Tag Archives: Montalbano

MINESTRA ESTIVA CON ZUCCA LUNGA SICILIANA, Sicilian Summer soup made with the long, green variety of squash

 

Zuccone+%2526+tendrils+2

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).

zucca26zuchini_0069

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 in the body.

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.

tenerumi-1

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, salt and pepper 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 homes 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 (as in Palermo); others add red chillies during cooking. Diced potatoes are also common in some parts of Sicily.

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)
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.

 

FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE (SAINT JOSEPH) and sweets called Sfinci di San Giuseppe

Those of you who have been to Ragusa Ibla will recognize these shots. The baroque church is that of San Giuseppe, a much loved saint in Sicily (not as much loved as San Giorgio who is the patron saint of Ragusa and has a church which is much larger Duomo- cuppola in photo above- more beautiful and not far from this one).

March 19 is the Feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph), which in the Northern hemisphere coincides with the spring solstice. This feast day is a major religious celebration in Sicily.

images

San Giuseppe is the patron saint of pastry cooks and among the many celebratory dishes are special breads shaped in varying shapes and sizes. On this day pulses are also eaten in many parts of Sicily; some of you may be familiar with maccu made with dried fava beans, which is especially common in southeastern Sicily. Several of these present day traditions have developed from very ancient origins – both legumes and wheat are considered to be seeds of life and are metaphorical foods from pre-Christian times.

In many parts of Sicily there are banquets to celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, which coincides with the end of Lent, a period of fasting in the Catholic liturgy. But it is also a celebration of the end of the fast imposed by nature – this was more so before the days of fast travel and transport or refrigeration when the provisions kept from summer over winter were depleted by this time of the year.

In some communities especially in small villages large altars and tables are built and filled with large quantities of local cuisine: fish dishes, cooked vegetables, breads, many sweets, but no meat is prepared.  Once, in many Sicilian towns and villages the food was also shared with the poor.

One of the recipes cooked on this day are the Sfinci di San Giuseppe.  The translation to fritters does not necessarily sound very appealing, but maybe if I tell you that they are made from the same dough used to make Pâté à Choux or Bigné or creampuffs, you may be more enticed. They are fried rather than baked.

If you have ever made cream puffs you would know that the dough is cooked before being baked. For making the sfinci a little sugar is added to the mixture.
There are many recipes to make Choux Pastry and the following recipe works pretty well:

eggs, 4 large
water,1 cup (230 cc)
unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons (55 g)
salt, a good pinch
plain flour, 1 cup (140 g)
sugar, 1 tablespoon
oil, to fry the batter (I use extra virgin olive oil for everything- but not my best olive oil which I use to dribble on hot food or salads)

Place water, salt and sugar in a saucepan (large enough to hold all of the ingredients) and bring the water to a boil. Add the butter.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Beat the mixture immediately with a wooden spoon and work quickly. Stir till the dough is smooth – the flour and water will form a ball and no longer stick to the sides of pan. Allow the dough to cool for about 10-15 minutes, but stir it often to allow the steam to escape and to cool at a greater rate.

Add eggs one at a time, stirring each egg completely into the dough before adding the next. (The dough should be pliable but not be runny).

Heat some oil to frying temperature – there should be sufficient oil to nearly cover the level tablespoonfuls of dough, which will be dropped into it.

Fry only a few at the time or the sfinci will broil rather than fry. Turn each sfinci once or twice until they are golden brown and have swelled in size.

Variations:

Some Sicilians eat them warm and coat the sfinci with honey, others use a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.

Some allow them to cool, split them open and fill them with pastry cream or with whipped ricotta flavoured with a little sugar and cinnamon. In some parts of Sicily they are called Zeppole.

If you have watched the Inspector Moltabano television series, you will recognize the building that was used as the police station; it is in Ragusa Ibla. To the right of the building you can see the corner of the Chiesa di San Giuseppe (church of). Some of my male Sicilian relatives are posing for the photo. They live in Ragusa.

 

SEDANO RAPA (Celeriac and how to eat it)

What do you do with it?

Other purchasers usually ask me this question when I am standing at a stall at the Queen Victoria Market buying a celeriac. I am usually asked the same question when I buy cavolo nero, kale, artichokes and fennel – but not as frequently for fennel these days.

Sedano rapa (celeriac) is more common in northern Italy and here are a few ways that it is eaten.

celeriaccrop_0017

In Trieste, we used to eat it bollito e insalata – peeled, cut into quarters, boiled in salted water and then dressed with a simple drizzle of oil and lemon (or vinegar) and extra seasoning.

In Verona celeriac is made into a soup with borlotti beans, onion, carrot, beef or veal stock and fresh pork sausages.

In Piedmont (close to France) it is made into a much lighter soup, once again using broth, but it is served over slices of good quality bread topped with grated cheese.

In Australia, I do make a celeriac soup and I also like to eat it cooked with a dressing, but I particularly like it raw in salads.

Peel it first, to remove the knobs – it becomes quite attractive peeled, it is dense and fragrant.

IMG_4227 (1)
Because celeriac discolours easily when cut, I leave handling the celeriac till the last minute and eat the salad soon after. I cut the celeriac ‘julienne ‘ and dress the salad quickly. (Dressing made with extra virgin olive oil salt, pepper and lemon juice). I usually like to add apple. Watercress is also a favourite.

I also like to present celeriac raw as one of the vegetables for bagna cauda –a dip of anchovies, butter, garlic, and olive oil. It is served warm as an appetizer with fresh vegetables . This is a recipe originating from Piedmont also.

See TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

I always buy my celeriac with leaves – an indication of how fresh the bulb is. And besides, I use the leaves in soups and the small, tender, centre leaves in salads. “Us Italians’ (or at least this Italian), does not throw much away.
My father who spent his youth in Ragusa (Sicily) before moving to Trieste, said that his mother boiled celeriac and then dressed it with a drizzle of olive oil. Apparently my grandparents grew it in their mulino (a water mill) close to Ragusa Ibla. There are quite a few mulini in the region of Ragusa which were used to mill wheat. The family kept their dogs there and grew a few vegetables. As a child I visited Sicily every summer and we used to go there often; it was a place to go especially in summer when their apartment in the city was too hot. A couple of these mills have been turned into restaurants. In fact, in one of the Moltalbano episodes he goes to one of these restaurant and I thought I recognised it as the one my grandparents used to own. My relatives in Ragusa disappointed me when they told me that that it was not the one – I have since visited this restaurant.

During my last trip to Sicily I visited an old water mill that has been revived to grind organic wheat into high quality flour.