How to cook delicious & authentic Sicilian cuisine
There is nothing quite like Sicilian cuisine - it's rich flavor, color and aroma will guide every nose to the doorstop of a traditional trattoria. As a Guatemalan chef, I knew little about the techniques involved in cooking this type of food and was eager to learn. Throughout the four hour private cooking lesson with Patrizia and Giuliana from Sicilian Days, we learned cooking techniques and indulged in the finest cuisine Sicily had to offer. Check out our video below to see the full experience!
After a brief stop a local market to pick up ingredients for our meal, we arrived at the loft ready to start cooking. Patrizia and Giuliana made us feel at home offering us wine and a quick walk through the spacious rooms while they shared stories of the beautiful artwork displayed throughout the space.
We started off by making the caponata di melenzane (eggplant stew basically). According to our executive chef Giuliana the caponata only gets better overtime while it cools down. It started off with freshly chopped onions, parsley, capers and olives. We cut the eggplant into a rough dice, then deep fried it to create a texture and absorb the flavor of the accompanying ingredients. We blanched the celery, chopped the parsley, pitted the olives, and prepared the white wine vinegar with sugar. Once everything was in order we combined all the ingredients and let them cool down, added salt and pepper to taste.
As all professional and amateur chefs know, the prep can't be complete without a bit of vino or birra - just to make sure we were properly hydrated.
Next, came the prep for the anchovy and onions for the pasta all’ anciova (pasta with anchovies sauce). Believe me, take all those negative things out of your mind about anchovies! This is delicious! We added some of the sweated onions to the tomato sauce then set it to the side until we were ready to serve with the pasta.
Following this came the prep for the involtini di pescespada (stuffed swordfish) with bread crumbs, chopped parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. The swordfish filet's were flattened to create more surface area so that the stuffing would stay in place and ensure that the fish would cook evenly. We set in oven for 30 min at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the food was cooking the entertainment never stopped. We chatted with our hosts and fellow guests about our interests, what we did back at home and learned about the local culture and night life of Palermo. Patrizia and Giuliana were charming and eager to share their local knowledge about the town they love. It goes without saying that a refill of drinks was strongly encouraged!
No dinner party would be complete without the addition of a sweet treat. We accomplished this by preparing a cassata siciliana al forno (cake with ricotta cream). We mixed butter, flour, sugar and an egg with the best tools in the kitchen, our hands! Once the crust was complete we rolled it into a ball and let it chill in the fridge for 30 min. For the cream we mixed the goat ricotta with sugar and chocolate chips. We laid down the first layer of crust in a well buttered pot, then filling, then the other layer of crust. This was placed in the oven until it was browned on the top, about 20-25 min at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
After putting in all that hard work, it was time to finally have a taste of our creations. The spaghetti with anchovy sauce was heaven. I was a non believer when it came to anchovies, but the deep flavor and perfect saltiness of this dish completely won me over.
Next, the stuffed swordfish. It had a delicate flavor, not very fishy but fresh. The stuffing created layers of texture which added to the flavor of the meal. Lastly, the cake with ricotta cream. Much to my surprise, the sweet flavor profile this dish had was astounding. With the sugar/ricotta mixture along with the buttery crust made this homemade dessert one I will remember for a long time to come.
All in all, the Sicilian Days experience was more than we could ever ask for. With each dice of vegetable, simmer of a sauce and confection of a sweet treat, they gave us a slice of their local town. They allowed us to digest and appreciate the journey of the freshest ingredients Palermo had to offer. For this, we thank them deeply and hope that this read has encouraged you to experience what we were so fortunate to take part of.
To take a class with Sicilian Days, visit their website here.