October 31, 2008

Tastes of Sicily- Pasta with Cauliflower

The markets are GREEN in Palermo this time of year

Sicilian "green" cauliflower getting a ride

Tuscan olives, usually picked green to press for oil

Fall is in full swing as I returned to Tuscany from Sicily.

I gave my neighbors some of my oil from Olio Verde
they traded me some fresh olives to cure.

I do a salt-only technique which I will write up later
when I get more olives. My husband adores these hard to find cured olives
so I make a huge jar of them yearly.
We look for abbandoned olive groves and harvest the olives when they are black.

The secrets to great Italian food are the great ingredients
celebrating the seasons with what is right from the field.

Italy's way with vegetables makes anyone LOVE them.
Traditionally, vegetables are twice-cooked.
The first time to COOK them,
the second time is to FLAVOR them.

The added flavor from garlic and olive oil, with or without chili pepper
is one of my favorites as a side dish,
but works expecially well as a pasta course.

On my recent trip to Sicily, the incredible colored cauliflowers were all over the markets
being sold from trucks on the side of the road
and we even saw then packed as passengers into the back of a car!

Palermo uses fresh breadcrumbs on everything
even in place of parmesan cheese.

here is what I made inspired by the trip.

Pasta with cauliflower and toasted breadcrumbs.
Pasta con cavolfiore e pangrattato

Boil cauliflower in salted water until really tender.
Remove from water, save water to boil pasta.

While the pasta is boiling, saute a large clove of garlic, sliced, in extra virgin olive oil
I added a couple of oil-packed anchovies and a couple of tiny, spicey, bird's eye chili's.

When the garlic is just starting to get golden, add the cauliflower,
and break-up into smaller pieces.

When the pasta is done, saute in pan with the cauliflower mix
and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

To make the toasted breadcrumbs:

Sicilians have a salted bread they buy in whole loaves.
When it is getting older, they take out the centers and put into a food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs.

I used regular breadcrumbs I find here in Tuscany and sauteed them in a skillet with garlic, olive oil, salt and some herbs. I cooked until they changed color.

Wonderful earthy taste and texure to the dish.

Then a little Tuscan lasagna went into the oven for another day, I was having cooking withdrawl!

Making Tuscan Sugo is such a fabulous thing to do on a blustery day!

October 29, 2008

Blogapalooza Party

In Italy when someone says pumpkin, we say food!
But when someone says special dinner, be careful!

When Angela said she wanted to party on the blog with a Blogapalooza, I said sure why not?
Although I don't think I have had scary trips.... strange for sure!

Italy has been my home now for 25 years, but before that I had been travelling around on my own for 9 months when I got into college,
living in small student hotels when you could do that for $3 a night in Greece!

Probably the best and worse part of travelling on your own is eating out.
My worse experiences were both in Greece.

I had been invited out by a local Greek boy to a very special lunch
which he had to arrange ahead of time as our meal was not on the normal menu.
Maybe that should have given me a clue.

Clue number 2-
on the way to lunch, we witnessed an accident and he jumped out to help,
returning to the car covered in blood.
Can we go home now?

When we finally arrived to "lunch" a little shell shocked,
wine was brought to the table and with great honors, our meal.

A roasted goat's head!


I was all of 23 and basically a vegetarian.
This was not good!

Never one to back down from a challenge, I dug into my dinner.
Brains were ok, tongue too.

Needless to say, this was a last date!

Another nightmare dinner, several years later on the Island of Zakinthos,
As my friend Rozanna and I headed up a dark road to a tiny shack of a house to our dinner, we were met by a horrific smell. As we entered the house, it permeated the room.
I really hated to be rude, but...
I don't remember now how we excused ourselves, but I remember running down the dark hill!

I now am a full carnivor, and eat almost anything,
ALMOST, including Tuscan tripe which I adore.

Now off to grill some lovely pumpkin with garlic and olive oil!

Trick or treat!
Never eat anything bigger than your head!

October 24, 2008

Almost like being there.... Sicily

Catania fish market- Sicily from divina cucina on Vimeo.

Wish I had brought my movie camera.
Sicily is a place which imbeds itself in your soul.

I will return soon to set up programs for next year already, but based at the seaside.

Join me!

Next year is my 25th anniversary in Italy and I want to share all my favorite places.
Sicily, Puglia, Emilia Romagna, Torino and the Langhe wine region
and of course
Tuscany including Maremma!

October 23, 2008

Simple Sicilian Pleasures

"I love you princess"

If parmesan cheese is the "King of Cheeses"
Fresh ricotta, candid and white
is the Princess!


Nothing is more splendid than eating fresh ricotta on it's own.
Savory or sweet.

Sheep are everywhere and sheeps milk ricotta will win you over right away.
It is served at almost every meal we have had.
Just plain.

Perfection needs nothing.

stand in the Capo market in Palermo
baked ricotta in the upper left of the stand.

Fresh ricotta is unsalted, the salted version is aged.

So ricotta is the key ingredient for cannoli, sweetened with powdered sugar
chocolate shards and candied orange peel.

I also adore it with pistacchio's and olive oil and a touch of sea salt from Trapani.

More coming when I arrive home tonight!

October 20, 2008

Postcards from Sicily

Some images from Sicily
until I have time to write!

I have always loved these "sayings" on ceramic tiles

This gypsy sleeping on the church steps looks like a painting
the light inside and outside the church was magic.

Traffic jams in the countryside with sheep

Tomatoes drying for winter

The BEST cannolo at Caffe Sicilia in Noto
with pastry chef- food god
Corrado Assenza.

Recipes to follow.

October 18, 2008

Market- Catania's Fish Market

Probably one of the most fun fish markets in Italy is the Catania fish market.

We stopped by with our slow food group and had some fresh sea urchins sold already cleaned in a small cup with a "mussel" spoon!

It was like eating the sea.

I prefer it without the lemon, which was squeezed on before serving.

I have just returned to Palermoand will catch up with tastes and tales from this whirlwind tour of Sicily
next week when I return to Tuscany.

October 14, 2008

Merci Lucy

One thing I love about the internet is the constant learning.

I love to read Lucy's blog, Kitchen Notebook, not only for her words,
which paint such vibrant images,
but also for the images themselves.

She is a fabulous photographer and I can't wait to see her report
on our week in Sicily.

This is the new trick I learned from Lucy today.

Merci Lucy-
I think I got it now.

October 12, 2008

Eat Drink Shop- Palermo

My favorite painting of the Vucceria market by Renato Guttuso ( immage from the Museo Guttuso)

This week in Palermo has been full of eating drinking and shopping!

swordfish is a speciality in Palermo, guess so if they come this big!

It is the perfect season to be here.

We were able to participate in the first pressing of olive oil
with Gabriella at Becchina in Castelvetrano,where we had a cooking class, tour and olive oil tasting.

The color of new oil at Becchina

olives for sale in the Capo market for curing

We braved the flea market and were rewarded with treasures,
next time really should drive down to take things home.

huge glasses of house white before shopping

We also had another cooking day and tour of the Capo market with my friend Vincenzo.

Vincenzo ordering us a tasting of Sicilian Pizza " sfincione"

The market is a real treat, I adore trying new street food.

This time I enjoyed the spleen sandwiches, must have been the extra cheese on top,
but what I really loved was the mystery meat in the basket.

As soon as I spoke to friends about touring the market they asked if I saw the man with the basket.

Apparently both Tony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman
have both been here and eaten from the “basket”.

No one is allowed to see what is inside, he reaches in leaving the pot covered with a towel and brings out a handful of the “meat”.

It is fabulous whatever it is. I imagine cooked in lard as the spleen is for the sandwich.
Every thing tastes better cooked in pork fat doesn’t it?

The "other- other meat" is the milza or spleen sandwich, also heated up in lard

here he is squeezing off the excess lard before serving us

Fichi di india are in season and come in crazy shades

Hard to believe but we didn’t have gelato! But we did have the fabulous Torta di Sette Veli from Spinnato bakery.
Knowing that it was Luca Mannori who created it when he won the Pastry competion, made it all the more fun to taste it.

This week was filled with the blend of flavors from a multi-ethnical heritage.
When in Trapani we tried a fish couscous
and saw salt being harvested from the salt pans.

In Marsala we had a tasting at the famous Florio cantina’s, which have recently been restored.

A week isn’t enough to discover all Palermo and the area has to offer, must return again and soon!

tiles for sale at the Santa Rosalia shrine
(which was closed,as some boulders had fallen inside the chapel)

huge ficus trees in park near my little B&B AGAVE
with Massimo and Evelina

Salvatore, my first gelato this trip, cinnamon and chocolate gelato served in a brioche
the cinnamon was incredible.
Located in the Piazza near my B&B.

October 11, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing?

With todays news of the market crashing-
countries going bankrupt

We all need to think about the simple postive things in life.

A fabulous flavor combination I have come to love in Italy
Bread and Chocolate.

Saltless Tuscan bread is perfect to have with a bite of a simple bar of chocolate.

Last week when we were travelling the Tuscan Chocolate Valley,
we had plenty of both!

Choice of rustic small loaves are perfect for a snack.

One of my personal favorites is Paul Debondt for his sense of joy with chocolate.
Look at this incredible sample of an Easter egg he did for us in a demo,
in the backround, his " SALAMI" made with gianduja.

I am more if a "nuts and chews" girl given the choice,
but this year Andrea Bianchini's flavors won me over.
Like little jewels!
Saffron, Carmel and sea salt, balsamic vinegar, Rum and other creative surprise flavors.

Vestri is always thinking up new packaging and presentation.
These are his "LOVE BITES".

Look at the colors!
While I am down here in Sicily and going to pick up Pistacchio's!