Coming Home to Sicily (book review)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
books,bread,diagrams — by Johanna

kindvall-sicilian-headpots-2

Sicilian head pots with strawberries.

Coming Home from Sicily (published by Sterling Epicure, 2012) is an amazing book about seasonal farm to table cooking by Fabrizia Lanza. Fabriza is, as I have mentioned here before, the director of  Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School at Case Vecchie in Sicily.

Fabriza grew up in Sicily and is a trained art historian. For many years she worked and lived outside Sicily, mostly in the north of Italy. She only visited her family in Sicily on vacations. However about seven years ago Fabrizia decided to return to Sicily to help her mother Anna Tasca Lanza with the cooking school. Fabrizia, as she says in the book, finds it as interesting to learn how to make a Cassatta as analyzing an artwork by Bottecelli.

For over a year, co-author Kate Winslow and her husband Guy Ambrosino (the book’s photographer) followed the growing seasons of the vegetables, the harvest and the cooking at Case Vecchie. Kate worked closely together with Fabriza in the kitchen and collected seasonal recipes for the book. Casa Vecchie, beautifully pictured by Guy in the book, is located on Regaleali, which is one of Sicily oldest and largest estates. The estate also includes the Tasca family’s own winery.

In the book, Fabrizia shares sweet personal stories about herself, her family, friends and employees. It makes the book great fun to read as well as a marvelous cookbook. It also brings back my own memories of Case Vecchie. It makes me think about the mineral flavor in the white wine paired with the panelles in the courtyard. The deep flavor of the olive oil together with the sweetest tomatoes I have ever had. And the rooster who woke me up every morning at 5am.

If you have never been to Sicily, this book will surely bring you there.

Some of my favorites in the book are the Pan roasted Rabbit, the fava bean pesto (Macco), the Grape Crostata and the Sfincione (Palermitan pizza).
For this post I decided to bake Fabrizia’s focaccia, a recipe I especially like because of the special ingredient of one glass of white wine. I haven’t changed much in this recipe, just a few things. Instead of 1½ tablespoons fresh yeast, I used instant yeast. I also topped it with mushroom instead of the oil-cured black olives that is suggested in Fabrizia’s recipe.

The bread is a simple and a perfect treat to bring to a picnic.

 

Focaccia con Funghi
adapted from a recipe by Fabrizia Lanza

dough

3½ cups (about 500 gram) durum wheat or semolina flour
1 ½ teaspoon instant yeast
about ½ – ¾ cup (180 ml) water
½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ (120 ml) cup white wine
1½ teaspoon fine sea salt

topping

about ½ cup (180 ml) mushroom confit (or sauteed mushrooms)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix together flour and instant yeast and place it directly on your counter top. With your hands, make a well in the middle and add ¼ cup (60ml) of the water. Work it well into the flour before adding the olive oil followed by the white wine and another ¼ cup (60 ml) water. Add the salt. If the dough feels too dry, add more water. Knead the dough 10 – 15 minutes (it should be a sticky dough). Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes in a warm kitchen (I had it rising for about an hour as my kitchen wasn’t so warm and cozy).

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease a 10 inch spring form with olive oil. Press the dough into it and let it rise for about 10 minutes more.

Make dimples in the dough with your fingertips. Place the mushrooms in the dimples. Sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt. Lastly drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

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I also want to take the opportunity tell you that in the beginning of next year, Fabrizia and the cooking school will run a 5 week program for chefs around the world. The program will teach the chefs the experience of farm-to-table practices, in the field, garden and kitchen.

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other related links

Olive by Fabrizia Lanza (book)
The Flavors of Sicily by Anna Tasca Lanza (book)
The Heart of Sicily by Anna Tasca Lanza (book)
Natura in Tasca – products produced by Fabrizia Lanza

 

Chickpea Salad with Rosemary & Almonds

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
diagrams,green,sides — by Johanna

© Johanna Kindvall

One of my favorite starters is Jules Clancy’s warm chickpea salad with rosemary & garlic. It’s a wonderful dish that is super easy to put together. It always seems to be a welcoming treat for my guests. I serve it warm or cold as a starter together with fresh homemade bread. This dish is also nice together with olives, mushroom confit, feta and thinly sliced dried sausage.

I have tried different variations of this recipe; thyme instead of rosemary and sunflower seeds instead of almonds. They are all good, however the original combination of chickpeas, chili, rosemary and almonds is just perfect so I mostly stick to that. The recipe below is almost identical to Jules, but my method is slightly different. For example, I prefer to add the garlic at the end, as I easily burn the garlic otherwise. And in this way I minimize the risk of bitter and overcooked garlic.

Thanks Jules for this lovely recipe.

Chickpea Salad with Rosemary & Almonds
adapted from a recipe by Jules Clancy

400 g cooked chickpeas, drained (about one regular can)
chili flakes
one sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves chopped fine or kept whole
one garlic clove, minced
flaky sea salt
¼ cup (60 ml) almonds, toasted

In a separate frying pan, heat up some olive oil. When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the rosemary with a pinch of chili flakes, fry for about a minute before adding the chickpeas. Stir occasionally. Just when the chickpeas start to brown, clear a spot in the pan and add the minced garlic. Let cook for just a little bit before stirring in the rest. Lastly, add the toasted almonds and season with sea salt and some more olive oil (if it feels too dry).

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As you may know already, Jules is the creator of Stonesoup where she share recipes and teach minimal healthy cooking. In 2011 she was a guest here on kokblog. I have also done several illustrations for her websites, for e.g. the beets in the header of stonesoup, the yellow bench and header of her Virtual Cookery School.

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Can’t get enough of chickpeas? I suggest you check out these links:

Feed the Hommous – Chickpeas, the Versatile Bean by Fouad Kassab
Fabrizia’s Panelle by Nicky at Delicious Days  (I love Fabrizia‘s Panelle)
Black Chickpea and Broccoli Soup by Elizabeth Minchilli
Smoky Fried Chickpeas by Aliwaks at Food 52
Easiest Way to Skin Chickpeas for Super Smooth Hummus [VIDEO] by Andrew Janjigian at America’s Test Kitchen

 

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)

Sunday, July 6th, 2014
cheese — by Johanna

Both Tenaya Darlington and I have separately experienced Italy earlier this summer. As you know I visit Case Vecchie in Sicily while Tenaya was leading a story telling workshop in Puglia. Now she is back in Philadelphia and has set up a decadent cheese picnic for us to crave for this summer.

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
by Madame Fromage

Summer is the season to eat cheese in the wild. What’s lovelier than eating Pecorino in a pasture strewn with wildflowers? As you eat, you can taste the grassiness of the milk, and the experience becomes doubly sensual. If you can’t picnic near actual ewes, stare up at the clouds and picture a pastoral life. In the summer, shepherds throughout Europe still lead animals into the hills to feast on wild grasses and herbs (mint, fennel, dill). Animals that gobble gorgeous feed produce beautiful milk. And thus, the best cheeses come to be.

For a summer picnic, I love to buy cheeses made from grass-fed milk. Farmers’ markets are a great source for these beauties, and so is a cheese counter that specializes in artisan cheese. You can also learn to discern grass-fed cow’s milk cheese just by sight; cows cannot digest beta carotene, so they produce golden summer milk. If you see a butter-yellow cow’s milk cheese, chances are it was made from a grass-fed gal.

Picnic cheeses should be easy to pack and easy to pair. Here are a few suggestions for mid-summer cheese combinations that you can toss into a hamper and assemble quickly. If you have your wits about you, grab some toothpicks and a Swiss Army knife. Otherwise, just grab a baguette and a blanket for the grass.

1. Mozzarella balls in brine are a lovely first bite. You can skewer them with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil – or try strawberries and basil – then drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. This is lovely with Prosecco.

2. Fresh ricotta comes alive with fresh herbs and sea salt. Pack some thyme from your windowsill, or forage in the wild. Bring a bottle of extra virgin olive oil for drizzling. Also, you can stuff fresh ricotta into peach halves or apricot halves, or use the fruit as scoops. Try topping these with toasted almonds and honey.

3. Soft cheeses that come in balsa wood boxes (Camembert) or little crocks (Saint-Marcellin) or leaves (Banon, Robiola) are excellent picnic mates. They are gooey enough to spread with a stick, if need be, and they all pair wonderfully with dried fruit, nuts, and honey. Try this: Camembert, green apples, honey, walnuts, amber honey, and a jug of dry hard cider.

4. Swiss Army Knife cheeses include Provolone, Caciocavallo, Pecorino and other sturdy birdies. Choose one or two hunks and load up on olives, cured meat, celery sticks, pickled mushrooms, and olive oil crackers. A bottle of red? Enough said.

5. Gooey blue (like rich Gorgonzola Dolce) makes for a lovely dessert, especially with graham crackers and honey or cherry jam. A goat’s milk blue, like Cremificato Verde Capra, is also a good choice because it’s light. Try packing some dark chocolate and candied nuts, or bring a box of dates and stuff them with blue cheese and almonds.

Storing cheeses for picnics: If you have a hot day or a long bike ride ahead of you, pack your cheeses on frozen water bottles or a chilled bottle of wine. Sheep’s milk cheeses tend to sweat in the sun, so keep them covered with a cloth nappy.

Please also read the other parts in this seasonal cheese calendar:

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)

More by Madame Fromage on kokblog
Guest Post: How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board
and check out her wonderful cheese book

Arm to Table – Workshop at Case Vecchie, Sicily

Friday, June 27th, 2014
bread,travel — by Johanna

After driving on serpentine bumpy roads lined with wild fennel, through a beautiful hilly landscape of vines and wheat, we arrived at Case Vecchie and Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School. Fabrizia Lanza, our host and director of the school welcomed us with sparkling wine and appetizers in the courtyard. We were all (me and 3 other food writers) invited to participate in the Arm to Table workshop and to be part of the cooking school’s 25th anniversary. The school was started by Anna Tasca Lanza, Fabrizia’s mother  in 1989 to teach authentic Sicilian cooking.
In the moonlight we all went down to the garden to have gazpacho followed by anchovy cake  and salad.

The next day our workshop started with a visit to Fattoria Di Gèsu, a farm that grows ancient wheat such as Tumminia, Perciasacchi and Realforte, as well as green chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, tomatoes and almonds. Their produce and products (flour, pasta, almond paste, dried legumes etc) are sold and used by locals and local businesses such as bakeries and restaurants.

We also visited  and watched the shepherd and cheese maker Filippo Privitera, who milks 400 sheep by hand every day (twice a day in the winter) to make ricotta and Pecorino. The fresh ricotta (that was made in front of our eyes) was mind blowing. I couldn’t stop thinking of a plan to persuade my neighbor (who has a few sheep) what a great idea it is to make cheese.

In the afternoon we all had a wonderful lunch with fresh ricotta, varieties of pecorino, several types of dried sausages, potato salad with a Cataratto wine from the Regaleali Estate (the winery of the family). Now we were all ready for our afternoon task: to create a four course dinner with ingredients from the land around us and product of Natura in Tasca. The result was excellent and was served in the courtyard later that evening.

At this point, I knew I was  in paradise! (although I still regret, that I didn’t fill my pockets with pistachio cookies before I went to bed that night).

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Arm to Table Menu

The Saint
Bloody Mary alla Case Vecchie
by Marek

Panelle
(chickpea fritters)
by Fabrizia

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd
by me (recipe below)

Fava Bean Pesto with Busiate Pasta
by Fabrizia & Lauren

Rabbit in Red Wine & in-House Tomato Paste
with couscous (see illustration above)
by Fabrizia and Linda

Green Cauliflower with eggs
by Rachel

Torta della Nonna
(with fresh sheep ricotta and pine nuts)
by Pille

Pistachio Cookies
Ricotta & Caramelized Pine Nut Ice Cream
by David
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The Birthday Party started with mingling in the courtyard where we were treated to bubbly rose and chickpea panelle. An hour later we all took a walk up to the school’s vegetable plot where we all (about 160 guests) sat down at an endlessly long table surrounded by broccoli,  green chickpeas and vine.

As the school is all about farm to table, the lunch consisted of exclusively in-house or locally farmed produce. There were pickled artichokes, capers, anchovies, chickpeas, lentils, flavorful aborio rice, aged pecorino, amazing olive oil, different kinds of salt, fresh basil & mint, cold cut meats and at least three types of bread. My absolute favorite were the tomatoes that was served fresh, pickled and dried. The lunch also included different kinds of wines and endless amount of  desserts. To save energy and water, all the dishes (including the sweet treats) were served on the same ceramic plates which we all  could bring with us home.

I never wanted this to end.

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd at Case Vecchie

I usually bake my knäckebröd with wheat and rye but even before I entered the Case Vecchie kitchen I was eager to try to bake it with other kinds of flours. In this version I used durum wheat flour together with the very aromatic flour, perciasacchi semola. It worked really well. And Lauren Mikus (the school’s intern) did a wonderful job cranking them out thinly through the kitchen’s motorized pasta machine.

60 gram (lively) sourdough starter
2 tablespoons wild flower honey
240 ml (1 cup) water @ room temperature
250 gram durum wheat flour
120 gram perciasacchi semola (ancient wheat flour from Sicily)

1 tablespoon toasted wild fennel
2 teaspoons salt crystals, slightly crushed

In a large bowl, mix together the sourdough starter with the water and honey. Add all the flour and work the dough well together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about two minutes. The dough should feel a little sticky to your hands when kneading.
Place the dough in a bowl and let it rise in room temperature overnight or for at least 6 hours. In a warm kitchen like Fabrizia’s it was ready to bake within two hours. However with a longer rise the dough will develop a richer flavor.

When the dough has finished rising add caraway seeds and sea salt. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes on a floured counter top. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should feel smooth and should not be sticky to the surface or your hands. Let the dough rest for about half an hour while your oven heats up to about 200°C (400°F).

Cut approximately 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch sized portions of the dough and flatten every each slightly between your hands with some flour. On a generously floured counter top, roll out long (1 ½ – 2 inch wide) stripes until very very thin. To avoid the dough sticking to the table, continuously flip the dough over and roll again. Add more flour as needed. The length of the stripes depends on the size of your baking pan. I normally roll them out in my hand cranked pasta machine (until level 5) to about 12- 15 inches.

Place the long stripes on olive oiled baking sheets. Bake for about 4-6 minutes. Adjust the temperature and time if necessary. The knäckebröd is done when they have got nice color and look crisp. The sides tend to bend upwards which gives them an interesting shape.

Let the crackers cool completely on a rack. Don’t stack them until they are completely cool as that will just make them soft. Keep the crackers in sealed containers.

Serve the knäckebröd plain or together with aged Pecorino, anchovies or dried sausages. Linda came up with the idea of topping the bread with fava bean pesto. It was excellent. The bent shape seem to be made for this kind of topping.

Thank you Fabrizia, Lauren, Costanza, Linda and everyone in the kitchen, winery and garden. You are all amazing! And it was great and inspiring to meet you Rachel, Pille and David!

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Other posts about the workshop, 25th birthday party and more…

my photos on flickr
on red and white in Sicily
by Rachel Roddy
Sicily, Again by David Lebovitz
Case Vecchie and the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School by David Lebovitz
Making Cassata alla Siciliana, in Sicily by David Lebovitz
Recipe for Torta della Nonna by Pille Petersoo
anna tasca lanza cooking school {25 years} by Elizabeth Minchilli
cavatelli + sage pesto {cooking in sicily} by Elizabeth Minchilli
remembering anna tasca lanza by Peggy Markel

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Interested to visit Anna Tasca Cooking school? Check out their school program.
If you are a chef you should check out the Cook the Farm Chef School that will take place in the beginning of 2015.
And my review of the book Coming Home to Sicily by Fabrizia Lanza

 

Ceviche with Mango and Avocado

Saturday, June 7th, 2014
fish,sides — by Johanna

Ceviche has been one of those dishes I have wanted to make for a very long time. And now I can’t stop. I like it as the illustrated recipe above, which has a great balance of spice and fruitiness. I have tried other versions as well but this one is so far my favorite.

My recipe is based on a ceviche I was treated to on my last day of 2013. The host made it with cod, which was excellent and he also included freshly cooked shrimps, which I haven’t. The lime ratio I got from Michael Ruhlman’s gorgeous looking Red Snapper Ceviche recipe as it sounded like a good measure. My recipe suggests monkfish but it works with any other white firm sea fish such as cod, tilapia, halibut etc.

1 lb (about 1/2 kg) fresh monkfish*, whole or fillets
1/2 cup (120 ml) lime juice (4-6 limes, dep. on the fruit’s juiciness you might need more or less)
1/2 shallot
one jalapeño
one mango
one avocado
cilantro
salt

If not using fillets, bone and remove skin from the fish. Rinse. Cut the fillets into small pieces (approximately 1/2″ cubes). Chop the shallot very fine.  Place fish and shallots in a bowl and cover with lime juice. Make sure everything is evenly coated. The process can go quite quickly and some say it may be done in 10 minutes. All depends on how thin or thick your pieces are. I often let it marinate for 2-3 hours before I serve it. During this time, keep it cool in the refrigerator. You may check on it and stir it around a little every so often. When ready, the fish should be white and not translucent.

Just before serving: remove the seeds and chop the jalapeño finely. Cut the mango and avocado into small cubes. Place everything including the fish in a large serving bowl. Season with salt. Decorate with plenty of fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or as I sometimes do, thin knäckebröd.

* To be on the safe side it’s a good thing to get frozen fish or even freeze the fish for 2 – 3 days before making ceviche. The freezing will kill any possible parasites in the fish. I have had good results both ways. Please note that the fish, frozen or not still has to be of good quality. Here is an old article at New York Times about it.

Before buying any fish check with Seafood Watch for the most sustainable options.

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Other ceviche recipes
Swordfish Ceviche with an Asian Flair by Winnie Abramson at Food52
Sea Urchin Ceviche by norecipes