As I was happily enjoying my hot spleen sandwich and cold beer, the polizia rode in on their scooters shutting the whole piazza down. Vendors scrambled to disassemble bars, fold up tables, chairs and sofas, and wheel grills away into the night.
You can read more about our adventures in eating street food in Sicily, and about the racy Sicilian words for favorite snacks, over at my Foodie Files column in Planet Jackson Hole. Cazzilli anyone? (Short and stubby cylindrical potato croquettes affectionately nicknamed "little penises."
Traveling home on the rickety Meridiana flight out of Palermo, my seatmate Carlo had tears in his eyes as he looked out the window down at Sicily below. His first trip home in over 10 years, Carlo had visited family to celebrate his 83rd birthday. He didn't know when he would be able to make it back. “This is Sicily,” he said to me as together we watched the island get smaller and smaller and then disappear. “Sicily is beautiful,” he said, as much to himself as to me.
Palmers Tours. This food emporium in Darien, CT hosts a handful of exquisite culinary tours each year in partnernship with Attavola. Besides Sicily, Palmers travels to Puglia, Piedmonte and Spain.
Attavola. Goiacchino Passalacqua has been taking culinary enthusiasts to all his secret places in Sicily since 1999. He is an expert in the highest quality Italian products, and has developed relationships with the best producers of olive oil, wine, cheese, meat, chocolate and everything else that's good to eat in Sicily and all over Italy. Besides all that, Gioacchino is a chef, a general goofball, and a darn good ping pong player.
Traveling with Palmers Tours and Gioacchino is like having family in Italy. I am already planning my next trip with them. Anyone wanna join?
Meridiana Airlines. The good news: Meridiana flies directly from JFK airport to Palermo. The bad news: the plane is held together with duct tape. (We found cheap flights though!)
Headed to Sicily? Please stop by and say hello to my friends over there. Already been? Tell me where you went, what you ate, what you drank. I want to hear it all!
Arancinette al Ragout di Carne
(Little Arancine Stuffed with Meat)
Serves 4 for as a meal or 8 as an appetizer
1 recipe risotto:
1 cup Arborio rice
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pinch saffron threads, soaked in warm water, or 1 pinch saffron powder
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4-5 cups homemade chicken broth, or water, heated to a simmer
Kosher salt, to taste
For the arancine:
4 oz Caciocavallo cheese (substitute fresh mozzarella), cut into ½ inch cubes
5 oz ground beef
1 small onion
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz peas, fresh or frozen
4 oz tomato sauce (freshly made)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups homemade breadcrumbs
Olive oil or sunflower oil for frying
First, make the risotto.
- Bring broth or water to a simmer and set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté shallot in olive oil until translucent. Add rice and stir for a few minutes to coat in olive oil. Add broth or water, one cup at a time, and stir continuously until absorbed. Keep adding liquids until the rice is creamy and al dente (chewy buy firm).
- Add butter and cheese and stir vigorously. Add salt to taste.
- Chill risotto until ready to make arancine.
- Cook the peas for 10 minutes in salted water; drain and set aside.
- Sauté the onion with olive oil and add ground beef, salt and pepper.
- Add the tomato sauce and cook at least 20 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the peas to the tomato sauce and let cool.
- Wet hands and place rice on palm in a thin layer.
- Make a depression in the center and add a teaspoon of sauce and 2 or 3 cubes of caciocavallo (or mozzarella) cheese.
- Close up the rice to form a ball the size of a walnut. Press the ball to compact with your hands.
- Roll the rice balls in flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs.
- Pour olive or sunflower oil into a heavy, deep saucepan, making sure there’s enough oil to accommodate frying about 4 arancine at a time. Heat over medium high heat, and test by placing a small pinch of risotto in the hot oil to see if it sizzles and fries.
- Fry until hot and golden.
- Serve warm.