A fresh taste of Sicily
When some people think of Southern Italian cuisine their mind immediately goes to heavy pastas, deep fried doughs and very large dishes, but spend just a bit of time under the sun on the beach in Sicily and you might start to remember that in an area this hot, there is an entire culinary tradition based on refreshing food.
As innovative Italian chefs bring the range of their country’s cuisine to the world, we gain the opportunity to bring Italian style cooking into our homes. Here are 5 ways to use traditional Sicilian ingredients available outside Italy, We’ve included links on where to buy them and even a simple and quick recipe for one of our favorite Sicilian dishes to get you started.
Almonds come into season in Sicily in August, the hottest season of the year. Whether this versatile ingredient is used in a sweet or savory dish, blended into granita, or even drunk as milk, it is full of vitamins, minerals (calcium and iron) and protein that will keep your energy up even while you sweat.
The aromatic bud of the Caper bush is harvested in early summer. Packed in salt or preserved in vinegar and oil it adds a bright touch of flavor to salads, pasta, fish and, of course, traditional Sicilian caponata. Long used as an herbal remedy, today it is valued for its high flavonoid content.
While Sicilian blood oranges are found only in Sicily, they have inspired varieties that are grown from America to Australia. Although the season normally ends in May, you can find blood orange juice year-round and, with its great balance of sweet and acidic flavors, it makes the perfect addition to cold drinks and sorbet.
Delicate, sweet and flavorful, Bronte Pistachios only grow on the steep and rocky slopes of the Etna volcano. Whether used to make pesto for pasta, added to cold meats for texture, blended into a paste for desserts or incorporated into a refreshing gelato, this “green gold” is always delicious.
The olives from Castelvetrano, in Sicily’s Trapani province, are milder than most. Prized for their sweet aroma and buttery texture, they have a bright flavor that makes them perfect for hot and lazy days. Since the Castelvetrano olive season runs from October through November, they must be canned if they are to be enjoyed in the summer.
Pesto alla trapanese / Pesto from Trapani Recipe
This is one of our favorite summer dishes from Sicily. With a vibrant and fresh flavor that is much more interesting than most cold pasta dishes, it can be enjoyed on a veranda overlooking the sea or at your kitchen table.
- 6 very ripe tomatoes, seeded
- 3/4 cup chopped raw almonds
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves
- 1-2 large garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon grated Pecorino cheese
- 2 fresh mint leaves
- extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Tradition demands that the pesto be prepared with a mortar and pestle; however, for an easier recipe you can use a food processor.
- Combine the garlic, salt, basil and mint.
- Add in the almonds and the tomatoes bit by bit, pulsing in the food processor or grinding with the mortar and pestle, until you have a thick sauce.
- Continue blending the ingredients as you slowly pour in the extra-virgin olive oil until the pesto reaches a creamy consistency.
- Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
- Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.