Most readers of this blog are not have access to the Adelaide Review, a long-standing, free publication of local issues and culture.
A friend sent me a copy of a review of my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking published in The Adelaide Review – how gratifying to receive this while I am visiting Vietnam.
This is the article, published in the February, 2012:
Sicilian Seafood Cooking
The title Sicilian Seafood Cooking sounds restrictive. Sicilians eat more than fish, surely? And how could anyone write a book about Sicilian food and just stick to seafood? Marisa Raniolo Wilkins has.
A practical, well illustrated book of 383 pages is crammed with recipes, tips, anecdotes and history combined with the culinary tricks that make the difference between a dud and a triumph. The romance of Sicily is so interwoven in the text that it need not be mentioned.
Marisa’s easy style and light touch give the impression that a further 383 pages could be written without repetition.
A chapter called ‘How to make a good impression’ is devoted to sauces and dressings that put the pretty summer frock on your best cooking efforts. The undefinable, because Nonna won’t tell you, is defined.
Statements like, “I find herbs chopped in a food processor taste grassy rather than fragrant…” are wonderful to read. Your carefully portioned out mound of herbs ground into, horrors, exactly the right word – grass.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, one of the founders of Futurism in the early 1900s gets a mention. He denounced pasta and championed rice. He may have been a titch strange, but he didn’t lack guts; wading into his country for eating the saintly pasta. Marisa tells us that rice was grown in Sicily before 1000 BC.
The first dish I made to Sicilian Seafood Cooking rules was pesce al cartoccio or fish in a bag. Everything sounds better in Italian; we have to face up to it. Fish in a bag is an easy scene-stealer. Follow Marisa and your dining room will smell like the ocean.
Another dining room star is pesce incrostato di sale or salt crusted fish. This is not easy. Have a few trial runs before inflicting this dish on guests. Buy a new hammer and wield it casually. But, above all, follow Marisa.
Tuna testicles are eaten in a recipe that, naturally, smirk, make extravagant suggestive gestures, is, of coarse, good for virility. Have you ever made a tuna/testicles/human link? I certainly hadn’t.
Fish stock is nasty for novices and professionals invariably get around it by using fish sauce. Fish heads and bones start to get bitter after 15 minutes when the vegetables have barely started cooking. The solution: use a saucepan for the vegetables, another for the fish bits.
Marisa doesn’t pretend that Sicily is without stain. The ‘Menu for the Incorruptibles’ honours the anti-Mafia magistrates and investigators who were killed by car bombs in a terror reign in the 80s and 90s.
All this fish can’t be eaten alone so there are many vegetable dishes and salads included. Nothing boring though. A lemon salad, which is mostly pith, for instance. I was taught that lemon pith is an emetic. The first time I tried this salad it was far too delicious than it had any right to be. But still I waited for the inevitable vomit. Nothing.
The lesson: trust Marisa.
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