Monday, December 29, 2008

Missing Philly

Being away from Philly for the past few months has been pretty surreal. We're lucky to have access to the internet here in the office, where we've followed what's been going on in Philly as best we could. We watched all of the videos of the Phillies winning the World Series. I'm kind of glad that we missed (the attempted smashing of) the world's largest pinata. We also missed some guy going crazy at the movie theater down the street from our old house (although we tried to avoid going to that theater whenever possible!). Now the Eagles are in the playoffs. At least we got to see this on YouTube:

Smooth, Jeff. Real smooth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Would you trust this lady?

Angela can easily disarm you with her cuteness, but be careful, she is deadly with a knife.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Chocolate Tradition Thrives in Sicily

One of the perks of my job is learning about all of the amazing producers that we represent. We were tasting chocolates from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto at work this morning and I thought I would share this article about them. If this doesn't make you want to get on the next plane to come and visit us, I don't think I can help you.

I'll be heading out there in March, hope to have some cool pics to share then!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

soup. vegetable soup.

Apparently I'm one step ahead of the game. I made vegetable and bean soup tonight for dinner and then signed online to discover my weekly newsletter from A Splendid Table contained a recipe guessed it...a Tunisian version of vegetable and bean soup.

At any rate, I was milling around the kitchen thinking about what we could have for dinner, pen in hand ready to write a shopping list. I then realized that I had a refrigerator full of vegetables and a cabinet full of beans, so I couldn't really justify buying anything. Put everything in a pot, let it simmer, throw in some stale bread and dinner is served. Keep in mind I use dried beans so the cooking time is longer. By the way, I'm of the firm belief that soaking beans is bullshit. Rinse them, cover them with liquid and simmer until done. It will take a while, sometimes a few hours depending on the bean, but I tell my 28 years I've never soaked a bean and I'm not about to start. I guess you can't really sound like an old sage at 28. Whatever, you know what I'm saying.

I didn't measure anything, so deal with it! This is what I put in it, and the order it was put in:
vegetable stock
cannellini beans
1 onion
salt and pepper
2 carrots
swiss chard stems (they take longer to cook than the greens)
stale bread (break it up with a fork once it's submerged in the liquid, if you mash some of the beans don't will add thickness to the soup)
3 stalks celery
swiss chard greens
celery leaves
rosemary and parsley
a dash of heavy cream
drizzle of olive oil once it's plated

Scott had a good point: it would taste great with ham added. We ate it with some chickpea flour pancakes. A nice hot soup for a cold night in Balestrate. Well not really that cold, about 50 F, but it feels much colder. Soup is always better the next day, so lunch this afternoon was fab.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Funny/Strange/Random Things

Living in a unfamiliar country and not speaking the language (at least not yet - ci sto lavorando), we run into lots of small things that strike us as odd, funny or just plain different. Also, For example, seeing a random sign in English that makes no sense (like "speedy poops" at the airport, advertising arancine. Not the best image to associate with food...).

In no particular order, here are some things that we've encountered:

1) When we told our landlord (who, along with his wife, is incredibly sweet and helpful) that our refrigerator door wasn't closing all of the way, he came over, took a look at it and asked Angela for some butter. He spread the butter on the lining, then, with Angela's hairdryer, dried the butter. I missed this whole encounter, but those who know Angela can probably imagine the look of disbelief on her face as this whole scene went down.

2) The aforementioned "speedy poops". Should I have said something to the guy behind the counter???

3) One of our favorite restaurants in Balestrate is a place called "Chicken's Corner." It's like the Kenny Rogers Roasters of Sicily.

4) When we moved into our new apartment, there was a sign above the toilet paper that read "Carta nel cestino. Grazie." Which I understood to mean, "Paper in the wastebasket. Thank you." Obviously, this caused us some consternation, until we learned that we could flush without worry. Apparently, the woman renting the apartment before us was slightly anal (really, no pun intended, Ang made me write it!) and didn't want her guests flushing their toilet paper, for fear that they might clog the toilet. First of all: Gross! Second: I think you need to rethink who your friends are if they are backing up your toilet so much that you need to put up a sign asking them to cease and desist. Seriously, though, Ang and I shared a brief moment of panic when we thought we were going to need a separate basket for poopy paper.

5) Walking around Palermo, it is hard to not notice that young men, usually in their teens, are sporting some pretty interesting hairstyles. Our favorite so far is the "brushed straight down, then halfway back spiked straight up, yet still ending up like a mullet in the back." Again, if you know Ang, you can imagine one of these kids walking by and Angela turning to me and saying "Hair!"

6) We're really trying to learn the language, but occasionally the TV tries to trick us by playing shows in our native language. Like moths to the flame, we can't resist watching. The one problem? The shows are TERRIBLE. Embarassingly, shockingly, mind-numbingly AWFUL. Yet we continue to watch. The majority of the shows are on MTV Europe. The lineup of not-so-Emmy-worthy shows include: From Gs to Gents (it gets worse from here), Tila Tequila's Shot at Love 2 (we are eagerly awaiting season 3), Pimp My Ride (not sure on the spelling - it might be Pimp Ma' Ride), Next (no really, next), Made (not on enough, the one show with an iota - relatively - of respectability) and Sweet Sixteen (imagine Veruca Salt with her own show on MTV. And she doesn't even fall down the egg shaft. I feel robbed every time...). I think we may have to resort to watching Walker: Texas Ranger dubbed into Italian from now on. At least that show's got Chuck Norris.

Monday, December 15, 2008

We love grains!

If there is one thing I seriously miss from home, it has got to be steel cut oatmeal with maple syrup and raisins for breakfast. Mmmm, it's so good...especially on a cold winter morning. I find myself not really eating breakfast here, not a good habit by the way. Mental note: make banana bread and scones this week.

Well, I'm pleased to report that Scott found a fantastic store in Palermo called fresco bioligico. During our day of insane, mind numbing walking we wandered over there and to our delight found brown rice, oats and farro (for some reason none of these things are easy to find in Balestrate). To be fair, I should say that we found a hell of a lot more stuff that we wanted to buy, but didn't. We were trying really hard to stay within our food budget for the week. Anyway, last night's dinner was quick, easy and delicious!

farro, fava beans and fennel

1 cup farro
2 cups chicken stock
3 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 onion, medium dice
salt and pepper
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced
1 cup fava beans
parmigiano reggiano

This is seriously one of the simplest and most delicious things I think I've ever made! Put farro, stock, vinegar, onion and salt and pepper in a pot over medium heat. When it comes up to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the fennel and shell the beans. After the 15 minutes is up add the fennel to the pot and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Plate and add raw fava beans. (Note: the fava beans were so good raw that it would have been a crime to cook them at all.) Top with parmigiano and drizzle with olive oil.

What did I do with the leftovers, you ask? I hauled the leftovers out of the fridge, set it over a low flame and added a little more stock and vinegar. Once it came up to temp I set it on a plate. Add 2 over easy eggs, a sliced tomato, a little more parm, a drizzle of oil and voila...

Add a fried egg to anything and I'm a happy girl.

I'm already thinking about the oatmeal I'll have for breakfast tomorrow!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How were we supposed to know?

We spent Saturday walking around Palermo. When I say walking..I mean walking. After the day was over and we were comfortably sitting on the train we calculated that we walked for at least 7 hours. Needless to say our legs and feet were aching at the end of the day. Around noon we found ourselves hungry for some walking food. All we wanted was a sandwich. We stopped in at least 5 bars and no sandwiches were to be found, just some sad looking arancini. Peculiar....

We eventually ended up at Spinnato near Politeama. I sort of have a love hate relationship with this place. We've been there a couple times, always at lunch, and it's incredibly busy. Like a lot of fast paced eateries around here you pay first, get a receipt and then attempt to make your way through the crowd hovering around the counter (which is at least 5 people deep during lunch time). The sandwiches, arancini and panelle are good. It's also quite cheap (unless of course you walk by one afternoon, like Scott and I did, and see candied chestnuts in the window calling your name, which are not so cheap). Anyway, everything I've tried here is pretty good...nothing will blow your mind though, it's pretty straightforward stuff. My love hate relationship stems from the insane crowds at the counter, the moment of fear when you think that you will be standing there forever, stuck in Spinnato, clenching your receipt for a panino that it seems you will never get to eat. Know what I'm saying? And on this particular day, we were ravenous, so it really sucked! When the long awaited panino touched my lips I swear it was gone in an instant...and even though it was on the press for at least 10 minutes the center was cold. I didn't care, it was sustenance.

While Scott was waiting in line for the sandwiches I was perusing the dessert cases. I spotted the aforementioned candied chestnuts, but I didn't fall into that trap again. There was something in the case that looked like a cup of ricotta cheese. It looked like a cannoli minus the shell, plus a cup and some more candied fruit. Looked good, but I got side tracked by something else and didn't get it. We left Spinnato and continued on our walking tour.

Throughout the course of the day I noticed these little treat cups in a few different places. I thought, maybe they are a specialty for Christmas? Maybe the whole city misplaced their special tool for rolling cannoli shells? What was going on here and more importantly why didn't I order one?

Flash forward to about 10pm Saturday night. Scott was reading blogs about Palermo and found this one, our new favorite, I Love Palermo. What did we see? An explanation of sorts...apparently Saturday was the feast of Saint Lucia. The little ricotta cups are called "cuccia" and I'm kicking myself for not getting one. Maybe next year?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

introductory post

Ciao from Sicily! Angela and Scott here. We've decided to use this space mainly as a way to record our food and travel experiences while we live abroad. Our goals while living in Sicily are to learn as much about the local cuisine as we can, pick up the language and to save as much money as we can for traveling. We are on a pretty strict budget for food - we think we can survive on 50 euro a week for food. Luckily, the cost of food here is very inexpensive. Plus, we have access to amazing resources like fresh seafood, seasonal produce and typical meats and cheeses of the region. We will be following traditional Sicilian recipes gathered from books and from the people that we meet. Of course, a lot of the time we'll just be improvising with whatever we have on hand!

We'll add lots of photos and recipes and hopefully some decent stories to tell along the way. We hope you'll follow along with questions and comments.

For now - Buon Appetito!