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PRESERVED EGGPLANT WITH CAPER BERRIES { Melanzane Sott’olio con Cucunci } MILINCIANI SUTT’OGGHIU CU CUCUNCI

This type of preserved eggplant is popular all throughout Southern Italy. They are also referred to as melanzane a funghetto, in other words eggplants disguised as mushrooms. Indeed, these eggplant strips are so savory, meaty, and delicious that they can be easily mistaken for preserved mushrooms.

3 In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, caper berries, garlic, chile, and oregano. Add the eggplant pieces and toss to coat.

Makes two 1/2 -pint jars [CK]

5 With a small ladle, transfer the eggplant pieces and oil mixture to the jars, leaving space at the top of the jars in case you need to add more oil. Let the pieces settle in the jars. Add more olive oil if the eggplant pieces are not fully submerged. Place the lids on the jars.

2 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 Sterilize two 1/2-pint canning jars and tops (see

page xx).

3 garlic cloves, left whole 2 tablespoons dried Sicilian oregano

Coarse sea salt 2 cups white wine vinegar 3 cups olive oil, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon dried chile pieces or red pepper flakes

5 If desired, can the jars following the jar manufacturer’s instructions. The sealed jars will keep in your pantry for up to 1 year. Otherwise, the eggplant will keep in the refrigerator for up to a few months, as long as it remains submerged in the oil. In any case, let the eggplant marinate in the mixture for at least 10 days before tasting.

10 caper berries

1 Place the eggplant cubes in a strainer and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Set the strainer in the sink and let sit for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw the bitter liquid from the eggplants. 2 In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water and the vinegar to

a boil. Squeeze about one-third of the eggplant cubes in your hands to release any water and drop them into the poaching liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the eggplant starts to soften. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant from the liquid and place in a clean strainer. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. Let cool.

74 A Taste of Sicily

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Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


GIRGENTI GOATS One November, on the outskirts of Sciacca at the Bellitti animal farm, I stretched my arm underneath a mother goat while Leonardo Bellitti pulled on the animal’s nipple, releasing milk into a small plastic cup I was holding. As I stood among the flock of friendly Girgenti goats, who were rubbing against my legs, I sipped the raw milk with caution, assuming that the gaminess would be overwhelming. To my great surprise, the flavor of the liquid was sweet, and I devoured it instantly. Nearby, another mother goat was giving birth in the open, while others were locking their unmistakable tall spiral horns for play. Since then, when in Sicily, I’ve yet to miss a visit to the Bellitti farm. Girgenti goats are an old Sicilian breed, possibly having originated in Tibet. The animals are raised on a pasture rich in a wide variety of wild herbs and plants, which impart a complex flavor to their milk. There’s something very welcoming about the Girgenti goats; they are alert yet trusting, as if they can feel one’s good intentions.

Gaetano Gatì prepares an assemblage of Girgenti goat cheeses in his caseificio in Campobello di Licata. This soft cheese is not only wrapped in a fig leaf, but is prepared with a rennet he extracts from the stems of the fig tree’s leaves.

102 A Taste of Sicily

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SICILY’S RENOWNED CHEESES Cheese

Caci Figurati e Ainuzzi

Description

Provenance

A soft, sweet cow’s-milk provola (a light, unaged cheese that is brined) produced from a pulled curd, this cheese is formed into decorative animal shapes before it is salted in brine.

Caci: Province of Palermo, in the town of Contessa Entellina. Province of Messina. Ainuzzi: Province of Agrigento, specifically in the towns of Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini.

This cow’s-milk cheese is excellent when lightly pan-seared and drizzled with agrodolce.

Province of Palermo

Aged for a minimum of 6 months, this cylindrical cheese—produced from a combination of sheep’s and cow’s milk—has a soft light yellow rind. The flavor reflects the rich pastures where the animals graze.

Province of Agrigento and Palermo, specifically the town of Santo Stefano di Quisquina

Predominantly a sheep’s-milk cheese. Goat’s and cow’s milk are often added in small quantities. The cheese is formed into large wheels and aged for 3 months with salt, then rubbed with olive oil and aged for at least 1 month more or up to 2 years. The flavor is sharp, especially when aged.

Province of Messina

A soft sheep’s-milk cheese that is salted once. Melts well. Can also be found flavored with black peppercorn or capers, pistachio, wild fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and more.

All over Sicily

A pulled-curd cheese that is rubbed with olive oil or tomato paste after 3 months of aging.

All over Sicily

Sheep’s-milk cheese that is salted twice. Firmer and saltier in taste than a primo sale.

All over Sicily

Sheep’s-milk cheese that is aged for up to 18 months. Salty, sharp, and crumbly. Good for grating or to be enjoyed on its own with drizzled honey.

All over Sicily

A bright yellow aged pecorino flavored with saffron and black peppercorn.

Province of Enna

Also pulled-curd cheeses, produced from cow’s milk and salted in baths of whey. They differ in size. Can be smoked.

Madonie e Nebrodi Mountains

Ragusano DOP

Historically known as caciocavallo ragusano, this cheese is one of Sicily’s oldest, an item of trade outside of the island, since the fourtheenth century. Shaped as a large brick and produced exclusively with milk from the razza modicana cow breed. The taste is aromatic and ranges from sweet to spicy, depending on its age. Melts well when young. Excellent as a grated cheese when aged.

Province of Ragusa and Siracusa

Tuma Persa and Canestrato

Tuma Persa has a sweet, spicy, not salty, long aftertaste. Persa means “forgotten” and probably derives from the fact that the cheese is left to age for up to 10 days before it is salted. Its rind is rubbed with olive oil and ground peppercorn. Canestrato is made in the same style, but does not get rubbed with olive oil.

Monte Sicani, Castronovo di Sicilia, Campofiorito

A soft, round, flat cheese prepared with a pulled curd. Only prepared in artisanal methods. Melts well.

Province of Agrigento

Caciocavallo Palermitano Il Formaggio di Santo Stefano di Quisquina

Maiorchino

Pecorino Primo Sale

Pecorino Rosso Pecorino Secondo Sale Pecorino Stagionato

Piacentino Ennese Provola dei Nebrodi e delle Madonie

Vastedda del Belice DOP

103 PRESERVED FOODS

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PINE NUTS { Pinoli } PIGNĂšLI

PISTACHIO PESTO

Pine nuts are the seeds from pinecones that grow on tall trees found in many areas around the Mediterranean Sea. In Sicily, although pine nuts can be found in some cookies and desserts, they are more commonly used in savory dishes, from pestos to meat, vegetable, and fish sauces. Pinecones are also a symbol of fertility and are represented ubiquitously in ceramics, adorning terraces and entrances to homes.

{ Pesto di Pistacchio } PISTU RI PISTACCHIU

You will find this pesto used in various savory recipes in Sicily. It is often tossed with pasta or used as a sauce for grilled meat. The predominant taste of this sauce is not that of basil or garlic, but rather of the pistachios, which have a distinctive flavor and aroma.

PISTACHIOS { Pistacchio } PISTACCHIU Pistachios have a unique flavor that pairs well with many Sicilian preparations. Whole nuts are used in pastries and to make nut bars. Ground pistachio nuts are used to make cookies, cannoli, and cakes as well as pesto, and as a crust for meat and seafood dishes. Pistachio puree is used as a base in gelato and cakes, and in pistachio marzipan. Flour from the nut is used to prepare desserts as well as pasta dough.

Makes 11/2 cups 1/2 cup raw pistachios

2 garlic cloves

Handful of fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon grated organic lemon zest

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Sea salt

cheese

1 In a food processor, combine all the ingredients with salt to taste and process until fully incorporated but not pureed. 2 Remove the top of the food processor. Using a rubber spatula, push down any pieces that were not fully chopped, and pulse once or twice to combine. 3 Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

60 A Taste of Sicily

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Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ricotta Ravioli (page XXX), Pasta with Cauliflower, Saffron, and Breadcrumbs (page XXX), Manicotti (page XXX), Wide Pasta Ribbons with Pork Ragù (page XXX), Pasta with Eggplants (page XXX), and Pasta with Preserved Tuna (page XXX).

© 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


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EGGPLANT ANNELLETTI TIMBALE

While the timbale in the previous recipe is contained in a pastry crust, this eggplant timbale is contained inside layers of thinly sliced eggplant. This recipe can be prepared in a simple baking dish or in a decorative cake ring mold. Annelletti are typical Sicilian pasta rings, about 3/4 inch in diameter. Classically this pasta shape is used for preparing baked pasta dishes. Many specialty Italian stores sell annelletti imported from Sicily (see Sources, page xx), but if you can’t find this shape, replace with any small cut of pasta. For a vegetarian preparation of this dish, substitute the beef ragù for a simple tomato sauce (page xx).

n

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the annelletti until very al dente, about 4 minutes less than suggested on the package. Drain the pasta and cool it down quickly (so it doesn’t continue to cook) in a strainer under cold running water. Do not let the pasta sit in the water. Once cool, transfer to a bowl and stir in the ragù, grated parmesan, ricotta and cubed Vastedda cheese or mozzarella. Preheat an oven to 400ºF. Butter a 10 inch ring mold with the Tablespoon butter. Cover the base and the sides of the mold with the fried slices of eggplant, which should overlap slightly. Put basil leaves on top of the eggplant slices. Fill the mold with the pasta mixture, and cover the top with more eggplant slices. Bake for about 20 minutes. Then, let the timbale cool down inside the mold before turning it over and serving the eggplant timbale whole on a serving platter.

Serves 8

7 WINE PAIRING: Corinto Nero, Salina IGT, “Nero di Munti,” Caravaglio Olive oil and vegetable oil blend for frying 2 large eggplant (about 1 pound each), one eggplant should be thinly sliced, the other cubed 1 lb. dried annelletti pasta

1 cup ricotta

WHEN IN SICILY

1 cup cubed Vastedda del Belice cheese or fiore di latte mozzarella

‘MPURNATU FESTIVAL IN CAMPOBELLO DI LICATA

Annually in mid-April, a baked pasta festival unfolds in the province of Agrigento in the village of Campobello di Licata. A traditional dish, called ‘mpurnatu, prepared only in this town, is served

1 Tbsp. butter 10 basil leaves

2 cups beef-pea ragù (page xx) 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

to attendees to the backdrop of dance, folk traditions and music. The pasta is prepared with ziti, a ground beef ragù, cauliflower, hard-boiled egg, grated pecorino cheese and topped with breadcrumbs.

Heat a thick film of the frying oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. First, fry the thinly sliced eggplant, stirring the pan occasionally, until dark golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. The eggplant needs to be well browned for the deepest flavor. Transfer the eggplant slices to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Next, heat more oil in the pan, and fry the eggplant cubes.

15 PASTA

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GROUPER IN A TOMATO BROTH with OLIVES and CAPERS { Cernia in brodo di pomodoro con olivi e capperi } CERNIA AGGHIOTTA

Q Agghiotta is a style of cooking, traditional to Messina, in which seafood is submerged in a tomato-based sauce and slow cooked. Grouper is a popular fish in the Mediterranean and is readily available in the United States. Its flavor is delicate and when cooked, its meat stays moist and firm with big flakes. The same dish can be prepared with most non-oily white fish, such as monkfish or hake. In Messina, the dish is often prepared in winter months with salt-cured codfish (baccal?) or air-dried codfish (stoccafisso). If substituting either type of dried codfish, see the instructions on page xx to rehydrate the fish before cooking.

Place the grouper pieces in a plate containing the flour. Dredge the filets with the flour and then holding one end of the fish, shake off any excess flour. The fish should only be lightly coated with flour. In a saucepan, over a medium flame, place the onion and sautĂŠ until soft and slightly translucent. Add the garlic cloves. Add the pieces of grouper to the pan of onions, followed by the tomato pulp, fish stock, olives and capers. Reduce the flame to low and cook the fish for about fifteen minutes. The fish is ready when the meat becomes opaque and flakes when touched with a fork. 4. Remove the garlic cloves. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

7

WINE PAIRING:

1 lb. of grouper filet, cut into four pieces equal in weight

2 cups tomato pulp (page xx)

1 cup of AP flour

2 Tbsp. olives

1 onion, thinly sliced 3 garlic cloves

2 cups fish stock (page xx) 2 Tbsp. capers

Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Š 2016 Rizzoli International Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Sicily