffron powder
(optional: freshly ground black pepper to taste, fennel frond to garnish)

 

Mollica
Mollica, toasted breadcrumbs

 

 Method

  1. For toasted breadcrumbs: heat the oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs to toast on low heat, stirring consistently for 5 minutes or until crisp and brown.
  2. Pour the water into a large pot with fennel seeds and bring to the boil. Dissolve the tomato paste and saffron powder in 50 cc/ml of the fennel water and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent. Put in the anchovy, and break with wooden spoon or such. Add the raisins and pine nuts to toss for a few minutes, then chopped fennel fronds to cook and stir for a minute. Add the sardines and fry until brown both sides. Remove half of the sardines from the pan and set aside. Stir and crush the rest of the sardines with a wooden spoon until fall apart and the mixture is well combined. Pour in the saffron liquid and stir well. Taste and season with the black pepper if necessary (Me personally, better without pepper.)
  4. In the meantime, bring the fennel water back to the boil. Add in the salt and cook the pasta 1 -2 min short of ‘al dente’ (bucatini no.6 for about 6 min). Retain the cooking liquid for the sauce.
  5. Transfer the pasta into the sauce and add 150-200 cc/ml pasta cooking water (adjust). Increase the heat to medium-high and stir consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid dries off (but not too much).
  6. Plate the pasta. Put the sardine and fennel fronds on top. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs over the pasta, and Buon’appetit!

 

Mollica on top

 

If you have a bottle of arak (just wondering if pastis works as well…?) at home, try with the pasta! I happened to have an Israeli one, and enjoyed it very much – the anise flavoured spirits (with some water) cleansed the fishy taste but still fennel flavour (well, anise flavour actually) remained in my mouth, which was really refreshing and comfortable!

 

 

MUST EAT in PALERMO

Bucatini con Sarde  @ La Cambusa

La Cambusa is one of my favourite restaurants in Palermo. I go back to the restaurant for the pasta whenever in Palermo. They serve wonderful fish dishes such as of sward fish etc.

Macco, served during winter or up to beginning of spring, and Moscato Passito, dessert wine made from Sicilian native Zibibbo grape, are also nice!

 

Bucatini con Sarde
Bucatini con Sarde @ la Cambusa, 2014

 

Street Food & Fast Food

Palermo is recognised as the European Capital of Street Food, and it’s in the fifth place in the ‘top ten cities for street food’ ranking published by Virtual Tourist.com. Enjoy the famous traditional delicacies!

  • Focaccine con Panelle, crocchè etc @ I Cuochini
    A small burger with panelle, a chickpea flour fritter and  potato croquet. Theirs are rather small like finder food, so better for small bites.
Focaccine con Panelle e Crocchè @ I Cuochini, 2014

 

  • Pane con la Milza or Pani cà Meusa (in Sicilian) @ Antica Focacceria San Francesco
    A burger stuffed with grated cheese and boiled and fried veal spleen. Normally served with lemon.
milza
Pani cà Meusa @ Antica Focacceria San Francesco, 2012

 

  • A bit  ‘sophisticated’ or ‘frilled’ arancine @ kePalle
    A deep fried rice ball stuffed with various fillings. They serve  about 40 different types – from classic to variant ones: ragù, pasta and aubergine, chicken curry, spinach & tofu (veg) etc… and even sweet ones – Nutella, chocolate, pistachio!
Arancini @ kePalle, 2016

 

And for a sweet tooth:

  • Brioche con Gelato @ Brioscià
    A brioche bun stuffed with gelato/ice cream. Always busy gelateria.
brioche con gelato
Brioche con Gelato @ Brioscia, 2014

 

Macco – Sicilian Fava Bean and Fennel Soup

I ran into finocchio, or Florence fennel at a  nearby supermarket the other day. ‘Wow, this is really something quite unexpected…. How on earth can I miss this???’ I had never seen the fresh ‘vegetable’ in this country, but I had been hoping to cook with finocchio or finocchietto since I had Macco for the first time in Sicily this March.

Macco (also known as macco di fave), or Maccu, is a traditional Sicilian thick soup or a soup dish cooked with dried fava beans and wild fennel as primary ingredients. The name of this dish derives from the Latin word, macero which meansto soften or tenderise’. Macco is strongly linked with St Joseph’s Day and eaten well around the saint feast day.

Macco di fave e finocchietto

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron saint, thanks are given to St. Joseph for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honour him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. Maccu di San Giuseppe is a traditional Sicilian dish that consists of various ingredients and maccu is prepared on this day.    — Wikipedia

fave
dried fava beans @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2013

Many activities are scheduled for the feast, including the one called la tavola di San Giuseppe, the St Joseph’s Table. The Table manifestation takes many forms, depending on towns or villages. Upon St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies as well as other meatless dishes.

Tavola di San Giuseppe

The central element on the feast of San Giuseppe is bread.  Speaking of bread, I missed the Easter Arches or Bread Arches in San Biagio Platani near Agrigento.

bread arches
Archi di Pasqua – all made of bread

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach Borgetto to see la Tavola di San Giuseppe due to limited public transportation on Saturday. Instead, I witnessed another interesting custom in Caccamo, a small town up in the mountains where I visited for U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday.

dried fava beans
dried fava beans on a front porch on the day after St Joseph’s Day
dried fava beans, empty pot, oranges at a front door
oranges, bread, ash (representing burned sawdust?), flowers, dried fava beans on an alley
baskets on a front porch
empty baskets for petition for the needy? or representing carpenter’s implement (Joseph was a carpenter)?

Not sure what those are for as I didn’t have a chance to ask the locals about the custom. It’s not on the altar but a kind of la Tavola di San Giuseppe, I guess.

Macco ingredients

Sorry for the long introduction. Anyway, I was so fascinated by the soup, very simple dish though, that I was thinking about making this soup. Dried fava beans are used for this dish, but I cooked with fresh ones now in season here. And used finocchio bulb, the fronds and fennel seeds because finocchietto/finocchietto selvatico, i.e. wild fennel is unobtainable.

Macco

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

500 g shelled fresh fava beans
800 ml/cc water
1/2 tbsp salt
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds (strip leaves from stems)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to season)
(optional: extra virgin olive oil and fennel fronds to garnish)

 

Macco

Method

  1. Pour the water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the salt and beans, then cook on medium heat for 5 min.
  2. Remove the beans from the water (retain the cooking liquid ) and rinse under cold water. Let cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and fennel bulb with the olive oil for about 5 min or until tender and translucent but not brown.
  4. Pinch each bean to squeeze out of the skin. Mash the beans or purée the beans through a sieve.
  5. Put the bean paste into a pot and mix well with 500 cc/ml fava bean liquid. Add the onion, fennel bulb, fennel fronds and fennel seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat  stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 min or until thick.
  6. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle olive oil and garnish with fennel fronds on top.

————————

I made it really thick – thicker than the one I had in Palermo – so that it can be used in a pasta dish as well. Browsing on the web, I noticed ‘pasta con Macco’ exists.

pasta con Macco
Trecce di Giulietta (fusilli) con Macco

Still bunches of finocchio left. Okay, Bucatini con Sarde next!! :-9