Thursday, November 27, 2008

Views From Home

Even if we see Etna every day, there are days when she stands out so beautifully in the clear night. It may look like dawn, but these pictures were taken during the middle of the night using a slow shutter speed on the camera. Click on an image and see the detail...

Mojo Alcantara

When passing through Mojo Alcantara the other day, we ran into a man collecting his cauliflower. The simple pleasures in life, freshly cut produce. We brought home a few and enjoyed a hearty bowl of cavolfiore simplice.

This area is known for their Peaches... From the distance, the fields of red tips go on forever.

The volcano of Mojo is the most eccentric one and most northern one of the temporary coinages of Etna. The volcano is 703 meters high above sea level and its diameter to the base is about 700 meters.

Common conviction, also supported from news recorded in ancient scientific texts, is that this vulcano errupted perhaps one thousand years before the birth of Christ. The tongue of lava, long about thirty kilometers, arrived to the sea near Taormina forming the peninsula of Capo Schisò on which, in the Vlll century B.C., the colony led by Teocle formed the small town of Naxos, the first Greek Colony in Sicily. The eruption of the vulcano of Mojo also would have produced the characteristic Gole dell'Alcantara, between Motta Camastra and Castiglione of Sicily. There, the water of the river succeeded, in the course of the millennia, excavating the hard lava rocks, forming a canyon and an unique landscape with its wild beauty.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


How can anyone resist freshly baked bigné filled with whipped sweet cream and custard? Then piled high lathered in whipped sweet chocolate cream and topped with slivers of rich chocolate? I certainly can't! Last Friday we were invited to Mandi's house, a good friend who lives near by, and I thought to bring along a sweet end to the night, the Profiterol. Known in these parts as a semi-freddo, the Profiterol is a sure crowd pleas-er.
As usual, I often enjoy looking at all the sweet delicacies at our nearby bakery Caffe' Cali'. My latest experimentation has been to re-create the Profiterol. There are many varieties, but one similar to what you might find around these parts is similar to what you see here.

Beginning with the Bigné:
250 ml water
100 g butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
150 g flour
4 eggs
-Bring to a boil the first 4 ingredients
-Turn off the fire and add the flour at at once
-Place back on the fire and mix until the dough detaches from the sides of the pan. When the dough is ready it will make a crick-crack noise.
-At this point turn off the fire and mix for another minute
-After the dough has rested, add the eggs one at a time mixing well.
-Once mixed let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then place on cookie sheet.
-Cook on 250°C not ventilated until browned.

Now for the filling...

Crema pasticcera (custard):1 egg yolk
125 ml warm milk
41 g sugar
11 g flour
a touch of vanilla
-Mix well the yolk and sugar
-Add the flour and mix
-Then add a bit of the warm milk to the bowl, and mix. Take this mixture and add to the heated milk and bring to a boil.
-Continue mixing over the fire until it coats the back of a spoon.
-Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator to cool.
Chantilly:400 ml panna, cream
powdered sugar
-Just whip the cream and add the sugar to taste

At this point you would mix both the Crema pasticcera and the Chantilly together and use this mixture to fill the bigné.

The cream that keeps it all together:
1000 ml of cream
unsweetened cocoa powder
powdered sugar
-Whip the cream adding cocoa powder and powdered sugar to taste...

Our profiterol was then topped with slivers of Lindt 70% and 99% cacao for a finishing touch.
The final step is to set aside in the freezer. Depending on the season, bring out and let it melt a bit. When serving, cut slices of the Profiterol too see all the cream filled puffs. An amazing semi-freddo! You can also scoop out each cream puff and serve it that way once it's smooth and creamy...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hidden Treasures

We packed our lunch and decided to drive to Taormina. While riding we noticed a narrow staircase on the side of the road that headed in the direction of the beach, so we thought to check it out. With each twist and turn of the steps, we were led to a private cove by the sea.

What better way to enjoy a meal...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nicolosi: Etna Frutta

We made our way to the town of Nicolosi this morning to enjoy the "Fruit of Etna" festival.

Stand after stand of bright colors and sweet scents... There was so much to see!

We obviously left with our hands full!

A few of our goodies from the day!
Porcini mushrooms are everywhere this time of year. Those that grow under the chestnut tree are known to have the best flavor. We made sure to pick up a few... Once we got home we cleaned them up and put them right on the pan.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Un Giro in Moto

From the mountains to the sea, we let the road roll under our two wheels, taking us on a journey through the Mt. Etna landscapes.

Through the town of St.Alfio, we passed countless chestnut trees. One in particular, the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world, The Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli) . The tree's name originated from a legend in which the queen of Aragon and her company of one hundred knights, during a trip to Mount Etna, were caught in a severe thunderstorm. The entire company is said to have taken shelter under the tree.

On our way, there were beautiful volcanic sights.

Fresh Sicilian produce... Including our favorite weed "Cauliceddi", Cicoria, Boraggine, wild Asparagus, fresh scallions, garlic, and sweet pumpkins. Everything picked by local farmers and sold on the streets to passerbyers. Organic one stop shop!
You can notice, on the truck, the vibrant violet sicilian "Cauliciuri", cauliflower.

Coming down from the mountain, we reached the coast of the beautiful "Riviera dei Ciclopi". Here in the little village of Santa Caterina, we stood on the cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea.
The "Timpa" of Acireale.
Gazing at the view...
Aci Trezza, a little fisherman town with it's faraglioni, a pre-historic lavic rock formation. The legend states that Polyphemus, the one eyed cyclops in Homers The Odyssey, threw these rocks into the sea trying to catch the ship of Ulysses.

Aci Trezza also has a very important fish market. In the early morning, fishing boats unload their catch and auction off their goods to the fish shops of the area.
On our last stop we visited a place dear to us... Santa Tecla, the location where we took our wedding pictures. Featuring a beautiful rocky coast, the Mediterranean flora, the cliff of Acireale in the background, and Mt.Etna.

We were so thankful for this opportunity to ride our bike with such beautiful weather in this late fall.