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I was born in Sicily, in a town called Siracusa but I was raised in Floridia. If you ever decide to take a trip to Italy go to Sicily you'll love it.
A little car tour to Floridia, Siracusa
A little satellite tour to Floridia
La cucina siciliana:
East meets West in the kitchen
Sicilian cooking is unique in Italy, blending extravagant Arab and northern techniques with simple peasant ingredients, mainly the catch of the sea and the pick of the garden.Pasta con le sarde is the perfect example: featuring a sauce made with sardines, raisins, pine nuts, fennel, saffron, parsley and capers, its origins go all the way back to the Phoenicians. Pasta alla Norma combines tomato, eggplant and tasty ricotta salata. Swordfish and tuna dishes abound, especially in May and June.
But the Sicilian tooth is most glorious when it's sweet. Sicilians think nothing of having a brioche stuffed with ice cream for breakfast. Try it, if you dare. Cannoli and cassata we've all tasted, but rarely have we encountered anything as dazzling as frutta di Martorana, perfectly authentic looking marzipan fruits and vegetables originally made by the nuns of the Martorana convent. And when you're in Messina, get a group together to sample my favorite Italian sweet, la pignolata, a delicate mound of lemon-scented crispy deep-fried batter balls covered half with vanilla and half with chocolate icing. I can taste it as I write this, and my eyes water along with my mouth. Here's what our fellow ex-ex-patriot Rosemary has to say about Sicily:
In my early Rome days, a friend of my roommate often drove up from Palermo for weekend visits. Ciccio (Chee-choe) was a real personality and a lot of fun, so typical of the southern Italian male. He insisted, though, that he was Sicilian, not Italian. This he had in common with most from that island; when Sicilians leave for the mainland, they say they're "going to Italy." It's an old story.
Besides being absolutely certain that he was God's gift to women, Ciccio also fancied that he was the James Beard of Europe. Susan and I didn't give him much on the first claim, but thought he came pretty close on the second. So we allowed him to slaver after us while she and I slavered after his cooking. Poor guy.... We played him like a hooked trout, shamelessly leading him on to keep him cooking for us whenever he came to town.
Though Ciccio's polpette (meatballs) seemed a bit strange to me at first, they came to be my favorite dish. He made them big and juicy, and brought them to the table drenched in heavy garlic tomato sauce. Imagine my surprise when I bit into my first one and found...raisins!
Sicily has great veal, and Ciccio used to bring it up with him from Palermo, freshly ground by his butcher; then he'd mix everything by hand. I substitute turkey for some of the veal and do mine in the processor, starting with a small onion, 2 cloves garlic, some fresh basil leaves and a few sprigs parsley. Add 2/3 lb. ground turkey, 1/3 lb. each of ground veal and lean pork, 1 T Dijon mustard, 2 T grated imported Parmesan, an egg, salt (if you must) and pepper to taste. Keep adding Italian-flavored breadcrumbs until you're happy with the consistency. Turn the mixture into a bowl and add a good handful of raisins. Shape into meatballs (about 15) and brown in a non-stick frying pan, then drop them into a rather loose tomato sauce in which you've put a lot of garlic, oregano and fresh basil. Let them bob around in it for a couple hours, at low heat.
You can serve them on top of your pasta if you want, but frankly, spaghetti and meatballs is an American concoction. To be authentic, Italians--and Sicilians--eat the pasta first, then serve polpette as the meat course.
by Rosemary Torigian
Sicilian Food Is Not To Be Missed!!
Ah, Sicilian food! If you love Italian food you will surely love the food of Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine reflects the cultural influences that its long and diverse history has brought. Conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Angevins, Hapsburgs, and Bourbons, Sicilian food has risen from the intermingling of cultures.
The Greeks brought olives and grapes to the island and thus wine making was introduced. The Romans brought fava beans, chick peas, and lentils. They also introduced grain production which encouraged the introduction of pasta to Sicilian cuisine.
The Arabs can be favored for bringing almonds, aniseed, artichokes, cinnamon, oranges, pomegranates, saffron, sesame and rice, as well as sugarcane, watermelon and spinach. They are also noted for their influence in creating sweet and sour combinations of dishes that are common. The Arabs also started the tradition of Sicilian sweets which includes ice cream and granite (made with snow from Mount Etna), marzipan and candied fruits.
The French contributed their eloquent chefs, which were brought in to serve the aristocracy. The Normans and Hosenstaufen brought in new cooking methods, such as the rotisserie cooking of meats and the air salting of fish. The Spanish also brought their own touches to add to the flavorful cuisine of Sicily and the New World provided chili and sweet peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and maize.
Along with all of that, the island of Sicily itself brings its own fresh ingredients to the table. Mount Etna’s volcanic eruptions have fertilized the soil to incomparable richness allowing a multitude of crops to grown here. Add the varied climate with subtropical regions, and Sicily offers superior crops of fruits and vegetables. Even further, being an island there is a plethora of fresh ingredients wrought from the sea: sardines, tuna, swordfish and other varieties of fish.
Sicilian food is simply prepared owing to the superior taste, quality and freshness of its ingredients. Sicilians believe that complex dishes would mask the fresh flavors so simplicity is the prevalent attitude in the food of Sicily.
Sicilian restaurants all over the island provide local culinary specialties and traditional Italian fare that is produced within a few miles of where you are sitting. You will get the freshest fish along the coast, and the best of the meats and cheeses from the interior combined with the huge range of fruits and vegetables from all over the island. The Sicilian restaurants then top this off with their rich desserts and pastries that they are famous for.
The Sicilians are also famous for their long leisurely meals, creating an atmosphere of relaxed indulgence. Their lunches begin at one o’clock and go on until three or four. Then dinner begins at about eight and can last for hours. Lingering is encouraged in Sicilian restaurants.
A Sicilian meal begins with an antipasti dish which may include rice balls (arancine), potato croquettes, aubergine (eggplant), caponata (salad with olives and capers) or any number of other tidbits. Then the ‘primo’ is served, which is usually a pasta or rice dish, or possibly couscous. Then you get the ‘secondo’ which is the main course served with wine and a side dish. After that fruit is typically served, followed by coffee. Then comes dessert and a liqueur or Sicilian Wine. Sicilian dining can truly be one of a tourist’s greatest pleasures. Famous for many things, such as their cheeses, cappuccino, grappa, and granita, among many other things, Sicilian food is not to be missed!