A few days after returning from Sicily, my suitcase had yet to be taken back to storage and my clothes while laundered were hidden away and awaiting their date with the ironing board. My priorities? Working on my trip photos and preparing a meal inspired by my culinary experiences. First things first.
One of the highlights of our trip was a day spent “Cooking with the Duchess“. In an historical palazzo!
The day started early morning at an outdoor market where we met her favorite vendors and purchased ingredients for our feast.
Then it was back to the palazzo where we picked herbs in its abundant and lush garden and then up to the kitchen for a little instruction and hands-on cooking of our 4-course meal.
Afterwards, we dined (very well, I might add) in a beautiful dining room.
Back to reality.
I decided to incorporate some of the techniques and dishes we made that day — as well as others inspired by our travels. I’ve always favored Sicilian cookery above other regions because of their ‘agro dolce’ technique exemplified by pairing sweet and sour ingredients in a savory dish. Often it’s citrus and a sweet element like currants. I also love that they favor my faves … fish, nuts, herbs, citrus.
Example: For this menu, in the nut category I used pignolis, pistachios and almonds. Herbs included Italian flat leaf parsley, basil, mint and chives, and both the zest and juice of lemons and oranges.
Interestingly, in Sicily, as I found in Tuscany and other regions of Italy that I’ve visited, garlic is not the ‘top dog’ in the kitchen. It’s used very sparingly, if at all. Heavy garlic must be an Italian-American thing.
Antipasto duo of fennel, orange, black olives and pistachios and tomato caprese with beefsteak tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil (olive oil and a drizzle of vinegar on both). Served with parmesan toast.
Pasta duo: Trapanese Pesto (fresh tomatoes, almonds, basil, olive oil) and a Pistachio-Mint Pesto (mint, pistachio, small piece of garlic, parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice). Served with freshly grated cheese and toasted wheat breadcrumbs. Note: Both sauces are uncooked.
Hard No, simply impossible to choose which one is more delicious.
When we were with the Duchess, we made Involtini di Spada (stuffed swordfish). I followed her delicious stuffing recipe but chose to stuff calamari bodies. Finishing touch for the dish was parsley and orange zest. I also julienned zucchini and tossed it with olive oil that had been pre-seasoned with minced fennel frond, mint, basil and garlic and fresh lemon juice for a fresh side dish.
Although we made a wonderful dessert called Biancomangiare at the palazzo, it was a group effort and not something I cared to take on solo. I took the easy route (as I always do in the dessert category) and served Sicilian Pistachio Gelato (Talento brand) and we made chocolate shavings for the top from a Modica chocolate with pistachio bar that I brought back from Sicily.
NOTE: I apologize that my food photos here are not as appealing as I would like, but I encourage you to read the descriptions and bring Sicily to your table too. Also, if you’re planning a trip to Palermo, do consider Cooking with the Duchess.