Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buon Viaggio Carmelo

Our good friend Carmelo is flying back to the states this weekend as he returns to work. So, we decided to have one last lunch together before he heads off. And a feast it was indeed! Antipasti, pasta con Carrapipana, zucchini quiche, eggplant parmigiana, caponata, baked pumpkin, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed tomatoes, pork and beef roast with peas and carrots... Now that's just the beginning. For dessert we enjoyed a delicate taste of panna cotta, white chocolate covered marzipan, sweet rice pie, and a warm apple crumble with panna ice cream!

Carmelo, we send you our best!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pizza Party

Monday night we were invited to Enzo and Maria's house for a night of music, dance, and pizza. There was an assembly line at work when we arrived. The kitchen was full of family and friends preparing the dough and laying out all the pizza fixings. Once everything was ready, the orders were in and the show was about to begin!
The show in the oven that is...

With the last few coals from the fire in the conca, Enzo warmed up some sausage. The conca was used here to heat a room in the cold months. People would gather by the glowing flames and catch up about their day. One might also attach it's woven wood cover and hang clothes over the heat to dry the damp items.
We had a great night and everyone danced the night away...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Buon Compleanno Antonello

This morning I made a fluffy coconut cake for the special day!!

Auguri Amore Mio!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Osteria I Tre Bicchieri

In the center of Catania nestled on the corner of Via S. Giuseppe al Duomo and D'Assissi, Osteria I Tre Bicchieri gracefully welcomes all to enjoy a meal of luxury. I think of it as a place to dine when you deserve a little something special. Once you enter, you are greeted with a warm welcome from the staff whome create an atmosphere of class and elegance, not at all pretentious.

The kitchen could be defined as creative Mediterranean with it's care of presentation in the smallest details. Each time we have dined here, we have been amazed at what original ideas the chef envisions with simple Sicilian ingredients. I love to come here for inspiration and for the pleasure of dining. With service of silver, dishes of porcelain, hand blown glassware, and linen table cloths, just sit back and enjoy all the courses.

Cin Cin!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crispelle di S. Giuseppe

Tanti auguri a tutti i papà!!

That's right, today is Fathers day and we must keep up with traditions... At our local bar, Caffè Calì, they were busy serving out platters of zeppole, also known as crispelle di riso. We made sure to pick up some, but you can try to make it at your house.

Ricetta crispelle di S. Giuseppe
400 gr rice for sweets
1 lt of milk
400 gr flour
salt tsp
yeast (una bustina di lievito di birra)
honey (Miele di zagara)
orange peel

The night before, in a pan over low heat add the milk, salt, and orange peel. When the milk begins to boil, remove the orange peel and add the rice. Stir from time to time and leave to cook until the rice has absorbed all the milk. Then cover with a lid and leave to rest for the night. The next day, dissolve the yeast in a small amount of room temperature water and add it into the rice mixture. Mix, adding gradually the flour. Leave this mixture to rise in a warm place for a few hours. Then make small finger shapes out of the rice. In a pan of boiling oil, fry to a golden brown. For the glaze, add a few spoons of water to the honey and cut up pieces of the orange skin to make a liquid honey syrup. Drizzle the syrup over the crispelle e BUON APPETITO!!!
(Thanks to Claudia for your recipe!!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cassatella di Sant'Agata

When ever I walk into a pasticceria I always admire all the beautiful sweets behind the glass counter... At home, I then enjoy creating my own sweet treasures. Profiterol, Torta di ricotta, Lo sfoglio Polizzano, Cuddura cu l'ova, and Hazelnut Biscotti are just a few delicacies that I found the inspiration from one of the many pasticceria siciliana. One dolce, that has been taking my fancy lately, is the Cassatella di Sant'Agata (cassatedda di sant'Àgata in dialect). The Cassatella is a traditional sweet from Catania that can be found in almost every bar during the festival of St. Agatha. The cassatella is in fact a small sicilian cassata (in catanese dialect, minnuzzi ri Sant'Àjita) in the form of a breast, to symbolize the martyred saint of Catania, St.Agatha, as her breasts were amputated. She is therefore often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter.
(Last year we attended the Festival of St. Agatha. Check out the amazing devotion the towns people of Catania have for her.)

The original Cassata captured many of the traditional Sicilian ingredients; the intense green pistacchio of Bronte, the perfumed almonds of Noto, and the many citrus fruits of the island. It has been an ongoing joke between me and my friends to find the perfect Cassatella, and this past weekend I decided to dive in and attempt just that, with the help of Mandi and Diana!

One very important ingredient is the Marzipan, pasta di mandorle. I made sure not to make it too sweet, often times I do not enjoy marzipan because of it's sweetness. I used more almonds and the taste of mandorle filled your mouth with flavor.

Pan di Spagne, a type of sponge cake, is the next ingredient that is layered into the mold after the marzipan. To achieve a light and fluffy cake, the egg and sugar mixture should be mixed no less than 20 minutes to create a nice frothy texture before adding the flour.

The principle ingredient in the Cassatella is the ricotta di pecora, fresh sheep's milk ricotta. Our nearby pastore, shepherd, passed by the night before and delivered a kilo for me. I added less sugar to the ricotta than when I make the Torta di Ricotta because of the sweet marzipan wrapped sound the filling.

The molds were then inverted and ready for the glasse di zucchero...

We then got a bit creative and made one VERY big one...

However, we added a few extra cherries...
What a day! We were so thrilled with the results, and so were all the lucky recipients who got a taste... Thank you ladies for the wonderful afternoon and the memories!

Hello!  Ok, better late then never, right... ;)

I have so many people ask me how to make these little beauties, so here we go! Once all the parts are finished, follow the pictures with their step by step assembly.

Pan di Spagna (Spong cake)

6 eggs, 180 grams sugar, 180 grams flour

Just mix the eggs and sugar for at least 15 minutes, until they write. (Very important!) They, little by little, sift in the flour.  Pour into a large buttered and flowered cake pan, and place into a preheated oven 180°C for 30 minutes. Once cooled, slice into thin pieces and set aside.


400 grams almonds, skinned. Sliced almonds will give you the result much faster.

400 grams powdered sugar (plus extra for kneading)

Grind the almonds until they have a very fine consistency. Add the powdered sugar and a touch of water. Very small amounts of water at a time. If you add too much at the beginning, you will have to add more powdered sugar. Like making a pie crust, fold and knead until you reach a compact texture. (see picture)

At this point, when I wrote this post I added a few drops of green food color. Nothing fancy unfortunately. However now, I prefer to stay away from colors. You can completely create this sweet omitting the color and you are left with a beautiful, delicate alternative.

Roll out thin like you were making cut out cookies, cut, and line a baking form that was already covered with plastic wrap.


The flavor is all about the fresh sheep’s ricotta. Let it sit in the fridge for a least a day to drain all the excess liquid. Then add 120 grams of sugar to 500 grams of ricotta and mix.

Glasse di zucchero

I choose to simply use 250 grams of powdered sugar and water. Again, add very small amounts of water at a time, one tablespoon, two tablespoons at a time, until the glasse is nice and runny.

 Sorry it has taken me so long, Enjoy! 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Catania day trip...

The weather today in Catania was glorious... I stepped out onto Diana's terrace to a breathtaking view of Mt.Etna. One could gaze in amazement, and I plan to next time I'm here, but today we had work to do... We set out on the streets of Catania in search for, well... It was a shopping day for us girls.

Don't mind our misshaped bodies. It has been pointed out to me that I am without neck, shoulders, nor forearms... :) But I make a very nice shaped arrow or Ace of Spades as Carmelo put it! ;) In any case, with the lavic stone road of Catania beneath our feet, we were ready for a day in the sun.

The streets of Catania are something not to miss... Many people pass looking into storefronts, but next time take a closer look at the workmanship of these massive blocks. I remember walking along with Antonello watching a team of workmen sitting on the ground with their legs, open as if children playing, chiseling away with their hammers, banging into this dense stone. Not a machine, the art and craft of the Sicilian traditions are still alive here. There is art everywhere in this city, great and small...

We've created a bit of a Cassata addiction when we get together... But do stay tuned, I hear there will be a Cassata Dolci factory at my place this weekend! Yummy...

Another amazing day in Sicily...

Interested in a little background information about the lovely round Cassata of Catania? I talk a bit about them last year at the Festival of St. Agata.

Aerial view of the Catania street market...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

La Festa della Donna

In honor of this special day, also by coincidence because our friend Katharine was visiting for the weekend in Catania, we ladies set out for a night in Catania. Diana reserved a table at the Agorà Hostel. The Agorà Hostel is in the historical centre directly in front of the ancient Roman ruins and beside the famous Pescheria, Piazza Currò, 6. One of the oldest rivers in Catania passes right underneath the hostel in a cave formed 300 years ago by an eruption of Mount Etna, and the atmosphere is very unique.

"There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of places in Sicily where you can sip a glass of Zibibbo wine as you nibble on traditional sesame biscuits, or other specialities of some local master baker. But if at the same time you are 60 feet underground in a cave made of lava, with your toes bathed by the cool clear waters of a mountain stream which gargles and gurgles past, reminding you both of the lowly washerwoman who scrubbed here, and of the noble Ancient Romans who came to partake of the spa water, then you can only be in the Agorà Hostel. Above ground, the ambiance is dynamic: restaurant, bar, Internet, all animated in unpredictable and extraordinary colours. You can hear young people from all over the world speaking different languages, playing different music, wearing different clothes, as they relax in the sea, sun and climate of Sicily. The hostel is on upper floors. Next door, the medieval fish market provides fresh colour, food, flavours, and aromas every morning, to furnish a typical Sicilian cuisine which is nevertheless conscious of European taste."(Pippo Mascolino)

With it's long list of antipasti, we each ordered a plate to share... We sampled crostini di Norma, bruschetta, grilled vegetables, the crostini di mascarpone, ricotta, miele, and pistaccio was one of my favorites, along with the antique cheese sample and Carpaccio di bresaola e rucola plate. Then came or meal... We each ordered the cuscus, as it was known as their specialty. But, to show just how great the staff was, our waitress recommended that we each share a plate of cuscus because the servings were quite big. Everyone working at this restaurant was kind! To finish off a great night, we each ordered one of their tempting desserts. I dove into sweet ricotta cream filled with chocolate and drizzled with orange syrup. For those of you who like ricotta, this was a must!!

We were fortunate to also have Carmelo share the evening with us... He and his harem of six ladies...