Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pan d'arancio: the perfect marriage between Sicilian almonds & oranges

Have you ever heard of a Sicilian cake called "pan d'arancio"? The pan d'arancio (literally orange bread) is a typical cake prepared in the province of Palermo that eminently combines two typical products that Sicily offers during the winter and the spring season: oranges and almonds.

It is a soft orange-flavored sponge, perfect for any occasion: a birthday, a rich breakfast or a Sunday afternoon tea with family and friends. 

It has an extremely delicate taste and it can be served either with a sprinkle of icing sugar or with a bit of more character, the proper orange icing on top.

It's absolutely delicious!

Ingredients and preparation:

200 gr. 00 raising flour
100 gr. ground almonds
150 gr. caster sugar
150 gr. butter
1 large orange (zest and juice)
3 eggs

For the icing:

100 gr. icing sugar
the juice from 1 orange

1.In a large bowl mix the eggs with the sugar, whisk well until properly and smoothly beaten. 2. Add the grounded almonds plus the raising flour, finally the melted butter. 3. In a blender put the whole orange (previously rinsed) in pieces (better if a biological one). 4. Once it has become a pure' add it to the rest of the mixture until is smooth. 5. Pour the mix in a baking tin previously buttered and floured and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Temperature should be 180°degrees.

To check the cake open the oven after 30 minutes (never before) and try it with a wooden stick to see if it's still uncooked or humid in the middle. Try again, if required, a second time after 10 minutes.

Prepare the icing in a plate by melting the orange juice with the icing sugar until you get a semithick icing that you can pour on top of the cake and on the side using a spatula. You can also decorate it with small orange candies on top. 

You will find that this typical cake not only is exquisite but is also extremely genuine. Enjoy!

To see a lighter version of the Pan d'arancio click HERE

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Simple and genuine, the perfect minestra for the Holy Week

Have you ever tried this genuine and super healthy minestra dish that we called pasta with lettuce? This recipe has very poor origins as it was prepared with only 2 ingredients in ancient times: romaine lettuce and pasta, while nowadays we can add some more flavors but still it doesn't loose its simplicity and genuiness.

It is a great choice if you want a low-calories meal or you need to fix issues: from an upset stomach to lower the blood level of colesterol and sugar, and it is also a source of minerals for our system, in particular magnesium, calcium and potassium.

t is also a perfect dish to have in days such as Good Friday to feed your soul as well as your stomach. Reason being that Good Friday is a day of moaning and fasting for Catholics (fasting usually intended as not to eat any food between meals and have a light lunch/dinner) but also abstinence from any meat in respect of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

So... I have given you many reasons why you should try this soup pasta. What are you waiting for? :))

Ingredients and Preparation for 2 people

1 romaine lettuce
120 gr pasta, either small pasta for example what we called ditalini (small thimbles) or broken spaghetti
chilli pepper (fresh or powder)
40 gr. seasoned Sicilian caciocavallo in small dice
grated caciocavallo or pecorino
30 gr. salt

Switch the heat on and put a pot with 3/4 of water for your soup pasta. In the meantine, wash the lettuce under running water, cut it in pieces and when the water boils, put the salt and drop the lettuce. Let it cook 10 minutes on a low heat.
While lettuce is cooking, cut your caciocavallo cheese in dice, weighs your pasta, then mix it with the lettuce (not the cheese though) and the chilli pepper. If you like you can also add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

Let it cook together according to what type of pasta you have got. Check the packet in any case, if it's small thimbles, for example, will take few minutes longer compared to the broken spaghetti.

After 7-8 minutes check the pasta by tasting it. If it's still too hard, give it another 1 or 2 minutes, then switch the heat off and add the cheese in dice at the very end.
Serve hot in soup plates or small bowls and add some grated cheese on top of your choice. I usually put some grated caciocavallo as well or pecorino. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Crazy about Sicilian granita? Go to the "Nivarata" in Acireale

Have you ever tried a Sicilian granita? A granita is a flavored slush but on a completely different level. It's typical of Eastern Sicily (especially Catania and Siracusa) and is tasty,  refreshing and you can choose among dozens of different flavors.

People have it for breakfast or for afternoon snack, or whenever the heat becomes unbearable in Sicily. The most ancient ones are definitely the lemon and the almond one, but you can have coffee, pistachio, mandarine, fig & basil, chocolate and so on... depending on the creativity of the Maestro in charge.

In any case, any flavor you will choose, it has to go with the famous "brioche col tuppo", which is a soft bun with a small cap on.

For those who are visiting Catania and Acireale at the beginning of June there is an appointment you cannot miss.

It is called the NIVARATA and it's a Festival of the most exquisite granitas in the world.

If you estimate this amazing product or you just want to try it for the 1st time, this is the event for you!

For all the details and dates you can visit the Official site HERE

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Crespelle, zeppole or Benedettine: 3 names but only 1 recipe!

Have you ever heard of the "crespelle di riso catanesi"? Or as we call it in Sicilian "i crispeddi"? This is a recipe which is traditionally prepared in Catania and Siracusa for the festivity of Saint Joseph, on the 19th of March. It is also popular during the Italian Carnival, which obviously changes every year, according to the day of Easter.

The word "crespelle" literally means crinkly, because it's something that is crunchy outside, but remains soft inside. The story tells that the first to cook this exquisite recipe were the Benedictine nuns in Catania back in the XVI° century, infact another name to call them is also "Benedettine" or even "zeppole di riso".

Ingredients & preparation for about 25 crespelle

Add caption
- 250 gr Rice (the one for risotto like Arborio)
- 300 milk
- 250 water
- 150 flour 00
- 60 gr. Caster sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon (powder)
- 5 gr. Brewer's yeast

 You will also need:

- groundnut oil for frying (or alternatively you can use coconut butter)
- some icing sugar for decoration

For the syrup or dipping sauce:
- 250 gr. orange blossom honey
- the zest and the juice of 1 orange (biological)

Step 1: cook the rice in the milk

1. Pour the milk in a pot on a medium heat. When it starts boiling "cala" (drop) the rice in and add a pinch of salt and the sugar. Lower the heat and let the rice absorb the milk. If once absorbed the rice is still not cooked completely, add some hot water little by little (like you would do with a normal risotto). 

Step 2: mix all the ingredients

2. As soon as the rice is cooked, remove it from heat and place it in a large bowl where you will add the flour, the cinnamon,  the yeast melt in a bit of lukewarm water and some of the grated orange zest (if you like it you can also mix orange and lemon zest). 

The result has to be a thick dough, if too thick you can still add few more drops of milk, but it is important that has quite a solid texture.

Step 4: flatten the rice mix

3. Once the mix is ready, let it set for about 1 hour in a cool dry place.

4. After this time place the mixture on a large baking paper and flatten it with a spoon or a spatula like shown in the pic here on your left.

Step 5: frying time!

5. Pour the oil in a large frying pan and when it arrives at temperature with a knife and a spoon (or again a spatula) cut little cylinders of the rice mix and fry them on both sides until they get golden brown. 

Once you have finished all the dough and have fried all your crespelle, place them on a nice serving plate (better is it has high rims) or a bowl and start preparing your syrup.

For the honey syrup or dip sauce: 

6. In a medium pan, heat the orange juice adding the honey and some orange zest and gently stir with a wooden spoon until they are perfectly melted together. 

Finally, pour the syrup over the fried crespelle and add some more orange zest on top and sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve hot. 

Every one will go crazy about them and will ask you for more. You have my word! :-))

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mr. Sirah from the Mandrarossa family, best friend ever... I mean wine!

A real friend never lets you down, especially during hard times. Right?
The other night it was pouring down heavily, my train was delayed and when I finally got back home I was exhausted. I had one of those days in which you don't stop for a second, and when you can finally relax, lie on the sofa and watch some telly, your brain just won't let you, because is still busy thinking a gazillion things.

I decided I needed a good friend to keep me company, one of the few that never disappoint you because they are truthful and sincere, so I went for my massive cellar (a tiny cabinet in the kitchen...) and uncorked one of my favorite Sicilian wines, the Mandrarossa Syrah from Cantine Settesoli, Menfi (AG).
Photo source:

The Syrah cultivated in
this part of Sicily (south-west/Agrigento province), also known as Shiraz, is unique and definitely a superb product.

Essentially for two reasons: the sandy soil where the grapes grow and the perfect weather that gives the wine a fruity, tasty but delicate flavor.

It is a quite structured wine with a red intense color and purple tinges and
notes of figs, lavender and elderflower. 

It can be used as a "mono-cultivar" (100% sirah) or blended with Nero d'Avola.

Best served at room temperature (16-18 degrees).

The perfect pairing for this red are dishes like grilled vegetables, semi-matured cheese and the traditional macco di fave, the fava bean mash.

As I was ready to eat, I looked outside the window and the rain had stopped. I could see the light of the moon. I switched on the heating, cut a slice of bread, had some grilled aubergine with cheese and poured myself a glass of this lovely wine, and I soon felt warm and reassured.

Never underestimate what a good friend can do for you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Palermo is the Capital of the Italian Culture for 2018


Dear friends,

I am so proud to announce that Palermo two days ago has been nominated by the Mibact Commission <<Capital of Italian Culture for 2018>> and I personally want to celebrate this victory sharing this beautiful video created by Giovanni Santamarina and posted by Vivendo Palermo.

How to describe Palermo? 

Palermo makes your heart beating fast, because is a contagious mix of feelings.

It's joy and chaos, it's breathtaking monuments, dirty streets, millenium of history, people shouting for no reason, the Festino
on the 14th of July, the smell of pane e panelle, the sun that burns your skin, the opera dei pupi, the Phonicians footsteps, the car left in the middle of the street, the Marzipan fruits on the 1st of november, a sketch of Ficarra & Picone, a refreshing glass of acqua e anice, the sculptures of Serpotta, the blood shed from our heros, the sea that cools you down when the scirocco is blowing from Africa, and it's more people shouting for a lot of valid reasons.

For these things and for a thousand more there is no other place like Palermo.

Palermo is light and darkness, it's silence and noise, it's legality and crime, it's welcome and exclusion, it's a bay and a mountain, it's love and hate, it's culture and ignorance, it's honesty and corruption, it's laugh and cry, it's humanity and inhumanity, it's life and death.

It's a sweet slice of cassata with a bitter black expresso. It's everything and beyond.

There is no such thing as a good or a bad description of something so incredibly complex and difficult and so extraordinary at the same time. Palermo is an unspeakable beauty with thousands of different souls and colors, and after you visit it you will never be the same, because it will simply take your breath away.

It will stay in your eyes, find a place in your heart
and never leave you.

Proud that my city has got such a rewarding recognition and I do hope is gonna be used in the best possible way!

And you? How would you describe Palermo?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rianata and tabisca: delicious local Sicilian focaccias

Rianata Trapanese
Have you ever heard of the names "RIANATA TRAPANESE" or "TABISCA SACCENSE"? And what about the "FUATA NISSENA"? Do not worry. They are not bad words... ha ha ha.

These are the names of three typical local focaccias who have very similar basic ingredients, although they originally come from three different Sicilian provinces.

Many times I talked about the sfincione palermitano, but now from Palermo we are going to move east, south and centre. The Rianata infact is a Sicilian word that means something with a lot of oregano and is from Trapani, the tabisca is made in Sciacca and in the whole Agrigentino land, while the fuata (again another Sicilian word which means focaccia) comes from the town of Caltanissetta.

Ingredients & Preparation for one pizza rianata

 For the dough

25 gr fresh brewer's yeast

- 500 gr strong flour 

- a pinch of salt

- half a cup of lukewarm water 

- 1 tbspoon extra virgin olive oil

Let's start by melting the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of salt. Once is all melted pour the water into the flour and start kneading. Add the oil of olive and if the result is still a bit hard just add 2 more tablespoons of water.

Knead the dough properly until is smooth and elastic. Make a ball of it and place it in a large bowl to rise for at least one hour. Make sure you keep it in a repaired place away from drafts and cover it with a kitchen cloth or an old blanket.

For the seasoning

-  400 gr ripe tomatoes 

- 6 anchovies filletts 

3 or 4 cloves of garlic 

- 80 gr grated pecorino

- dried oregano and thyme

(as much as you like)

- 4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

- salt & pepper

Put the kettle on to warm up some water. Once the water boils cover the tomatoes with it and leave it for about 10 minutes. It will help peel the tomatoes skin very easily.

Once you have peeled them all, cut them into pieces and season them, adding the other ingredients: salt & pepper, olive oil, grated pecorino, plus the anchovies fillets and the garlic both crashed into tiny little  pieces. 

Finally add abundant oregano and thyme and the seasoning is ready.

Switch the oven at a temperature of 200°. If 60 or 90 minutes have passed is definitely time to roll out the dough. Place some oven paper on the base of your oven tray, than shape the dough as you prefer: either rounded, oval or squared. 

As soon as the oven reaches the right temperature season the dough with the tomatoes mix and place it to cook in the oven for at least half an hour. You can check after 20 minutes, but make sure you also check the bottom of the focaccia to see if it's cooked. 

The cooking time can vary according to your own oven, so I would say keep checking every 10 minutes until you see that the dough is perfectly cooked and is golden brown. Add few more drops of olive oil and serve hot. Everyone will love the genuineness and simplicity of this dish as well as the tasty flavours too. 

It is also perfect for vegeterians or for people who can't eat dairies (in that case just leave out the pecorino.) 


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Meatballs in broth, the frugal dish that keeps you warm

Have you ever heard of this typical dish called "Monachine in brodo"? Perfect during the winter season the monachine are tiny little meatballs cooked in broth and served with some rustic bread.

The making of the monachine is extremely easy, you can also have a rich version or a lighter version, especially if you want to stay on a diet for healthy reasons or after the Christmas festivities.

Ingredients & Preparation for 4 people

350 gr beef minced meat (alternatively you can use minced turkey for an healthier version)
2 tbsp breadcrumb
100 gr grated parmisan or grana or pecorino
a small bunch of fresh pairsley
1 egg
[*some people also add a boiled potato in the mix]
For the broth you can do a classical vegetable one boiling together 1 carrot, half a celery and a small onion in 4 cups of water (or alternatively use a normal cube stock). 

Mix the minced meat with all the other ingredients (except for the parsley) and start shaping very tiny meatballs. 

Once they are all ready drop them in the broth and bring to the boil for about 15 minutes.

The smaller the meatballs are, the faster they cook, so always double check inside before turning the heat off.

This dish is extremely simple and genuine and if you want to keep it even simpler, you can only use the minced meat without adding the cheese or the egg in the mix, as the meat is already tasty. If you season it though, you will have a more delicate taste in the end.

Serve them in a plate for pasta with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and grated cheese, and some rustic bread on the side. Enjoy!