Monday, June 29, 2009

Parmigiana di melanzane? Typical Sicilian!

Yummy, yummy! It's time of one of my favourite dishes, eggplant Parmesan, also known as parmigiana di melanzane.
Despite its name, the word "parmigiana" does not derive from that of the Parmisan cheese but is the Italianization of the Sicilian dialectic word "parmiciana" which are the slats of wood composing the central part of a shutter and overlapping in the same manner as the slices of eggplant in the dish. It seems that parmigiana is a heritage of the Greek and Arab dominations in Sicily as it recalls the Greek moussaka and the Arab tiani.
It's way of cooking differs from area to area so, as usual, I post my family recipe.

serves 4 pax

4 medium/big size eggplants
200 gr pulped tomatoes
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
2 eggs
100 gr of mortadella (or ham)
salty ricotta cheese (or Parmesan)
extra-virgin olive oil

1. Slice eggplants about half a centimeter thick (you should slice them lenghtways), pour eggplants in layers into a bowl filled with cold water covering each one with salt and let them rest for about 30 minutes. Then, stir and let them rest
again for about 10 minutes on a dishcloth.

2. Use a frying pan, pour some olive oil and start frying the slices of eggplants on both sides until they get brown. Let each slice dry on a blotting paper.

3. Prepare the tomato sauce: cut the onion and the garlic finely up, pour some olive oil into a pan and brown them, then add pulped tomatoes and let everything cook for about 15 minutes until it thickens. Add salt and basil as you like.

4. In a oven-proof dish start arranging the fried slices of eggplants in layers and be careful not to place one on another if possible. Pour some tomato sauce
along the first layer spreading it evenly and grate some salty ricotta cheese (or Parmesan). Add a new layer of eggplants and cover them with slices of mortadella or ham. Proceed with layers alternating one with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese/Parmesan with another with mortadella or ham until you reach 4 or 5 different layers.

5. Beat the eggs and cover with it the last layer of eggplants. Preheat the oven at 200°C for about 10 minutes, then put the parmigiana into the oven for about 30 minutes until the eggs get a brown ring.

6. You can serve it warm or better let it rest and serve cold. Before serving, you can decorate it with some tomato sauce, flakes of ricotta cheese/Parmesan and basil.

Tricks & tips:
- use the long oval eggplant, dark purple in color, and be careful to choose the ones with the right consistency as they should be not too soft nor too hard
- to increase taste, you can add some mozzarella or
caciocavallo cheese between layers
- grill the eggplants for a savour but light version of
parmigiana but please, first cook it as per my recipe, you will taste (and appreciate!) the difference!

Buon appetito!

© Text and pictures by Doriana Briguglio

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Frivolous granita? Something you cannot do without it

Are you planning to visit Sicily? Are you a foodie-kind of traveler?

There is a list of local food and delicacies you cannot miss. Granita, arancini, cannoli and cassata are top on the list and if do not taste at least one of them you cannot proudly say "I was in Sicily"!

Let's start with granita, my favourite. What is funny to me is reading worldwide accredited and reliable guides writing that granita is made with ice and syrup. I suppose those writers have never been to Sicily or have never tasted granite in Sicily to talk and write nonsense.
It is true that in the past people used to prepare granita with snow and lemon juice, this was typical of Messina area, while Catania dignified the "minnulata" a granita made exclusively of almonds.
Born originally in Messina, granita is diffused all around the island. It is a kind of sorbet, the basic recipe includes water (not ice!) and sugar to which several ingredients are added to characterize its flavor: lemon, almond, strawberry, coffee, chocolate (it matches perfectly with the almond one), pistachio (try it in Catania area!), mulberries, peach, just to mention some.
Bars and caf├Ęs rigorously serve in a transparent glass and you may ask to add some panna (cream) on the top or at the bottom of the glass (this is used in Messina area where they add panna both at the bottom and on the top of the coffee granite) and match it with a fragrant brioche. So, while in Sicily ask for "granita con panna e brioche"!

Granita is a true masterpiece of Sicilian cooking and the favourite piece for summer breakfast (don't be afraid to have a granita any time during the day, you will see local people have lunch with it or eat it at midnight!).
Believe me, it is absolutely a must, a
frivolous titbit you will never forget!

In Sicily the method to make it is completely different from the north of Italy where they use to make ice, crush it and then add the flavour. Here, bars and cafes use a special machine with blades able to keep moving the liquid at a very low temperature so avoiding it to solidify. A high percentage of sugar in the liquid favours the preparation of a sort of cream which is the granite itself.

Now, you wonder, can we do home-made granita? Definitely yes!

Serves 4/5 people

½ a lt of lemon juice (use 8/10 organic lemons only)
½ a lt of water
500 gr of caster sugar
Grated lemon peel (1/2 organic lemons are enough)
A steel bowl

1. Grate the lemon peel and then squeeze the lemons to prepare the juice.
2. Boil the water and let it rest until tepid, then add sugar, lemon juice and grated lemon peel. Let it cool.
3. Pour it in the steel bowl and put it in the freezer. Stir the liquid every 20/30 minutes using a fork or a whisk so to avoid its solidification.
4. When the liquid becomes grainy, granite is ready. Serve it in transparent glasses with tea spoons and fresh cream.

Buon appetito!

P.S. The brioche recipe will be posted at soonest!

© Text and pictures by Doriana Briguglio