This was one of the workshops offered by La Trobe University as part of the 2013 lecture series. It was held on Saturday 23 March 2013.

Marisa displays cime

The session began with a very interesting lecture on the history of food and feasting in Sicily, Italy and the Mediterranean.  Dr Gillian Shepherd is Lecturer in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Director of the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University. During her lecture she focused on the literary and archaeological evidence for food production and consumption in the ancient world.

I accompanied the lecture with a food workshop and cooking demonstration that reflected the ways Sicilian cuisine has been influenced by the dominant cultures of the Mediterranean from ancient times to the modern day, which includes Greek, Roman, Arabic, French and Spanish cultures.

The recipes I cooked were:
Maccu (pulses)

Caponata (eggplants, peppers, nuts, breadcrumbs). Will be eaten with bread.

Pasta che sardi – Pasta con le sarde (sardines, breadcrumbs, currants, pine nuts, wild fennel)

Ficatu ri setti cannola – Fegato di sette cannoli (pumpkin, sweet sour sauce, mint)

Cassata (pan di Spagna/sponge cake, ricotta, nuts, marsala, citrus peel, chocolate and marzipan)

For the workshop I collected some wild greens and the audience was able to see the differences between the wild variety and the cultivated species; wild fennel is one of the ingredients in Pasta Con le Sarde.

Marisa La trobejpg

SEE ALSO:
SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

FOOD AND CULTURE IN SICILY: EASTER COOKERY WORKSHOP

 

Made in 10 minutes – dead easy. Not a bad antipasto…or after dinner as it is a mixture of fresh fruit and cheese. Looks good, tastes good.

Compliments…. Plenty.

INGREDIENTS:
Fresh, good quality figs

Stuffing: feta cheese, or drained ricotta,  bocconcini or pecorino fresco.
Optional- walnut pieces.

Decoration and for fresh taste: Fresh mint leaves

PROCESSES
Make a small incision on the top of the fig. Stuff in a walnut then some cheese. Top with fresh mint leaves.

For a sweet taste (rather than Savoury) I have also added pieces of torrone or marzipan or sweetened ricotta (ricotta mixed with a little honey, cinnamon).

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It is so easy to make a good salad. We ate this one with some snapper that was tossed on the BBQ, and dressed with a simple dressing, but you can see how this combination could be accompanied with some good bread and be a quick easy family lunch. I would probably also add a lump of good cheese (presented separately), especially if I had guests.

Chicory, endives and of course puntarelle are also very suitable ingredients for this salad; like frisée they have sturdy textured leaves and slightly bitter taste.

Mint is very much a Sicilian ingredient and contributes significantly to the taste and fragrance of this salad.

INGREDIENTS
1 frisée (French curly endive)
4 large eggs, hard boiled or boiled to taste
5-6 anchovies in oil, or more (to taste)
½ cup of chopped parsley
2 spring onions, sliced finely
20-25 mint leaves  (to taste)
3-4 tomatoes (to taste) cut into halves or quarters
½ cup breadcrumbs made of fresh bread and lightly fried/ toasted in a little extra virgin olive oil

Dressing: juice of 1-2 lemons, 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Wash, clean and separate the frisée into bite-size pieces and put in a large bowl. Add chopped parsley, spring onions, tomatoes and mint.
Make the dressing (stir it with a small whisk or a fork).
Dress the salad.
Add the anchovies and place them throughout the salad – in other words, lift some of the ingredients and try to distribute the anchovies evenly.
Peel and cut the eggs in halves and place them on top.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over everything and there it is.

See other posts:

Frisée and other salad greens
Green Seasonal Vegetables
Cicoria and Puntarelle
Composite Salad

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I have a tendency to always cook too much food and there are leftovers, but I enjoy transforming cooked ingredients into something different. You could say that I am being frugal.

This time I had some cooked mussels in their shells in some of their broth and I thought that I would use these ingredients to make a soup by adding red tomatoes;  I also added a lot of basil and some grated zucchini and the results were a thick, fragrant and highly flavoured soup.

This made a soup for 4 people.

If you do not have ready cooked mussels, this is what you can do:

Stage1: The mussels
Clean the mussels in their shells (about 500gm; remove beards, wash or scrub the mussels under running water.
In a saucepan, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 spring onions chopped finely; sauté for 1 minute. Add mussels in their shells, 2 tablespoon chopped parsley and about ¾ cup of white wine. Cover, cook on high heat and bring to a boil.  Toss them around now and again until the shells open.
Once cool keep the juice (this is the broth) and remove the mussel meat from the shells. Keep a few in their shell for decoration.

Stage 2: The soup
Mussels and their broth, see above,
ripe tomatoes, peeled  and chopped, 800g
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
fresh basil leaves, some to cook with and some to add at the end
2 zucchini, grated
1 spring onion
black pepper or fresh chill (sliced thinly)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 
salt to taste (mussel broth could be salty)

PROCESSES
Place the tomatoes in a saucepan  add garlic, some of the oil and some basil. Leave uncovered and cook on low-medium heat until thickened (about 15 mins). This results into a tomato salsa which could also be used for dressing pasta.
In a  pan that is large enough to take all of the ingredients, heat the rest of the olive oil, add spring onion and zucchini and  cook until soft, stirring often.
Add the mussel meat, their broth and more water if necessary and simmer for another 5 minutes until heated through.
 Add fresh basil and serve.

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This squash, the green leaves and magnificent sprigs of basil were a gift from a Sicilian friend: her father grew them in his garden. I feel very privileged to be given these precious vegetables. They are not a vegetable that can be easily sourced; I have seen them only once at a market in Melbourne.

In Sicilian this squash is called a cucuzza and in Italian I will call it a zucca lunga (long squash), which is what it is, a long serpent like squash. The tender leaves and tendrils of this plant are called tenerumiand I have written about these previously because both are typically loved by Sicilians and commonly used to make a refreshing summer soup (it could also be classified as a wet pasta dish). 

The zucca tastes a little like zucchini (from the same family) and like all squashes it is a summer crop.

As a vegetable, this very long, pale green marrow is rather bland, but to a Sicilian it is referred to as delicate; it is the combinations of flavours that give this soup the unique, sweet, fresh taste – Sicilians say the soup is rinfrescante – refreshing and will reconstitute balance.  

Unless you live in Sicily you are unlikely to be able to purchase these. Do not despair if you do not know a nice Sicilian who grows this produce – you can use zucchini and a greater amount of basil to make a similar soup – it will not be the same, but very pleasant.

See previous Posts:
MINESTRA DI TENERUMI (Summer soup made with the tendrils of a Sicilian squash)
KOHIRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam
FRESH PRODUCE (and I did not have to go to SICILY to buy it). The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market

According to Giuseppe Coria In Profumi di Sicilia, the origins of the simple soup are probably from Ragusa and the southeastern part of Sicily. Here it was (and maybe in some households it still is) made only with boiled squash, its leaves, broken spaghetti, seasoning and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

According to Coria, it is the people from Palermo who embellished the soup by adding garlic or onion, tomatoes and basil. And this is how I have always cooked it and eaten it in various places in Sicily.

It is not surprising that this is a soup much appreciated by Inspector Montalbano, the principal character in Andrea Camilleri’s books that have also been made into a successful television series – the stories are set in this very region.

There are variations on how this soup is made: some add a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese at the end( especially in Palermo); others add red chillies during cooking and diced potatoes are also common in some parts of Sicily.

This time I cooked the soup differently than usual. There was more zucca – I used the produce I was given and I also made it in the same pot (in the other recipe which contains more tenerumi and less zucca, two pans are used).

The next day, we ate the leftovers as a cold soup; it was just as good….and as traditional. It is summer after all.

INGREDIENTS
zucca lunga siciliana( mine was about 25 cms long)
1 large spring onion, sliced
2-3 tomatoes, roughly cut
3 cups of vegetable broth (I used a broth cube, optional) or water
fresh basil leaves, a good handful
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil,
1 cup of spaghetti (broken in small pieces)
PROCESSES
Cut the zucca in half, get rid of the seeds and cube it. 
Chop the tomatoes.
Sauté the onion in some olive oil for about 1 minute, add the zucca and continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes.  
Add the tomatoes. 
Season with salt and pepper, add 2 cups of the stock, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the tenerumi, the rest of the stock and some of the basil; bring the contents to the boil.
Cook the pasta in the same pot; add the pasta and cook it until it is al dente.
Add more basil, a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and serve.
I appreciate this soup’s fresh taste and only sprinkle only a few chilli flakes on top (or black pepper and I definitely do not use grated cheese; my Sicilian heritage is not from Palermo.

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