Monday, November 06, 2006

Sicily - part I.....cheesy

En français dès que possible...

Ah, Sicily! I don't know where to start telling you about my holidays. When I leave for a place I have never visited before, my mind usually conjures up a series of clichés which I try to ignore, then I make a conscious effort to have a blank mind ready to be impressed by a myriad delights. So in this precise case, the clichés were played to the tune of the Godfather theme and involved fat, misshapen lemons with their leaves on shot with the deep blue sea in the background, little old mammas with black shawls as well as laundry hanging from the window racks. You see, I had never even set foot in mainland Italy so I was really coming with no prejudice (or was I?)

I had a faint hope of breakfasting on a gelato-filled brioche in Nigella fashion (see her Forever Summer book), stuffing myself with pasta and perhaps, if the weather allowed, taking advantage of the beach and the sea before my bikini started to burst at the seams.

All those wishes, and much more, have been fulfilled. I have had a few brioches and even a croissant, filled to the brim with delicious ice-cream. I have eaten pasta, both at restaurants, and made by self. I have lain on the beach and swum in the sea. I have shopped for cheese and prosciutto, swordfish and fresh prawns, bunches of basil and parsley, ripe tomatoes and fillets of veal. The croissants and the bread were up there with the best of the French ones. I have had many a biscotto for my afternoon snack and white Martini for my apéritif. And as for wine, well, Sicily produces great ones, especially reds.

It's hard to know where to begin with the pics so I'll start with the cheeses. I have tried burrata, mozzarella-like in texture, shaped like a pouch, ties with a string and filled with a sort of cottage cheese. I was surprised to see that the deli counter of the local supermarket sold burrata and mozzarella in packages with holes, bathed in a pool of milky water. The taste was kind of herbal and slightly bitter so I turned it into a gratin top:underneath, gnocchetti in tomato sauce with basil. The cheese was crunchier than mozzarella when grilled, delicious!

Ricotta is all over the place, fresh sheep milk one straight from the market...
turned into a savoury cheesecake
or baked ricotta (ricotta al forno) on bread for breakfast...
or the best discovery I made, ricotta salata, or salted ricotta, dried and to be used like pamesan, grated on pasta like in pasta alla norma (on a tomato-aubergine sauce, typical of Sicily) but with a different flavour.This I had in a restaurant in town. I love it so much I lugged one with me (vacuum-packed). I also used it to coate fillets of veal
or on bruschette...
And last but not least, mozzarella, which I am sorry to say I couldn't buy made of buffalo milk, as it was only available from the deli counter, not even from the small shop downstairs, and there was always such a queue that I gave it up everytime.

OK, now you may wonder how the scenery was like so despite this being a food blog, I really love beautiful land- and cityscapes...

and seascapes (if there is such a word!)

ah, and I am a sucker for sunsets... You can see one of the Aeolian islands in the distance (this is for Lisa especially)...

7 comments:

annauk said...

Wow! Fantastic photos, fantastic food!
We missed you Julie!
xx

Claudia said...

Great pics, Julie. I am so happy you had a great experience!

Mara said...

Wonderful photos, Julie and gorgeous food, wow! I can see you used everything at hand to turn into a lovely dish.
Hm, now tell, did you see huge Sicilian lemons and old women with black shawls? ;)

Lisa said...

Oh, my nose is stinging, I could just cry it's all so beautiful! Wow! Your eloquent account has totally lived up to my dreams, and I am so impressed with all of your amazing dishes, Julie. Fantastic! Thanks!

Kathryn said...

Wow - it sounds amazing! And the food LOOKS amazing too. I bet it is hard to be back home again.
Glad to see you back nonetheless.

Hope Maya is doing okay

Kathryn x

julie said...

Thank you:)) I wish we could all go together one day!

Mara, I did see lemons the size of grapefruit, and old ladies in black!

Kathryn, Maya is doing great, thanks!

pom d'api said...

Oh my god