Sicilian Seafood

27 10 2012

The best way to understand the importance of seafood on the Sicilian table is to visit the fish markets in villages along the sea. I watched these villages come to life in the early mornings. Workers unloaded their catches onto tables full of ice. There were heaps of octopuses, buckets full of snails and tiny clams, and any other form of sea life imaginable. The fish came from Mazara del Vallo, Italy’s largest fishing port, in southwest Sicily, as well as smaller ports famed for specific things: anchovies from Sciacca, swordfish from Favignana., and Tuna from Trapini. Teenage boys carried espressos in tiny plastic cups from nearby bars to the fishmongers, who—arms flailing and voices raised—were negotiating with housewives and wholesalers and chefs.

Just think of it, the fish you eat for lunch were caught that morning.

This blog is filled with recipes from towns and villages throughout the island. Read, cook, and enjoy!


Sicilian Cheeses

23 10 2012

Ricotta Salata is an aged, salted Ricotta (cottage cheese whose Italian name literally means “re-cooked”) made from sheep’s milk, produced in the Sicilian heartland. Usually only the rind is actually salted heavily, leaving the core mild and quite sweet for an “aged” cheese.

Pecorino, as its name implies, is made from sheep’s milk (“pecora” meaning sheep). It is true that Sicily’s sheep population is ever diminishing, but in Italian regions, only Sardinia presently raises more sheep than Sicily. Like Tuma, Pecorino is sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices. Made throughout Sicily, where it may be considered the most widely produced aged cheese product, it is a favorite for grating over pasta. Its taste, though sharp, is often less pungent and dry than that of Caciocavallo, despite a distinctive flavor and texture.

Like Pecorino, Tuma is sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices. Unlike Pecorino, it does not age well and is best served with ham, wines and fruits as a table cheese. It has a sweet taste not unlike that of Provola, with an equally rubbery texture.

Caciocavallo is made from cow’s milk, though its cryptic name literally means “horse cheese” –the Sicilian word “cacio” sharing the same root as casein while “cavallo” means horse. It takes at least eight months to age Caciocavallo properly, achieving a sharper flavor in about two years. Caciocavallo is a good complement to stronger wines, and widely used for grating over pasta. Indeed, it is a favorite of Sicilian chefs for use with pasta. It’s usually shaped as a large wheel. “Caciovacchino” was a similar product made in times past.


18 01 2012

Adrano is a comune in the province of Catania on the east coast of Sicily. It is situated 41 km northwest of Catania, which is the capital of the province to which Adrano belongs. It lies near the foot of Mount Etna, at the confluence of the Simeto and Salso rivers. It is the commercial center for a region where olives and citrus fruit are grown. Neighbouring towns include: Biancavilla, Bronte, Paternò, Randazzo, Santa Maria di Licodia and Centuripe.

The Castle-

The city has a rich cultural and historical structures that draws thousands of visitors a year. Among these is the castle founded in 1070 by Roger the first.

Among the beautiful monuments to visit, there is the Norman Chiesa Madre, the Monastery of S. Lucia erected in 1596, today residence of a public school, the Chiesa di S. Lucia rebuilt in 1775, and the Chiesa di S. Agostino preserving an engraved marble altar.

Clam Stew was served in all of the trattorias I visited.

Sicilian Stew of Clams

1 lb small potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoon of chopped parsley

1 cup white dry wine

3 cans of tomato sauce

3-4 pounds of small clams

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes. When completely  cooked through cut into quarters.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. add the minced garlic and stir. Cook until garlic begins to color and add parsley.

Raise heat and add wine. Cook for about 4 minutes and add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add potatoes and clams and cover saucepan. Cook until clams open and discard all unopened clams.

Adjust for taste with additional salt or pepper if needed.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

A Trip Along The Northern Coast of Sicily-Cefalu to Palermo

10 11 2011

It is difficult to cover the history and culture of all of the interesting villages and cities of this beautiful island.  The You Tube below should entice  the discriminating traveler to race out a purchase a round trip ticket to Palermo.  After your visit you may find you’ve wasted the money for the return ticket.

Pasta with Ricotta e Pecorino and Asparagus

The best Ricotta comes from Sicily. This dish is a sample of old peasant cooking using ingredients that are on hand.

1 lb of Penne, shells, Farfali or Spaghetti.

1 lb of asparagus-Woody ends trimmed

1 clove of finely chopped garlic

8 ounces of whole milk

1 onion chopped

2-3 tablespoons of grated pecorino

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for about 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Bring the water back to a boil.  Add tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook uncovered until al dente.

Cut the asparagus diagonally  into 1/4 inch pieces and combine the them with remaining ingredients in a large bowl while pasta is cooking. Combine mixture and when the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the bowl. Mix and serve.


15 06 2011

The towers, that protect this village, give the landscape a mystery halo, which mixes history and nature. This village has risen from a Arab country house and was used as a system of defense.

Scopello lies between Castellmmare del Golfo and San Vito lo Capo and is packed during the months of July and August. It derives its name from the Greek Scpelos and from the Latin Scopellum, both meaning rock.

There are no hotels close nearby, however farmhouses houses are rented out during the busy summer months. The main attraction in this village is he bigilo. (Beams or towers) It’s a day trip away from Castellmmare del Golfo.

Sicilian Bouillabaisse

1/2 cup Olive oil

1-2 pounds of Oysters, clams, or mussels

1 cup cooked shrimp

1 cup thinly sliced onions

4 Shallots, thinly sliced

2 Bay Leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large tomato, chopped

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon of fennel seed

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt

1 tabsp capers

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup clam juice or fish broth

2 Tbs lemon juice

2/3 cup white wine

Crusty Italian bread

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (6-qt) saucepan. When it is hot, add onions. Sauté for a minute, then add crushed garlic. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden spoon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaves. Cook until the onion is soft and golden.

Add oysters, clams or mussels and shrimp, cut into pieces or left whole. Add salt, pepper and capers. Add clam juice, lemon juice, and white wine. Bring to a simmer again and cook about 5 minutes longer.

Into each soup bowl place a thick slice of crusty Italian bread.


9 12 2010

This is the island’s capital and its biggest city. It sits in the Gulf of Palermo on the northwest corner of Sicily.

My son and I flew from Rome to Sicily’s largest airport, Borsellino, and rented a car for the trip through the island. When we finally arrived in town I found the city difficult to maneuver through. Being from New York  I was used to the roar of traffic, the wail of police sirens, and the pollution that hug over the city. I felt driving around Palermo would take years off my life, so I let my son drive.

Palermo is old and it looks it. The Phoenicians started this settlement in the 8th century. They named it  Panormus. Along came the Carthaginians and made it the center of Sicily. The Roman conquest shifted the trading from Palermo, to the east coast city of Siracusa. The Vandals came, pillaged and raped the island of its treasures. Next, came the Arabs who built mosques, and palaces equal to the ones in Cairo, Egypt or Cordoba, Spain.

It was the Normans turn in the 11th century and under King Roger, who ruled from 1130 to 1151, the city entered its golden age. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony. Palermo became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1208. The French Angevins came to power in 1266. Their despotic rule ended in 1282 with the Sicilian Vespers.

Palazzo del Normanni, the palace of the Normans, is Sicily’s finest treasure. We spent almost two hours there.  It was built by the Arabs and can be traced to the 9th century. It was abandoned by the Arabs, and was restored by the conquering Normans, who used it as their royal residence. Two other sites must be visited. The Cappella Palatine, the Palatine Chapel and the Teatro Massimo. The Cappella Palatine is a example of Arab-Norman artistic genius.  Built in 1130 by Roger II,  and is adorned by the most extraordinary mosaics. The Teatro Massimo is Palermo’s opera theater. Built in 1875-1897 its stage is exceeded in size by the Paris Opera and the Vienna opera house. The final scenes in The Godfather III were filmed there.

What most Americans aren’t aware of is, if the Communist Party would have won the election held at the end of World War II,  Sicily would have become an American colony much like Puerto Rico.

The influence of the Arabs, Normans, Romans, and Greeks have left  a treasure trove  of Mosques, churches and palaces.  Some are beautiful, and worth the visit,  while others are in disrepair and in places that are not safe after dark. The city is crime-laden, but if you’re careful, it’s worth the time spent here. It’s hard to explain, but I loved and hated this city at the same time. I couldn’t get enough of Palermo. Most of the 750,000 people in Palermo, will inform visitors,   “we are Sicilians, not Italians.”

In the Medieval Quarter of the city is the area known as, La Kalsa.  In Arabic, the name khalisa means pure, but this area is anything but pure. It does  It’s as fascinating as it is dangerous. Its alleys are filled with merchants selling piles of blood-red oranges, purple artichokes, and white eggplants., but do not walk though this area alone and keep your valuables back in the hotel.

The most famous market in Sicily is , La Vucciria, which in the Sicilian dialect means voices.  It has been called the “a hungry man’s dream,” and is a must see.  The Mercato de Capo, is a large street market that captures Arabic past.  Palermo is a big city, and if you’re used to noise, traffic, and lack of road discipline, you’ll be right at home.

The finest restaurant, The Charleston Le Terrazze in Palermo, is actually in Mondello, a beach town 7 1/2 miles west of the city. This beautiful restaurant was built in 1913 on concrete pilings above the sea.











The food was typically Sicilian. There are food stalls throughout the city that serve deep-fried meat, chick peas, and buns stuffed with ricotta.  Pasta con le sade, pasta with sardines, is Palermo’s most ordered pasta dish.

Below is a typical Sicilian pasta with Sardines recipe.

1 lb pasta- Fettuccine

2 chopped scallions

1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 can of sardines

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Parsley to garnish.

When water for pasta has boiled, add teaspoon salt and pasta.

In a med sized skillet, add olive oil. When oil is hot,  add scallions and garlic.

When the scallions soften add bread crumbs and stir until crumbs are toasted.

Add capers, sardines , and stir for 2 minutes.

When the pasta has been drained, pour onion, sardine, and bread crumbs mixture over and toss.

A bottle of Pinot Grigio would go great with this dish.


1 12 2010

The most beautiful Arabo-Norman structure in Sicily is located in the small, pleasant, village of  Monreale. Some of the most spectacular mosaics that have ever been produced are on display here. Monreale is less than ten miles south-west of Palermo and is perfect for an afternoon excursion away from the big city.  A bus leaves the Piazza Independenza, in Palermo three times a day, and drops you off at the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, in the village.

The cathedral’s facade, faces the Piazza Guglielmoand, and is flanked by two towers. The sculptor and architect, Bonanno Pisano, the  creator of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, designed the two bronzed doors of the church in 1185. When I entered the cathedral  I didn’t know where to look first. It was as breathtaking as my first sighting of the David.

The Christ Pantocrator dominates the center of the cathedral.  The interior of the church is  simple in design,  which is perfect for the 2,000 figures of golden and colored mosaics. Each altar is decorated to the teeth with small bits of stone colored art. There was more there than I saw in St. Mark’s in Venice.

I spent the better part of the afternoon in the cathedral.                                 

This was here that I had my first taste of Sicilian trickery.

In the village,  I found a restaurant with the name of my maternal grandparents, and wanted to meet the owner. When he came out of the kitchen I told him my family was from Mazara del Vallo. He told me that he was from the same village, and since he had the same family name as my grandparents, we were probably cousins.

I loved my grandmother, as I did her cooking, and sat down and ordered everything that reminded me of her. He told the waitress to go into the cellar and bring me the house wine from Mazara. The meal brought me back to my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, New York and I ate like as though I was going to the chair.

When the waitress brought me the bill, I went into credit card shock.  I told her I wanted to say goodbye to my cousin, and when his bright smile came back into the dining room he asked me how I liked the food. I told him it was wonderful, but since I was his cousin, and on a fixed budget the bill was high,  so he should give me a break.

His reply was in Italian, “we are not that close.”

So much for being a sharp New Yorker.

Although it was not on the menu, here is my grandmother’s favorite chicken dish.

4-6 pieces of chicken cutlets, pounded thin

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cloves of chopped garlic

1/2 cup of capers

1/2 cup of sliced Kalamata olives

4-6 slices of mozzarella, sliced thin

4-6 pieces of thin prosciutto

2 cups of chicken stock

Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken cutlets

Lay slices of prosciutto on each piece of chicken

Lay the mozzarella on the prosciutto

Roll each chicken piece and secure with toothpicks

Heat olive oil in large sauce pan and add chopped garlic

Place chicken rolls on pan and saute 3 minutes on each side

Scrape the bottom of the pan, and add chicken stock, olives, and capers

Bring the stock to a boil

Remove from the pan, remove the toothpicks

Place on plate and drizzle with the liquid from the sauce pan.