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

Lemon Spaghetti and Palermo

I make Spaghetti al Limone when I come across ‘good’ organic lemons. I started doing this two years ago when I was offered some lemons and oranges at an organic shop in Palermo. (Maybe because I purchased lots of foodstuff there – like pistachio, almonds, preserves, wine, cheese, almond biscuits, torrone, dried herbs, deli dishes etc. 😀 )

At home, I found their lemons were really nice – juicy, fragrant and agreeably pungent, and Spaghetti al Limone cooked with them was fantastic. Since then, I have been trying experiments whenever I found organic ones. So far, the recipe below is the best result, which I made as simple as possible so that the zesty lemon flavour can be fully enjoyed.

 

sicilian lemons
Sicilian citrus fruits from an organic shop in Palermo

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

200 g spaghetti
2 liter water
2 tsp salt
40 g butter
1 tbsp lemon zest (organic unwaxed – about 2-3 lemons)
2 tbsp juice of lemon
200 ml water from boiled spaghetti
ground white pepper (to taste)
parsley (to sprinkle)

 

Spaghetti al Limone
Spaghetti al Limone

 

 Method

  1. Bring a large pot of the water to the boil. Salt the water and cook spaghetti until 1 -2 min short of ‘al dente’. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, drop the butter in a pan and melt over lower heat. Put in the lemon zest and fry for two minutes stirring consistently.
  3. Transfer the spaghetti into the pan and add the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high and mix well by stirring consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid dries off, but make sure it doesn’t get too dry. Add some more cooking water if required.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the lemon juice, season with the white pepper and toss it well. Taste it and add salt if required.
  5. Plate the pasta and sprinkle with the parsley.

 

Lemon Spaghetti

 

 

MUST BUY & EAT in PALERMO

Orland – the organic shop I mentioned above. They offer high quality products. If you want to take the cheese back home, they would happily vacuum-pack it. Actually, I brought back a vac-packed Pecorino Siciliano covered with black pepper!

Orland (pic from their Facebook page)
Their artichoke caponata was so tasty! (takeaway)

 

La Cambusa is one of my favourit restaurants in Palermo, and there is another one I repeatedly go back whenever in the town. Il Vecchio Club Rosanero is a family run trattoria and always full of the locals (a good sign!): no frills, less touristy, and much less expensive (I’d rather say ‘cheap’). If you are tempted to try what Palermitano eat, then go to Il Vecchio. They would never disappoint you – both your appetite and budget!  I usually order a starter, like fritto misto, carpaccio or caponata and as a secondo, pasta (both half potion) with a ‘piccolo’ bottle of water and a glass of wine, which cost around 10 euros in total.

It’s located just off Via Maqueda and used to be a bit difficult to find, but now a landmark will help you – from Quattro Canti, walk down Via Maqueda towards Teatro Massino and turn left at the ‘sophisticated’ arancini placekePalle, then take the first left.

Photos below are the pastas I had at Il Vecchio Club. Of course they serve nice seafood ones, but nowadays I prefer something more local.

Pasta alla glassa – pasta with (a kind of) meat and potato stew
Pasta anciova – pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs
Pasta melanzane e pesce spada (pasta with aubergine and swordfish)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

Bucatini con Broccoli Arriminati – Broccoli Pasta and Palermo

I always stay at the same bed and breakfast in Palermo. It is located in a convenient area, spotless and comfortable to stay at, but these are not only the reason. I like the Sicilian couple who runs the B&B, so I go back to see them.

I had asked them for a Sicilian recipe to post here, and upon arrival, they gave me a typical one in Palermo: Bucatini con Broccoli Arriminati.

 

Broccoli Pasta 1

 

Arriminato means ‘stirred’, and broccoli arriminati is literally translated to ‘stirred broccoli’. This is a pasta dish with broccoli sauce made by stirring well.

Hang on! Cauliflower is called broccoli in Sicily! This is confusing…. The bright green colour of the vegetable confuses us, too!  It’s not ‘broccoli’ but greenish cauliflower what we call! To say precisely, it is cauliflower pasta!

 

Broccoli
Sicilian broccoli at Ballarò Market in Palermo

 

So I made it with white cauliflower, and with broccoli (not Sicilian one!) to colour the sauce as green cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli or broccoflower are not easily found here. Now it can be properly called ‘broccoli’ pasta 😀

Bucatini is traditionally used for this dish. It is served with toasted breadcrumbs on top, which is so called ‘poor man’s Parmesan’. Raisin and pine nut are typical ingredients used in Sicilian dishes, where we can see Arabic influence over the island.

I made some alterations, but basically followed the ingredients and instructions they gave me. I’m sure this is going to be one of my rotation recipes when cauliflowers are in season!

 

ingredients
Tried once with ‘broccoli’ while in Sicily

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

50 g bugget (leftover or stale bread is ideal), finely grated
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 liters water
2 tsp salt
180 g cauliflower (about 1/2 head)
80 g broccoli (about 1/4 head)
200 g bucatini (I used no.6)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
2 fillets of anchovy
20 g raisins
20 g pine nuts
blackpepper (to taste)
a pinch (1/16 tsp) of saffron powder

 

Broccoli Pasta 2

 

 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. Bring a pot of the salted water to the boil. Put in the cauliflower and broccoli and cook over medium heat until easily broken apart (about 10 min for broccoli, 15 min for cauliflower). Remove from the water and set aside. Retain the cooking liquid to cook the sauce and pasta.
  3. For the sauce: In a pan, heat the olive oil 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 fry for a few minutes. Put in the boiled cauliflower and broccoli, then mash and mix by stirring. Season with the pepper, add the saffron and 100 cc cauliflower/broccoli water, and cook gently on lower heat for 5 min stirring occasionally. Make sure it doesn’t get too dry – add some more cooking liquid if required.
  4. Meanwhile, add some water to the cauliflower/broccoli water and bring back to the boil, then cook the pasta until just before ‘al dente’ (bucatini no.6 for about 6 min).
  5. Transfer the pasta into the sauce. Mix well all together while cooking for 1-2 min. Taste it and add salt if required.
  6. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs on the top when serve.

 

Broccoli Pasta

baked version
Baked version with short pasta (baked at 170C for 15 min)
Pasta con Broccoli, Scampi e Gamberi
Also made seafood pasta with broccoli (Pasta con Broccoli, Scampi e Gamberi ) – without raisins, pine nuts, breadcrumbs – while in Sicily

 

Bed &Breakfast in Palermo

La Via Delle Biciclette – You will know where the name comes from.