Friday, May 30, 2008

Lo sfoglio Polizzano

On the edge of a cliff in the Madonie Mountains in north-central Sicily, sits the quaint town of Polizzi Generosa.

The first Time I heard about Polizzi Generosa was long before I moved to Sicily. Within the pages of Theresa Maggio's The Stone Boudoir; Travels through the hidden villages of Sicily, I was taken away as she journeyed from town to town. I imagine her inspiration for the title came from her visit in Polizzi Generosa when she spoke of the streets being so close and intimate that it felt as if she'd "walked into someone's stone boudoir." The pictures she paints with her words are so true and accurate that one feels like they are there with her...

It wasn't until Rowena over at Rubber Slippers in Italy brought to my attention "Lo Sfoglio", a dessert made famous at the pasticceria in Polizzi Generosa. Knowing how easy it is to get fresh Tuma here, I just had to find out more.

Like many confectionery wonders of Sicily, this pie was born in the “Badia Vecchia” convent during the 1600's. The sisters in preparation for the festivity of their protecting Saint, Saint Benedict, would prepare this cake. Perhaps in lack of ingredients more refined, they had chosen tuma to make the filling of this cake that is one of a kind. Tuma is grated and mixed with aromas and typical scents of the island, cinnamon, chocolate, and sugar.

Now, the town of Polizzi Generosa holds a festival during the last week of July or first week of August inviting all to come and enjoy the sweet treasure their town holds so dear.

The more I read, the more I learned that the ingredient quantities vary for this recipe. It is known to add the ingredients, like the chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon in quantities you prefer. Knowing this, I would definitely make this cake again with a lot less sugar. It is indeed a sweet cake, but maybe I borrowed the recipe from a family with a real sweet tooth! :)

Thanks to our shepherd friend, antique recipes like this are still possible to create. This fresh tuma was delivered the night before...

Lo sfoglio Polizzano(Here, I divided all the quantities in half. I didn't need to bake for a large number of people...)
500 g flour
175 g butter
175 g sugar
5 egg yokes
( I added a touch f vanilla)
(I needed a few drops of milk)

Filling500 g grated Tuma
300 g sugar
8 g cinnamon
5 egg whites, mixed into peaks
30 g dark chocolate pieces
(25 g candied fruits, I didn't add them...)
( I added a touch of vanilla)

Make the dough and set in the fridge to sit. (I have to mention that this frolla was very difficult for me to work with. I did have to add a few drops of milk to help. Not having the egg white made a big difference.) Then roll out the dough to line a cake pan and another to cover the mixture.

Mix all the ingredients together for the filling and fill the pastry shell. Cover with remaining dough and place in the oven at 180 degrees.

One thing very important with this cake is that is should be eaten the following day cool. And, from experience, adhere to that suggestion! The tuma becomes like a liquid during the cooking process, it needs to be completely cooled in order to have the right consistency. Leave it in the fridge over night and wake to a nice surprise.

I'm counting down till the end of July!!

Thanks Rowena for the suggestion...

Time to catch up...

I know, where does the time go? I noticed that over a week has passed and I have not added anything... It's definitely not because I have nothing to add! This has been a busy week. We actually started off the week on Monday celebrating our First Anniversary! Still hard to believe that one year has passed since our magical wedding. Antonello keeps our florist in business...

Speaking of weddings, our choir had a few rehearsals this week for a wedding tomorrow in Taormina. We were requested to sing for their ceremony and it looks like it will be a beautiful day.

(It was a pretty day!)

(Monday is the Festa della Repubblica, so a nice long weekend is ahead of us!)


The other day, Antonello came home with a large tray of tomatoes for making sauce. He also picked up a few peppers from the same road side vendor. Adding a few onions into the mix, I was ready for a large production of fresh Carrapipana!


Depending on what you have around the house, you can be the judge on the quantities... I just happened to have three nice size peppers.

3 Large peppers
1,600 grams of tomatoes
550 grams of onions
small package of cooking cream, panna

In a large pan with a very small amount of water, layer in all the vegetables.

Leave the pot to simmer on a low flame. Once everything has cooked down, transfer the mixture to a vegetable mill and make a smooth sauce.
I then placed the extra sauce in jars to save for another day. When you're ready for something light and simple, just add some salt.
However, Carrapipana goes one extra step beyond that. The addition of rich cream makes this sauce heavenly. Once the sauce has cooked down and all the extra water has evaporated, add the cream and watch this mixture transform. I served this with thick al dente spiral pasta and the rich sauce adhered to every twist and turn... Yummy!

Monday, May 19, 2008


The road from the beach to our town is full of gardens and citrus trees. Very often, the owners gather baskets full of their harvest and sell it to passersby on the side of the road. Well, a few weeks ago we met a nice old man who sold nespole and big juicy oranges. So, yesterday we went back for more! This is a great form of "kilometre zero". (Individual farms engaged in direct selling.)

We also took a walk in Vena yesterday where Antonello found a large bush of rosemary. One can only image how long it has been growing there. At least here in Sicily, the rule is that anything over the fence or growing in the street is free for all...

The loquat or Japanese plum, is what we call the nespola. Loquat fruits grow in clusters and are oval shaped, with yellow or orange skin. Sicilian loquats are about the size of a plum tomato, and there are two varieties, one more sweet and one more sour.
Both are apricot in color with a firm, succulent, and tangy flesh, tough skin, and two to five large pits. The skin, though thin, can be peeled off manually if the fruit is ripe.

You may or may not see these golden beauties in your area because the loquat bruises very easily, which means a difficult fruit to ship and store. But if you do... Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Morning walk with Mount Etna

Every morning, way before the sun rises, Antonello and I take walks through the many hidden and untraveled streets in our area. Well, this morning we were greeted with a site. It's been so cloudy near Etna that we haven't been able to see her very well. Obviously, my picture didn't capture the moment, but it was beautiful. For days we have been sweeping black soot off our terraces and balconies as Mount Etna has been very active these past few days. It's common dialogue between ladies of the town to exchange the woes of sweeping...

But, thanks to her our soil is so rich and full of nutrients!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

fiori di zucchine ripiene al forno

Yesterday morning, at the fish market in town, I decided on a small portion of fresh shrimp for a simple second. I picked up a few, not knowing exactly how I would prepare them. That was until I saw a big basket of zucchini flowers attached to tiny baby zucchini sitting in the doorway of my vegetable store. My lunch menu was planned!

Oven baked Pasta Stuffed in Zucchini Flowers

First I cleaned the flowers and cut the zucchini into small pieces.

In a pan, brown garlic in a small amount of oil, then add the shrimp. Once the shrimp were cooked, I transferred them to a plate to serve as a second. All of their sweet juices remained in the pan... At this point you could add the zucchini to the pan, but I prefer to cook the zucchini in a pot of water, so not to fry them.

Once the zucchini were tender, I added them to the pan of juice. In the same pot of water I added the pasta and cooked until very al dente.

The pasta then absorbed the juices in the pan. A spoonful of fresh ricotta was added at the last moment to make it creamy.

I cut the flower down the center and opened it up. As if wrapping a present, I filled each flower with a portion of the pasta mixture and wrapped the flower around. I then placed them in a baking dish and baked them for 15 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.

They were unbelievable good! The flower had a bit of a crunch along with the delicate zucchini and sweet shrimp flavor.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Pilgrimage to Sant' Alfio

We hit the road at 5pm and began hiking the steep streets past Presa to Vena.

Through the vineyard, you can see our town and the church standing tall in the center.

With all the twist and turns of the street, there were so many beautiful views.

In the distance there is the mountain Monte Venere, where lies Venus sleeping on her back. The top of the mountain is her head, then her nose and chin, chest, knees, where sits the town of Castelmola, and finally the town of Taormina, at her feet.

Our hike continued up streets that have not been traveled in a long time...

Our town in the distance with a faint image of Calabria across the Sea.

Mount Etna and the Ginestra.

Yes, it was a hike! Many streets cars can not travel on...

We're getting there... Soon after 8:30pm the sun set and there was no more light. But, in the air was a pounding sound of fireworks exploding. We still had many kilometers ahead of us...

The crowd of people gathered outside the church to welcome in all the people who were arriving on foot for Saint Alfio.

The devotion candle that was carried by many, barefoot and crying Viva S'Alfio!

Here on YouTube you can see this Candelora on display. The wood carvings represent the story of the three brothers.

All the devotion candles were gathered and offered to Saint Alfio...

The story of the Three Saints and how they came to be martyred has been handed down for centuries in the small villages of eastern Sicily. It is part of the oral tradition of that area, but in modern times the story has been well researched and documented.

During the time of the Roman Empire, a noble couple, Vitale and Benedicta, had converted to Christianity. Their three sons, Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino were privately educated in the Christian faith by their parents and by Onesimus, a Greek scholar. In the year 250 AD, the Emperor issued an edict demanding that all Christians renounce their faith and demonstrate allegiance to the State by worshipping him and the Roman gods. Failure to obey the edict was considered treason, and the penalty was death. Benedicta refused to obey the edict and she was martyred. Vitale escaped to a monastic community, leaving his sons in the care of their tutor. At the time, Alfio was twenty-one, Filadelfo was twenty and Cirino was nineteen years old.Because the brothers were so young and came from a highly regarded noble family, the Roman authorities hoped to convince them or force them into a public renunciation of their Christian faith so that others would follow.

However, a succession of officials failed to get the boys to yield. Finally, they were sent to Sicily where a young Roman patriot named Tertullo had already gained fame for ruthless interrogation and torture of Christians.The brothers landed in Messina on August 25, 252 AD. They were marched from there to Taormina with a heavy beam strapped to their shoulders. The brothers arrived in the village which is now known as Trecastagni on September 1, where they rested for the night. While many assume that the name of this village can be literally translated as "Three Chestnuts", the name was actually derived from the Latin, Tres-Casti-Agni or "Three Chaste Lambs", referring to the Three Saints. The brothers were then marched south to Catania and on the 3rd of September they entered Lentini.

Wherever Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino went, miracles were attributed to them. Their suffering and their refusal to give in to the power of the Roman authorities inspired more people to convert to Christianity. Tertullo tried several means of torture, all to no avail. Furious, he ordered the final instruments of death for the brothers: a pair of tongs to tear out the tongue of Alfio, a gridiron set over coals for Filadelfo, and a cauldron filled with hot oil for young Cirino. On May 10, 253 the three young men refused for the last time to renounce their faith. Before his death, Alfio spoke these words to Tertullo: "You may remove my tongue so I cannot speak, but I will never cease to give thanks and praise to God in my heart, for the eternal truth for which I die." Led by the eldest, each brother went to his death, a martyrdom which earned them the everlasting love and respect of all who had witnessed their bravery and devotion. Their tombs remain in Lentini to this day, beneath the Church of Sant'Alfio.

Seventeen centuries later, in the towns of Lentini and Trecastagni, there are still feasts held on May 10 each year in honor of St. Alfio and his brothers. Faith in the intercession of the Saints is strong, and miracles continue to be attributed to them. Wherever the faithful gather the people remember and they shout: Viva Sant'Alfio!
-an extract of the book "WITH TRUE FAITH"