Shame on me: I haven't been posting as frequently as when I first started the blog. I say: quality over quantity! I want to make each post and photograph really count. And as Morta Di Fame approaches its one year birthday (April 18th!) I realize that maybe I only had a year's worth of recipes in my noggin, hardly a lifetime. I am such a not-follow-recipes kind of person(except with baking), but after actually opening up a few cook books, I see the light: there is a reason why they make cook books! New recipes, ideas, techniques, helpful tips. I find myself saying: "oh thats how you do that!" "oh thats whats in that!" "this is easy afterall," "i can do this!" I am inspired again! And since this is a Sicilian-ish American-ish food blog that needs some focus, one of my goal is to do Traditional Sicilian Sunday Dinners using recipes from some hard core Sicilian cook books I have come across aka "borrowed" from my parents house. I love shopping there!
This week I invited my best gal Elina over to help me "step out of my comfort zone" and for the first time made homemade pasta. Elina would explain that this is one of the first steps to success, doing something that makes you feel uneasy at first. But if you never try, you can never succeed. Another step is to surround yourself with inspirational people, like Elina, whose vibrance is exhilirating. She works for a company called University of Dreams and Elina is truly dedicated to helping students realize their vision and accomplish their goals.
We made dinner for 5 hours, 2 hours of actually cooking and spent the rest of the time talking. Girl chats are just so therapeutic. Before Elina comes, I am about to call a psychologist, but after she leaves, I feel like I hashed everything out. And yes, we do talk major smack, buts its okay, we need to get it out of our systems. And no, we aren't going to tell you what/who we were talking about. You will just have to come to the next dinner.
Elina stepped up in the food styling department. It was so hard for us to hold back from eating the beautiful dishes we were creating before photographing them, which is such a big challenge for me. I usually just rush through the photos so I can eat. But we staved off hunger and I am so happy we did because I think it paid off in the photos.
All recipes from this dinner (aside from the fava bean sauce) were taken from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table.
We started with Pipi Sutt'ogghiu or Roasted Red Pepper Salad. Elina gets all the credit on this dish. I merely roasted the peppers, which she then peeled, deseeded, cut into slices then layered with fresh chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil and dried oregano (from Crete) and sea salt, as the recipe calls for. For a finishing and balancing touch we drizzled the salad with balsamic creme. They were sweet and peppery and a perfect topping for Italian bread. So simple and so flavorful.
Our next course was Cacuocciuli Mandorlata (Artichokes with Almond Sauce). I grew up eating stuffed artichokes. When its artichoke season, Nonna buys them in bushels and prepares them for me. Nonna says, "you love artichokes, Jane!" and she is right, I do. But I never actually make them. This recipe seemed perfect. Almonds and anchovies are so Sicilian and topped with capers made, irresistible.
The recipe calls for steaming the artichokes with water, lemon and wine, but I do think the water should also be salted. Meanwhile you prepare an almond bread crumb paste that you then season with a lemon anchovy dressing, then stuff it into the halved artichokes. Not only were these so delicious, they were just gorgeous. Instead of whole anchovies I substituted anchovy paste.
Pasta time! For the sauce I prepared a simple fava bean puree, which if you take time to soak your fava beans overnight, is the easiest sauce to make, just the beans, garlic and some bay leaf, plenty of salt and olive oil.
The hand made fresh pasta recipe Pasta Frisca, called for semolina flour, eggs, water, olive oil and some salt. I love simple. And I used the best farm eggs I could find. Kneading the dough is a great way to take out your frustrations. And for me and Elina, the hand motions were in our DNA. We really worked it.I think it could have been a bit moister, and it was difficult to roll very thin by hand. But, the flavor was there. A few words came to mind as we inhaled it. Elina said "rubberband" ouch! I said, "rustic." A little better. It was just too thick. For my first try I was very happy. But, I think I am going to fish Nonna's pasta machine out of the garage for next time. I just couldn't roll it thin enough.
This was the first of I hope many ongoing Traditional Sicilian Sunday Dinners I will be making with friends and family. Thanks for sharing this with me Elina! And please everyone invite yourself over for one of these delicious meals; most Sundays you will find me in my kitchen cave making a Sunday dinner.
Pipi Sutt'ogghiu (Roasted Red Pepper Salad) adapted from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table
4-6 Bell Peppers
additions: sweet balsamic vinegar creme
Wash, dry and roast the peppers whole under the broiler until the skins turn black. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel and deseed the peppers then cut into strips. Layer the strips on a platter with chopped garlic, olive oil salt and oregano. Top with sweet balsamic vinegar creme.
Cacuocciuli Mandorlata (Artichokes with Almond Sauce) adapted from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table
1 1/2 C. almond meal
2 TBSP. flour
2 C. water
1/2 onion chopped finely
substitution: 2 TBSP anchovy paste (or as original recipe calls: 2 anchovies melted in a double boiler with their oil)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 TBSP. sugar
1/4 C + 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP. capers
addition: red chili flakes
Liquid for steaming
juice and rind of 1 lemon
1/4 C. white wine
Cut an inch off the top of each artichoke and cut points of the remaining leaves with scissors. Spread each artichoke and run under cold water. Rub each with lemon and steam upside down until tender. (Keep an eye that you have enough liquid in the steamer or you run the risk of burning the bottom of your pot.)
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, 1/4 C. olive oil and anchovies.
Dissolve the flour in water.
In a saucepan, sautee the onion in olive oil until brown. Add the almond meal and sautee for a few minutes. Season with salt. Whisk in the flour water mixture and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick. Remove it from the heat and while whisking add the anchovy sauce and black pepper. Set aside.
When artichokes are cooked and cool, cut each in half, scrape out the middle and stuff with the almond sauce. Sprinkle with capers and red chili flakes.
Pasta Frisca (Fresh Pasta) from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table
(for 2-4 servings)
1 1/4 C. semolina
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 TBSP. water
Mound the semolina on a large wood or marble surface. Make a crater in the middle and crack in the eggs, olive oil and salt. Beat with a fork. When its well beaten draw the flour into the middle. When you can no longer use the fork, use a metal scaper, until everything is mixed thoroughly.
Knead the dough by stretching it and folding it together on itself until it is elastic and pebbly. Make into two balls and let sit for 10 minutes.
Roll the dough using a heavy pin until its 1/4 in thick. Fold it in half and roll again. Continue this until its the consistency of damp leather. Roll it so thin you can see the work surface. Flour it with semolina and fold it in half. Flour again and fold again until it resembles a bed sheet. Let it dry for 10-20 min.
Unfold and cut the dough with a sharp knife into 1/2 inch wide strips. Flour and leave covered with a dish towel until you are ready to use it.
Boil in a pot of salted water for 3 minutes or less. When it rises, it is cooked.
Use with your choice of sauce.
Maccu ri Favi (Dried Fava Beans Sauce)
1/2 lb or just over 1 C. of dried fava beans soaked overnight
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
hot red chili flakes (pepperoncino) - optional
2 bay leaves
extra virgin olive oil
In a heavy duty pot, briefly sautee the garlic and bay leaf with the pepperoncino in olive oil. Add the beans and sautee for a few more minutes. Add about 1-2 C. of water, enough to cover the beans. Add a little salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The beans will break down to a soft chunky paste. Season with more salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta and top with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Makes enough sauce for 4 bowls of pasta. Adjust amount of pasta accordingly.