mercoledì 26 novembre 2008

December's traditions

(traduzione in italiano su Agave blog)

The month of December is the richest of festivities, traditions and gastronomy.
The shops are already adorned with the Christmas decorations and cake shops are already full of sweets and biscuits.
The streets of the city are enriched by the colored lights (l'archi) of various types (simple threads of light, or wooden structures in the shape of stars, circles, flower), by white gold angels (which remember the sculptures of Serpotta), in expectation of seeing the big Christmas tree in front of Theatre Politeama, or see the steps of the Teatro Massimo covered by a red carpet of "Christmas stars", and palm trees illuminated by golden lights that make suggestive night.

This year, probably will be a climate of austerity because of the recession, certainly people will spend less, but perhaps curb excessive consumerism is also positive (of course if this will be a chance to revive other values, such as the rediscovery of self and others, of the value of diversity, peace, something deeper and not the ephemeral things that has filled television and the heads of people in recent years). I hope the fear of the future (fed every day by mass media) that turns easily into individualism, racism, closure, do not take the upper hand and that outweighs the will to live, to love and then even laugh and why not ... eat.

It 'also why in this particular year, it is important to celebrate and have fun with a few things. And the kitchen poor (but at the same time cheerful)of Palermo helps raise the mood without spending too much.

Church of Immacolata Concezione inside Capo Market

The month of December opens (on 7 and 8) with the feast of “Immaculate Conception” that we called simply "A Maruonna."
Again the opportunity is good to reunite families at the table.
The evening's eve (December 7) is the day when the people starts to play cards and bingo, which will last throughout the month and will conclude with the epiphany.
But the people of Palermo does not play on an empty stomach ... the dishes of this occasion is "Sfincione" and especially "Fried Cod or with raisins."
For lunch the next day usually eats "ANELLETTI o furnu"
"Lasagne cu sucu ri cutini ", or pork sausage with the sauce. Perhaps to sanction the arrival of cold with these foods more fat. The sweets to celebrate "A Maruonna" are many and very attractive, the Reginella (dry biscuits covered with sesame), "the Mustazzuola" (biscuit with honey ), "Buccellatini" and "u Cucciddatu tunnu". These are biscuits, stuffed figs, almonds, raisins.
We prepared "the Sfinci" home-made (leavened dough, fried in hot oil and then sprinkling of sugar), other than "Sfinci of San Giuseppe" which are stuffed with ricotta and you eat for the day which celebrates the namesake saint.

The feast that follows is Saint Lucia (on 13 December). Throughout the day "is not possible" eat bread and pasta, because the legend says that could become blind (during the month I will have more time to tell stories, legends and recipes). The people of Palermo have not taken literally the idea of penance or sacrifice, and so have invented a range of delicacies to can give up pasta and bread in particular .... For having to replace the breakfast with bread and milk, prepared rice soup with broccoli (cauliflower) or boiled vegetables, "patatevugghiute" (boiled potatoes)," Allessi "(boiled chestnuts) or even "Panelle and cazzilli”. For lunch and dinner the Arancino with meat or “al burro” (with ham and cheese), is great fun to prepare at home that often involves all the family members. "Grattò" ( potatoes with meat sauce and peas), and panelle crocchè and "patati a spizzatinu" (stewed potatoes).
And especially not miss the sweet, ”La Cuccìa”.
The Cuccìa was originally a very simple dish and poor, which was boiled wheat and seasoned with olive oil.
In Palermo, the original “Cuccìa” has given rise to a new sweet, with wheat boiled, cream cheese, candied and chocolate flakes.

Christmas is also in Palermo the most important festival of the year.
Families have already decorated the tree (there are two schools of thought, one that will decorate the tree on December 8 "Pa 'Maruonna", the second on 13 for Saint Lucia), there are people who make the crib.
The gifts are ready and the food (which is beginning to prepare the day before).

On the morning of Christmas (or the night of the eve) usually the people goes to Church (even those who do not go there throughout the year).

And then returned home will start the eating.
The choice is wide, it can vary from meat to fish, and now has been "contaminated" by more modern dishes and other sources, but here I only followed the traditional cuisine.
Starting from the starters: "U'Piattinu" with all types of cheeses and cold cuts (pizzami), "L’ Arenga salata" with herring, orange, pepper and onion oil, "U ficatu ri sette cannuola " (pumpkin in sweet and sour), "Oliva bianche cu' l’accia (olives with celery), “verdure a pastetta "(broccoli, artichokes, cardoons etc, in batter and fried)," Sardi a beccaficu " etc.
As first courses, "A pasta o furnu", "A pasta chi vrocculi arriminata."
As main courses "Brociolone" or "Farsu magru" (meat roll stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisins, cold cuts, boiled eggs), “Pisci spada ‘a ghiotta” (swordfish).
And many desserts including "cannoli", "Turruni", "Cucciddatu", "Petra fennula", including various pastries "Sciù" (BIGNE with ricotta), "Cassatine", "Cannulicchi", ficu sicchi" (figs dried),
"passuluna" (figs boiled) and scacciu (pumpkin seeds, chick peas, peanuts).

The same dishes are also prepared for the following day, Boxing Day and New Year lunch.
The night of the end of the year, someone goes outside home
You can then make a walking to Politeama, where there is the New Year concert.

lunedì 17 novembre 2008

The bread in Palermo

In Italiano su Agave blog

Bread for people from Palermo is the protagonist of the table.

It is so sacred that they also offered and headed a church to the bakers (San Isidoro Agricola “dei Fornai”).

Is nearly unthinkable eating something without accompany it with the bread, the seasonings are called "companatico, something" that is added to bread ("pane"), which comes before everything. Even today the habit of some mothers (like mine), when the family is at the table to reassure everyone by saying that "there is bread."

In Palermo the bread is eaten fresh (even say hot). Is possible to see in front of the bakers, just at lunch or dinner, group of people who wait, the more careful observer will note that the benches of the bakers are still full.
What do they expect? That the bread leaves the oven. They want the bread to be burning hot hands. Even before arriving home, in secret (because that is not good education, but all do it) breaking the “cozzitello” (the end of the bread) and eat burning the mouth but with much satisfaction.

What is the bread that remains? Most will be grated to season something (meat rolls, swordfish, sardines, eggplant, or to make meatballs , or is used for omelettes, or mixed with cheese and parsley For breaded meat), the breadcrumbs can also "atturrare" toast, to season many dishes of pasta (with broccoli, sardines, anchovies etc). The bread is sliced to make bruschetta (with tomato, garlic and oil), or the crumb is bathed in water or milk to make meatballs (without meat)to fry.

The breadcrumbs can be kept in the fridge mixed with laurel leaves.

The habit of eating freshly baked bread, it is also for the type of dough that is used in Palermo. In fact, our good bread crispy outside and soft inside, from a variety of forms decorated by Cimino (sesame), after a few hours becomes rubbery and almost inedible, unlike the so-called bread of country that more time passes the more it becomes good.

In Palermo you can find the bread at all hours of day and in Sunday when most of the bakeries are closed. No problem! Sundays or public holidays, in every street corner there are the white vans selling strands of bread from Monreale or Molara, a good diversion (excellent with nutella!).

In Palermo we waive the bread only one day a year, Saint Lucia, the penalty is become blind(but I will tell this story the next month), However, on this day we eat Arancino, potatoes, sweet ricotta. And our eyes are also guaranteed.

A particular type of bread ("cricchi" with seeds of wild fennel) is done for the day of St. Joseph, take by bakers in churches, blessed and offered to parishioners.

The bakeries not only sells bread, but also pizza, sfincione,

bread with olives, sweets, treccine (brioches intertwined and covered with sugar), "millefoglie" (bread with raisins covered with sugar).

The bread is fundamental to the famous sandwich with panelle and the spleen, or cunsato.

Having said all this, is clear because in Palermo to define a good person we say “E’ un pezzu ri pani” “is a piece of bread”.

And now the most typical: until recently the bread is not sold by weight (according to national regulations), but the format, now also entered into force the law!

PISTULUNI: bread-shaped elongated, cheap
MAFALDA and MAFALDINA: white bread flour braided
TORCIGLIATO OR STRONG BEER: white bread flour twisted. The first well-cooked, the second largest soft. SIGNORINI: big crunchy breadsticks.
PARIGINO: Similar to sfilatino.
PIZZIATO: similar to Parigino, more crunchy
SCALETTA: Similar to Mafalda. (Scalettina small format).
TOSCANINO: similar to Parigino, more thinner.
SEMPREFRESCHI: oval and soft
BOCCONCINI: small semprefreschi

domenica 16 novembre 2008

Today is "San Martino of the poor"

Today is San Martino of the poor,

and now the famous biscuits in "Barocco style" or "Rococò".

And a glass of "Vino Moscato"

martedì 11 novembre 2008

" 'Mpignolata " Loaf with sausage from Agrigento

photos of Jean-Luc Moreau

For the feast of St. Martin around Agrigento is a specialty that we like a lot, the 'mpignolata which is also called' mpriulata or 'mmiscata (depending on the town of origin).

We known it thanks to our guests-friends Lillo, Teresa and Ilaria of Grotte, a small town in the province of Agrigento.

It is a soft bun stuffed with sausage, onion and black olives, and there is another version with spinach and olives.

This dish was originally made at home during the period in which they celebrated San Martino, but now can be found throughout the year.

I found the recipe, although there are several versions. I have not cooked by me, but I ate the 'mpignolate that our friends bring us directly from Grotte.


1 Kg. of flour, 4 eggs, 50 gr. of yeast, 150 gr. of lard, sausage, black olives, onion, water or milk, oil, salt.

Pour the oil in the flour, mix well, add eggs, mix well, add enough salt, yeast, the lard dissolved and kneading it by adding little by little lukewarm water or milk. Mix well and allow to rise (the dough should be somewhat 'softer than the bread).

When the leavening will be reached, cut the dough into pieces of about 100-150 degrees; pave every piece with a rolling pin, making it take a rectangular shape and thin. Meanwhile in a pan cook the onion cut into slices in olive oil, to which you add the crumbled sausage. Put the sauce of sausage, onion and black olives fleshy and pitted on each rectangle of dough.

Wrap the dough over itself and then again in the shape of a spiral, put on an olives and place in hot oven. Cooking time: 30 minutes.

Now for vegetarians: with spinach.

Boil and then skip the spinach with olive oil in a pan, add the pitted black olives and season rectangles of pasta with this sauce, wrap the dough.

There are several versions in which you use minced beef, chunks of pecorino, Frittola pork, etc, to you the choice!

lunedì 10 novembre 2008

The day of Saint Martin

San Martino and the so-called "summer of San Martino" in Palermo are celebrated with cakes and wine. Not everyone know the history of this saint, but the opportunity to to eat much is not lost.

The rich people celebrate the Saint the 11th of November (San Martino of the rich), the poorest were looking for the following Sunday to celebrate (San Martino of the poor), the most gluttonous celebrate both days!

In Palermo in this day we eat three types of cookies, the simplest are the triccotti, round shape and flavored by fennel seeds. These cookies are very hard and we eat with the wine Moscato, a sweet wine made from grapes inzolia.

The same cookie (with a dough slightly 'softer), is drenched in rum and seasoned in two different versions. One is with ricotta and chocolate and covered with sugar veiled.

The other version seem a decorative element of a Baroque church! It contains the jam, is covered with white or pink frosting, adorned by sweet almond, from chocolates wrapped and silver decorations.

The day of San Martino in Palermo, but not only, was celebrated in the years because it coincided with pre and rural cults, which celebrated the last warm days before winter, which was called the summer of San Martino.

Furthermore, the name of this saint was linked to the production of wine, because around early November is produced the new wine. Hence the saying " in San Martino every must is wine." Became a good opportunity to taste the wine in the many taverns of the city, and drank to accompany boiled eggs, fried cardoons or biscuits.

In these beautiful days you could still eat outdoors roast beef, pork, sausage and drink so good wine! All this has made the holy very "friendly" and "famous" in the eyes of people from Palermo, that even in poverty, have in them the desire to celebrate and eat in the company of family and friends!

Some biographical to remember who was Martin of Tours.

Martin was a Roman soldier (not baptized). During one of his expeditions met a beggar with whom shared his cloak. During the night he had a vision in which Jesus returned him the mantle, why he don’t take cold (the mantle may also be a symbol of a more warm night) and praised him with the Angels because despite he was not baptized he had covered the beggar (that was the same Jesus). Next day Martino shocked by this vision is baptized, became Monaco and his work was mainly to convert to Christianity the people of Galli, to preach and to destroy pagan temples.

sacred images in Palermo

sabato 8 novembre 2008

Capone apparecchiato

It is an ancient dish of the kitchen of Monsù, which elaborated a special sweet and sour sauce (based on philosophical concepts of harmony and balance), which had pre Islamic origins. With this sauce French cooks seasoning dishes of meat or fish, putting together ( "appareiller") ingredients. The fish was the capone, a fish that's in our fishmongers in autumn.

The sweet and sour sauce is the same that is used to season the famous eggplant caponata, a delicious dish that is part of the poor kitchen (in fact in this case, slices of capone were replaced by cheaper pieces of eggplant). It is possible that the name caponata origins from the original plate capone, although there are several hypotheses about the origin of the name caponata.


1kg of fish, celery, 50gr of capers, 100 gr.of green olives, 1 onion, extra virgin olive oil, 100gr. tomato concentrate (you can also use peeled tomatoes), salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar.

Recipe: Clean and cut into pieces the capone. Clean the celery and cook in boiling water. Rinse the capers. Wash, pitted and cut into pieces olives. Chop the onion. In a saucepan fry the onion in olive oil. Add the tomato concentrate diluted with a little water, chopped celery, salt and pepper, and cook in moderate flame.
While the sauce cooks, pass into flour the slices of capone and fry in a pan with olive oil hot. When they are ready, put them on a plate covered with absorbent paper. Add to the sauce, olives, capers, vinegar and sugar, cook for a few minutes, until the vinegar is evaporated. Add the fish and cook for a few minutes. This dish is better cold.

giovedì 6 novembre 2008

"Pasta with sparacelli assassunati"

Another typical dish of Palermo is "a pasta with sparaceddi assassunati."

The "sparacelli" is a particular type of broccoli with large sprouts ( "giummi") and edible leaves. The term “Assassunati” derives from an ancient sauce (very cheap) used by Jewish communities on Sicily and then used from the "Monsù" (French chefs), to season ( "assaisonner") vegetables (see brochure published dall'aapit "Kitchen history and traditions "). The main ingredient of this sauce are the excellent Sicilian olive oil and garlic.

In Palermo we cooked with the assassunata sauce, the "sparacelli", the "broccoli" (cauliflower), the "giri" (chard) etc. The kind of pasta that is used for this dish is the “bucatini”, much appreciated in the kitchen of Palermo, perhaps because when you eat makes “u scrusciu” (noise), is certainly not a very refined image, but is part of our culture!
Sparacelli, extra virgin olive oil, two anchovy fillets, two cloves of garlic, salt and pepper.


Wash thoroughly the sparacelli. Cut into pieces the sprouts, and the leaves.Boil them for 10-15 minutes in salted water. Remove from water the sparacelli and place them in a dish. Put in a large frying pan olive oil, anchovy and two cloves of garlic cut into large pieces, fry slightly and then add the sparacelli and some 'pepper. Is ready in minutes.

Cook pasta in the cooking water of sparacelli, after ten minutes remove the pasta from the pot and put it in a pan with sauce. Put it in the dishes and… Good appetite!

sabato 1 novembre 2008

I prefer transform the red Halloween pumpkin in this way…

"Ficatu di sette cannola." (Pumpkin in sweet and sour)
“Liver of the Sette cannola neighbourhood”

This is a dish of the "palermitana poor cuisine". It was born from the processing of a more "rich" dish, cooked by the Monsù (refined chefs who cooked for the noble French), the main ingredient of this dish was liver (breaded and fried).

Probably in the neighborhood of “sette cannola”, where the poorest people rarely ate meat (though it was offal), some good housewives of Palermo came to know of this delicious dish and so decided to reinvent itself, replacing the liver with a cheaper ingredient, pumpkin red. The result will envy the best Monsù!

500 grams of red pumpkin, olive oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic, mint, pepper, salt

Peel the pumpkin and remove the red part with the seeds (if you like, the seeds can be dried in the sun and transformed into what we call "semenza"). Cut it into slices and a cm thick. Fry the pumpkin slices in olive oil on a slow fire, turned gently (will take a brown color). Add the cloves of garlic cut into slices. When the pumpkin are just fried, you must remove the excess oil, raise the heat, and pour over the vinegar (which will be done dissolve a teaspoon of sugar). When vinegar has evaporated, put them in a plate and add salt, pepper and especially mint leaves. Let cool is more tasty!