Making Do – Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

March 24th, 2010 / Comments 10

Charles and I have been in Sicily for nearly a month and we continue to discover new corners to explore in the winding lanes of Ortigia.

vv gaetano elefteria cheese Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I shop daily in the open-air market and my feelings about it have changed. Initially it was inspiring and fun to shop at the market and that hasn’t changed.

vv salvatore marco friend Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

What has changed is that I am no longer a stranger in the market, a tourist with a camera passing through.

vv angelo fish Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The vendors are my friends. I know that Angelo Cappuccio is the best singer at my favorite fish stall.

vv francesco olives Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I always buy olives and capers from Francesco and I got the grumpy vendor with the best lemons to smile.

vv mario olives 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

This is my market – my community of fellow foodies.

My modestly equipped kitchen is quite serviceable and I manage to cook with many fewer tools and ingredients. Except for a battery-operated scale, I have regularly used all of the tools I brought from home. Occasionally, I wish that I had a cast iron grill pan, a food processor or a particular cookbook.

making do words 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen Other than purchasing a toaster oven and a pepper mill, I have tried to “make do” with what I have. A frying pan works as the lid for the large pasta pot. A wooden orange crate from the market, topped with a coarsely woven cotton dishtowel, is the side table for a cup of tea. At a construction site I found a piece of wood and a ceramic roof tile that are now a cutting board and a fruit bowl, respectively. Gelato is impossible to resist and the small plastic bowls it comes in are a good size for serving honey or olives. Charles cut off the tops of empty plastic water bottles to make storage containers for dried herbs, garlic and leftover pasta.

olive branch Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen I used part of a small, plastic egg carton as a divided antipasto dish for olives, pickled mushrooms and artichoke hearts. A slotted plastic ricotta tub worked both as a basket to drain cutlery and as a colander for cherry tomatoes. Stems of parsley in an empty tomato paste tin, in the center of a rough weave cleaning cloth, lit by candles in ad hoc aluminum foil candle sticks made a decorative centerpiece for a cocktail party. Unbleached dish towels with bands of green and red stitching served as place mats and a piece of terrazzo picked up on a walk made a trivet for a hot pan.

vv fruit vendor Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The unglazed foot of a porcelain dinner plate doubled as a knife sharpener. When a guest brought a handful of irises, I wrapped the stems in a collar of aluminum foil so that they would stand up in the only vase we had.

Along with make-do hardware, I have been using make-do ingredients. A limited pantry from a limited market has been an opportunity for creativity. Fish filets dusted with chickpea flour, the only flour I had, were an innovation I will repeat.

ven chocolate guiseppe Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

Honey and fresh lemon juice stirred into a cup of boiling water made a warming drink when there was a downpour between me and the closest tea bag. I have used the herb blend from the market to flavor marinades, salad dressing, and a cannellini bean spread.

Share your most creative make-do in a comment by May 15th and win a white cotton cloth from Sicily like the ones I used as place mats for a make-do dinner party.

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• 10 Responses to “Making Do – Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen”

  • Lydia says:

    Hi Carol,
    I love all the details of your making do, recognizing a kindred spirit! Hooray for improvising! When I was a kid we lived in Paris for half a year and my motto became “je me debrouille.” So do you! One of my fondest memories is sharing a take-out salad with my sister-in-law in a swank San Francisco hotel room: we mixed it up in the room’s ice bucket and ate it with our fingers!
    I get to your posts all out of synch but always delight in them. Thank you so much for sharing your enjoyment!

  • Courtney says:

    hello Carol, i just came across your blog on the foodblog search because i’m coming to sicily and will be in siracusa for (only) one night. i’m glad i found your blog…i’ll definitely be keeping up with it leading up to my trip. i’m wondering how often the market is? do you know the schedule…and is it on sundays, or do they close? any other helpful siracusa tips i would more than appreciate, especially restaurant suggestions. thanks so much! courtney

    • Carol says:

      The market is fully open six mornings a week. Saturday seems to be the biggest market day. It starts around 7am and begins to wind down around 12:30. Ortigia is where you want to be. It is an island, connected to the rest of Siracusa by two bridges. The cafe on the Piazza Duomo and the Caffe Minerva on that is just around the corner are great places to sit and watch the world go by. I don’t have any musts restaurants to tell about. I have been cooking here and enjoying that.

      Walking around, and getting lost doing is one of our favorite things. We will be here until April 14th – if you are coming before we leave, I’d love to walk around the market with you.

    • Carol says:

      We just had an amazing five or eight course meal, depending how you count, at a tiny restaurant that I would love to recommend to you. I’m planning of doing a post about it later in the week. It is called Sciue Sciue, in Ortigia at Via S. Teresa 8. The food is wonderful, made to order by Teresa, (not the saint, but the food is so good perhaps she is a saint). Local food made carefully and served with love.

  • thedabble says:

    I love that you shared the vendors! That is awesome! I also love how you are making-do-enjoy your weekend!

  • This brings to mind the Jack Lemon character in the movie, The Apartment. Jack served spaghetti and used his tennis racquet as a strainer. While it was easy to get by in the kitchen, as a young married couple back in the 50s, much of our early furniture was “make-do”, from bricks and planks for bookcases to a burlap covered door serving as a coffee table.

    Just as in your first salad nicoise experience, young couples had all kinds of fun in the process of getting started. We think we ate the salad in Georgetown, maybe at the same place during our early years as well. Great places and good music on Wisconsin Avenue.

    This may not be what you wish to publish because it is off the central point, but it is always perfect to read your stories and feel that we are now part of your circle of friends.

    Roger and Doris

    • Carol says:

      I love to hear personal stories. I’ve never used a tennis racquet to strain pasta but it sure is a way to make do. The salad nicoise came from a restaurant called Pied d’ Cauchon. I’m not sure of the spelling.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  • wasabi prime says:

    Wonderful post! I think the last memorable make-do was when I was making banana bread, didn’t have eggs, and just used extra bananas, which I know is a trick for vegan cooking. Don’t know if that’s really make-do, though!

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