Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve dinner

orange salad
selection of typical Sicilian appetizers

Fourteen people at dinner for Cristmas Eve and two days for preparing all the courses.
Big families' reunions are a tradition for Christmas Eve as well as a table laid carefully and prepared for the feast with rich food.
The menu included:
a rich selelction of Sicilian appetizers:
eggplants fillets in oil
artichokes in oil
green and black olives
green olives filled with breadcrumbs and pecorino chesse
round chilly peppers filled with tuna fish
red chilly peppers filled with anchovies
cloves of sweet garlic in oil
cherry tomatoes in oil

a selection of Sicilian cheese and salami:
smoked provola cheese
(a type of cheese made from buffalo's milk from Ragusa area)
tuma cheese
strong provolone cheese
home-made salami from Sant'Angelo di Brolo
zuzzo (sort of pork in aspic)
ham and cheese mousse
two types of mignon crepes:
one filled with ricotta cheese and spinach flavoured with butter and
the other filled with bechamel and mushrooms

two types of typical Catanese scacciata
(a sort of covered pizza with fillings):
one type filled with tuma cheese and anchovies and
the other filled with wild vegetables and sausages
(these two prepared by my sister in law)

cauliflower croquettes
flavoured with bacon and cheese

dried cod croquettes

orange salad
with fennel and green onion

home made chocolate birthday cake
(it was my bother's birthday)

panettone and pandoro

During dinner, wine was red from Regaleali winery.
After dinner, together with dried fruit and nuts to munch (these are typical at Christmastime) Sicilian liqueurs and digestives made of fennel, tangerine, lemon and Moscato wine.

There was enough to feed an army!
P.S. I will post some of these recipes during the next days
Pictures: © Doriana Briguglio

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Talks about wine: Zibibbo, the wine to make merry

Let's start our talks about Sicilian wine from the Zibibbo (kind of muscatel wine), once named by Sicilians "the wine to make merry".
Brought by the Phoenicians to the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, the name Zibibbo comes from the Arab "zabib" meaning raisins. Pantelleria still is owns the biggest national production.
The prevailing use of the Zibibbo grape is to make wine or sun-dried as raisins. The wine is usually straw yellow with gold tints, very sweet, with a high alcohol content and a characteristic smell.
I would like to thank Aldo from Enoteca di Sicilia for being our guide to understand and appreciate this typical wine of Sicily.
"When we talk about Zibibbo, Aldo says, we refer both to the name of the vine and the wine we get from it. It is the perfect wine to match with typical Sicilian desserts which are greatly based on almonds suh as paste di mandorla (almond pastries) and cassata cake. Pantelleria as well as Marsala and Trapani are the areas devoted to the production in Sicily. Depending on the vintage time we have four types of different wines:
1. End of August harvest: the wine produced is a very fragrant and dry Zibibbo, a table wine perfect to macht with apetizers and fish-dishes, to drink at 12°/13°C.
2. September harvest: the wine becomes gold yellow, sweet, perfect to match with Sicilian desserts such as almond pastries, cassata and cannoli. To drink at 13°/14°C
I suggest to try "Zibibbo dolce" by Pipitone Spanò winery (about Eur 18,00).
3. End of September harvest: the grapes are dried in the sun on racks. The wine becomes passito, absolutely to drink alone at 13°/14°C.
"Vigna la Miccia" by Marco de Bartoli winery (about Eur 40,00) and "Kamma" by Murana winery (about Eur 40,00) are my favourites.
4. October harvest: the ripen grape becomes a more sweet muscatel one, amber in colour and aromatic. The wine is usually named Moscato di Pantelleria, perfect to match with dry desserts and pastries. To drink at 13°/14°C. It is impossible to find two similar passito wines, as bouquet and taste vary from wine to wine depending on the components. My list of top passito wines includes:
"Bukkuram" by Marco de Bartoli winery with a distinctive feature of apricot (about Eur 65,00)
"Martingale" by Murana winery, with its prevalent feature of dried figs (about Eur 70,00)
"Sangue d'Oro" by Carol Bouquet winery (about Eur 50,00)."
Good wines make people good-humored!
Picture: © Doriana Briguglio

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sfoglio, a dessert from the Madonie area

The Madonie Mountains are located not so far from Palermo holding some of the most distinctive and well-kept villages in Sicily, many on them dating back to the Middle Ages.

The recipe of the sfoglio goes back to the XIV - XV century a.C. when the nuns of the Santa Margherita Monastry, located in the village of Polizzi Generosa, used to cook it for their patron saint day St. Benedict.

Its main ingredient is the tuma cheese, being the first cheese deriving from the milk making.
Once it is cooked, you will never realise that cheese is really in the dessert and you will simply love it for its peculiar taste.

Preparing the puff pastry:
400 grams of white flour
200 grams of lard or butter
200 grams of sugar
4 yolks
3 Marsala wine spoons
(do not use any other spirit if you d not have the Marsala)
grated lemon rind
a bit of salt

Preparing the filling:
400 grams of grated tuma cheese
(if you do not find the tuma cheese you might use the ricotta cheese)
200 grams of sugar
25 grams of cinnamon powder
200 grams of plain chocolate
100 grams of candied pumpkin in small chops
2 beaten egg whites
icing sugar

Prepare the dough mixing well all ingredients, try not to knead it for long so to avoid the lard or butter soften it too much. When the puff pastry is ready, wrap it in a cloth and let it rest for about 2 hours. If it is possible, prepare the puff pastry one day in advance.

Grate the tuma cheese and add the beaten egg whites with the sugar, then the cinnamon powder, the chops of plain chocolate and of candied pumpkin. Mix well all ingredients and let it rest.

Roll out the puff pastry so to get two round pieces, one larger, one smaller.
The first, the larger, should be used to cover the pie-dish (better to roll out it straight on the greaseproof paper), the second to cover the filling.
Lay the puff pastry down with care on the pie-dish, pour the filling and cover it with the second puff pastry. Bake it at 180°C for about 40-50 minutes.

When it is cold, dust the cake with the icing sugar.

Tip: let it rest for 2 days before serving it. It will be delicious!

Picture: © Doriana Briguglio

Enoteca Sicilia - the wine with its soul

Aldo is one of those people one should meet in life.
If you visit Catania I suggest to pop around his Enoteca di Sicilia ready to be overwhelmed by his infectious enthusiam.
Passionate, nice and friendly Aldo loves wines.

That's why Enoteca di Sicilia is not simply a wine shop. It is better a wine temple where knowledge, odours and favours reign undisputed.

Please, do not imagine Enoteca di Sicilia as one of those huge wine shops where you can find every kind of wine. Not at all! It is a small one room shop where Sicilian wines and wineries are selected exclusively for their quality production and not for the name of their brand.

You will be surprised by the numbers of small Sicilian wineries on the shelves, most of them producing just a few thounsands bottles.

But first, let me tell you that Aldo started to get in touch with the wine world during his studies in Greek philosophy, becoming a real passionate. Previously a history of art professor, during the '98 he decided that was not his way. In 2000 he launched the WWW - Wine Wednesday Workshops collecting friends and acquaintances around wine and food.
This is how the Enoteca Siciliana experience begun. Now it has established its reputation as the place where to taste and buy top Sicilian wines.

Since the very first beginning Aldo decided to select and suggest only Sicilian wines voicing great quality and impossible to find on the large-scale retail trade.

Sicily is the wine region par excellence. A perfect climate, a lot of sun and light give the vine in Sicily its best condition to ripen its bunches and give Sicily a great vocation to wine producing with wines of exceptional quality and of a very good relationship betweeen quality and price.

But, as Aldo says, there is a common trend to level any kind of wine to the consumer's taste.

"Each wine has its own peculiarities. Its diversity and its variety should communicate sensations, emotions, it should give a fund of sensory experiences always different one wine from then other. That's why as Enoteca di Sicilia, we have decided to avoid wines as copies of others, to escape from blazoned and prizewinner wines, from high-priced wines as false index of quality.
We said no to this market-oriented wine culture, indifferent to the territory and without identity.
We said and we say yes to those wineries exhaling the scents of an area, of a territory. Every winery has been selected according to careful criteria, above all a production from owned vines and wineyards. These wines may be different but all of them have their soul."

Enoteca di Sicilia is a great experience and Aldo is the perfect Cicerone along the wine routes of Sicily.

Federico (left) and Silvia (right) are his splendid children, helping Aldo to run Enoteca di Sicilia.
Enoteca di Sicilia
Viale Africa 31
95100 Catania (Sicily, Italy)
T + 39 095 7462210
Picture: © Doriana Briguglio

Monday, December 15, 2008

Buccellato - the typical Sicilian dessert for Christmas

The word Buccellato comes from the latin word buccellatum meaning half-eaten (or cucciddatu in Sicilian slang). It is a typical dessert for Christmas served all over the island. Cooked in the oven, it keeps for long and is used to eat it during all Christmas holidays. The home-made version may be covered with icing.

For the dough:
500 gr of wheat flour
500 gr of butter
200 gr of sugar
4 eggs
a glass of milk

For the stuffing:
300 gr of dried figs
200 gr of candied pumpkin in cubes
150 gr of walnuts
150 gr of raisins
50 gr of plain chocolate
50 of pistaches
150 gr of ground almonds
1 egg
2 cloves
ground black pepper

Preparing the dough:

Process the butter as a cream and add it to the flavour, the eggs, the sugar and the glass of milk. Prepare two pieces of dough, roll out them as a thick puff pastry and cut out two round shapes.

Preparing the filling:

Cut the dried figs in small pieces, cut roughly the pistaches, the almonds and the walnuts. In a bowl mix these ingredients with some slivers of plain chocolate, the raisins and the cubes of candied pumpkin. Add the egg, a bit of cinnamon, half a spoon of ground black pepper and the 2 cloves. Mix all ingredients to obtain a dense filling.

Cut the centre of the puff pastry with a round shape and put the filling on. Then, cover the filling with the second puff pastry so to get a ring. For accomplished cooks cut the pastry into several strips and create a sort of net to cover the filling.

Dust the buccellato with the chopped pistach and cook in the oven on a moderate flame for about 30 minutes.

When cold, add some candied fruit on top. Slice and serve it.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cuccia cake - welcome to Christmas time

The Cuccia is a typical Sicilian dessert which traditionally inaugurate Christmas time on the day of St. Lucy, the 13th of December.

500 gr of soft wheat
50 gr of fresh ricotta cheese
300 gr of sugar
100 gr of plain chocolate
1/2 a sachet of vanilla or cinnamon
pistachios or candid fruit

The wheat must be soaked for 3 days and the water must be changed at least twice.
The day before preparing the cake, the wheat must be strained, then immersed into salty water and cooked on a low flame for 6/8 hours. Let it rest in the same pan all night long.

The day after, strain the wheat and put it in a bowl.

Then start preparing the ricotta cream: put the ricotta cheese and the sugar in a pan and cook it on a moderate flame, bring it to the boil and put it out. Make it cold and add the chocolate in pieces, the vanilla or the cinnamon and at last the wheat.
Finally, mix all ingredients, pour the mixture in a cake tin and let it rest for 3 hrs.
Serve it on a plate or on a small bowl and cover with pistachio or candid fruit.

About Sicily

"… A landscape in which it is possible to find what on earth
seems to be made to seduce eyes, mind, imagination…".

These are the true words of a great writer Guy de Maupassant, who didn’t just imagine Sicily but really lived it.

I was born and raised in Sicily, I work in Sicily and I love and hate it.
This is a beautiful but so complicated island.
A holiday in Sicily is a journey to the roots of the world, a journey to a rich source of nature, history and culture, melted into a small triangle of land in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea.

I like to say that Sicily is The view of time.

Sicily, with about 5.200.000 inhabitants, is the most extensive region in Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean and it is separated from the Italian peninsula by the Strait of Messina.

Sicily has always been a microcosm: a composite world in which people of different races, religions and languages have clashed and met in different periods of its history: the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the Spanish have created in the island a unique and multifaced development and interchange of civilization leaving a rich heritage in terms of culture, architecture, food, way of living.

Sicily is a land of great conflicts and contradictions. For its richness in beauty, nature, history, food I wish there was a corrsponding wealth in awareness, self determination, public consciousness, respect of the res publica, development.

Italians and mostly Sicilians are all around the world, many of them now descendants of the first immigrand of the beginning of the 20th century, others what I define the new de-luxe immigrants, people who decided to leave Italy and Sicily for top positions in the most advanced countries of the world.

This of mine is meant to be an ideal journey into space and time, to seek and to find flavours and colours, unique and unforgettable feelings and images.
This is an invitation to experience Sicily and enjoy everything this island can offer.

A new experience

That's a new experience for me. I'm scared and excited about it.

I've always liked writing and to tell the true during my teens I thought I was going to be a journalist, a reporter or something like that. Then, life leads you somewhere else.

First of all I apologize to everyone for any kind of mistake you may find: I'm not a native English-speaker but I promise I'll try to do my best!

Why this blog? I travel since I was 14. I work in the travel business as I'm a event manager and I design, plan, organize and coordinate meetings and events. I meet thousands of people from all around the world. And, what is always surprising to me is the common opinion that Italy is a wonderful country: great food, superb wines, friendly people, gorgeous landscapes, rich in history, culture and monuments, a country where style and design are our king and queen and the motto (saying) "bella vita" is almost a religion.

That is true, but partially true.

One of my pastime is reading books about life in Italy and Sicily and most of all about Italian and Sicilian cuisine. What I find funny is that most of the time the authors are not Sicilian nor Italian even if they seem to know Italy and Sicily better that us. Expecially when talking about food, they seem to manage the secrets of our cooking even better than us.

That is sometimes true, not always true.

My commitment and my great pleasure will be to up-date you about Sicilian life through a true Sicilian point of view. It is a pure selfish need but also a way to claim the right to write and say about Sicily as a Sicilian.
I will introduce you to the Sicilian life through regular posting about food, wine, places, people and more.

I'm not a chef nor a wine maker, I'm not a writer nor a journalist. But I'm passionate about my country and I will be passionate in this new experience of mine.

And it is my opportunity to reach my teenager's dream! Thank's to technology, that's to Internet, thank's to the blogs!

Sometimes I will be the means as I would like to introduce you to great people I know: chefs, wine makers, designers, all good new and old friends of mine, to let you enjoy their Italian or Sicilian experience. Sometimes I will just write down my experience and share my thoughts with you.

So, welcome everybody, welcome to Sicily, welcome to The Sicilian Experience!