Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day and a trip to Palermo

Here's a link to our most recent round of pictures.

Ang made a couple of amazing pizzas on Friday, along with a delicious dessert. So awesome, words don't do them justice, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

We had a really nice visit with our friend Manfredi Barbera, his wife Paola and their son Lorenzo in Palermo on Saturday. Manfredi produces the most famous olive oil from Sicily (you may have seen this bottle in specialty food stores in the States), and he lives, with three cousins (in separate apartments) in his families' beautiful villa smack in the heart of the city. We thought we were meeting him to go out for lunch, but he prepared a feast for us and his in-laws, who came over to visit - neonata (which are tiny baby fish, served raw with lemon juice and olive oil), calamari (a recipe so perfect that Manfredi's friend Lidia Bastianich included it in her book Lidia's Italy (Manfredi's Steamed Calamari, although Manfredi pointed out that he uses balsamic vinegar and omits the peperoncino, but Lidia didn't think she should include Balsamico, from Reggio-Emilia, in a Sicilian recipe!), two pasta dishes (one I couldn't eat because it had shrimp, but Ang assured me it was delicious) and fantastic dolci for dessert. Manfredi is an inspiring guy, after lunch, we talked for a few hours about Sicily and its hidden attractions, the olive oil business and food in general. Afterwards, he had to go out on business, so he took us to Villa Niscemi, a beautiful home preserved for the last couple hundred years and now home to the Palermo county seat. It was closed, but Manfredi was able to convince the guards to let us in to take a look around.

We were so happy after lunch - Manfredi and Paola were so warm, their house was so amazing and the food was awesome! He's a busy guy, and Paola has another son on the way, but we're hopeful that we can get together again soon. Altogether, it was a pretty awesome day!

(Oh, and when we got back to Balestrate, our electricity blew out in the kitchen and bedroom. Our landlord fixed the problem this morning, and luckily the stove still worked - for cooking dinner, for heating up our precious hot water bottles - but still, it was kind of a bummer after spending the day in Palermo!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The tuna that didn't get away

Last week, word spread quickly around town that a few tuna had escaped a farm in the middle of the Golfo di Castellamare. One of the locals, a man I would refer to as "Grizz", spent three nights on the beach stalking the tuna. He eventually speared (yes, speared) three and brought them to the fishmarket. This was big news - tuna don't usually appear at the markets until the summer.

Gioacchino and I went to see Tot
o, the owner of the pescheria. Sure enough, hanging in front of his shop was a beautiful tuna. Next to the fish was a wooden table, where Toto sliced tuna steaks to order, under the watchful eye of his appreciative customers.

Gioacchino and I got to talking about how he wo
uld prepare his tuna. "Tartare, baby." (Gio likes to add "baby" to anything that gets him really excited. When the exchange rate goes down: "1.26, baby." When you ask him what he would like to drink: "Negroni, baby.") His technique is simple - marinate the tuna in olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and chives, all of which he grows on his property. Add a little salt and pepper and your done. He goes off on a tangent about how good fresh tuna is with just a little soy sauce and suddenly the crowd turns on him. The little that I understand goes something like this: "In Sicily we eat like Sicilians. Screw your soy sauce!" I think I heard a "minchia" in there for good measure.

Gioacchino corrected himself and offered to bring over some lemons and chives for our marinade. This is our sack of goodies on the right. Ang diced up the tuna and started on the marinade. In addition to the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, chives and parsley, she added minced garlic (what can I say, the girl loves garlic!).

I haven't eaten a lot of tuna tartare in my life, but I think I can say that it will be tough to beat what we had last week. The tuna was incredibly delicate. When Ang took the bowl out of the fridge, she took the plastic wrap off and immediately grabbed my arm. "You have to smell this!" The lemon, tuna, chives, garlic and oil together was so remarkable - it instantly got stored in the memory banks, along with the smell of freshly pressed olive oil and walking by a merchant selling Sicilian oranges.

Anyway, here are a few more images from the meal. Ang toasted up some croutons which added a nice contrasting crunch to the silky tuna. Throw in some hard boiled eggs and a dressed salad and this dinner left us pretty excited for the start of the summer and tuna season!

Giving in to pressure from abroad. Our website's title is now in English!

Welcome to our new home - Make sure you bookmark that. Tell your friends. Take out an add in your local paper. Spread the word.

Seriously, we gotta start making some money off this sucker...

Thanks for reading!

The Getting Lost in Sicily Team
a.k.a. Ang & Scott