Sicily, Lemons, Vegetables & Pancakes

March 1st, 2011 / Comments 0

lemon branch c egbert Sicily, Lemons, Vegetables & PancakesOur flight from Boston to Sicily is not a direct one. We fly from Boston to Philadelphia and then on to Rome, change planes and fly from Rome to Catania in Sicily. The plane flies along the west coast of the boot and after about forty minutes, it’s possible to see Mount Etna poking through the clouds. The plane banks and begins its descent and, if we’re lucky and sitting on the right side of the plane, we may see smoke rising from the still active volcano.

Even if Etna is sleeping or we are sitting on the wrong side of the plane, we will see groves of citrus trees as the plane makes its approach to the airport in Catania. The trees are filled with either orange or yellow spheres. The blood oranges, spattered with garnet red, are perfect eaten out of hand or used to make peachy-pink orange juice. The lemons offer endless possibilities. When I have played the ‘dessert island’ ingredient game with friends, lemons are what I want on my raft as I head to shore. I need lemons to brighten hot or cold tea, for salad dressings and marinades, to flavor chicken, seafood, vegetables, pasta, cookies, pies and cakes.

We have been looking forward to returning to Sicily since New Year’s Day. These two months of anticipation have inspired me to use lots of lemons to bring the scent and flavor of Sicily to wintry Vermont. A couple of weeks ago, when I wanted a very simple dinner, I made a bowl of steamed winter vegetables topped with lemon butter. Here’s how I did it: … read more

Hint from ’50s – Lemon Chicken

September 6th, 2010 / comments 4

Lemon Chicken Hint from 50s   Lemon Chicken

Swordfish – Ortigia Market Dinner

March 2nd, 2010 / comments 14

veg patchwork 0rtigia 01 Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner Most mornings I walk to the open-air market with no idea of what I will buy. The fresh vegetable stalls are piled high with white and purple cauliflower, broccoli, plum tomatoes still attached to vines, fluted heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, fennel, potatoes, carrots, onions and eggplant all carefully arranged to form a patchwork of colors.

There are leafy greens that I can’t identify near the familiar bunches of parsley, mint and basil. I bought a few small potatoes, one zucchini, and bunches of parsley and mint from the vendor who waited patiently as I figured out the correct combination of coins to pay him.

oranges ortigia Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner

The fruit stalls are filled with citrus – blood oranges, mandarins, ordinary lemons and two-fisted, lumpy Sicilian lemons. One stall had five small containers of wild strawberries. They were three times as expensive as the more familiar cultivated ones but I couldn’t resist the extravagance.

The fish section of the market is the most lively.

fish vendor sicily 041 Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner

The loud calls of men selling fish and seafood fill the air with promises and banter that I don’t understand.

fish vendor 02 sicily1 Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner

The metal tables are filled with squid, cuttlefish, three kinds of shrimp, cockles, mussels, sea urchin, octopus, fish filets, mustard-yellow dotted eels, small pink fish, and silver striped black striped fish. A large piece of fish ready to be sliced into steaks sat beside the up-ended head of the swordfish it came from. I decided on swordfish for dinner because it would be the simplest to cook. I used my fingers to indicate that I wanted a one-inch thick steak. I’ll deal with boning, skinning, filleting and cleaning the less familiar fish another day.

The vendors who sell ripe and green, brine and oil cured olives, also sell heads of garlic, and capers and anchovies preserved in salt.

tomato paste ortigia Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner

A spatula that looks like a putty knife sat on a large platter next to a mound of tomato paste made from sun dried tomatoes. I bought an herb blend marked Herba Tipico Siciliano and a small quantity of salted capers to experiment with.

The smoky smell of peppers and onions roasting on a small charcoal grill at the end of the lane perfumed the air. This was the only stall where a woman was working. Her husband was in charge of roasting and negotiating sales and her role was limited to wrapping a pepper after I had paid for it.

The cheese man tempts every passer-by with a sample. He reaches across the cheese case to offer samples of smoked mozzarella or provolone on the tip of his huge knife. When I pointed at the creamy cheese studded with red peppers, he used that same knife to create an instant sandwich with the cheese, bits of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and a crust of ciabatta bread. His smile was at least as sweet as the cannoli I bought from him for our dessert.

chocolate vendor ortigia Swordfish   Ortigia Market Dinner

My heavy market bag made it easy to resist stopping at the stalls with almonds and walnuts, blocks of almond paste, dates, dried fruit and chocolate bars from Modica that are seasoned with black pepper, ginger, orange or chili. I considered menu possibilities as I walked home until I was distracted by a young girl trying to perfect her skating technique in the Piazza Doumo. By the time I finished unpacking the groceries, I had decided to marinate the swordfish and then bake it. Parsley would flavor a mixture of vegetables, and the wild strawberries would top the already perfect canolli. Dinner was meraviglioso! Here’s how I did it: … read more

Swordfish Carpaccio

February 27th, 2010 / comments 8

swordfish carpaccio Swordfish CarpaccioI bought 300 g, a bit more than a quarter of a pound, of fresh swordfish at the market and brought it home is an insulated lunch bag that was extra cold because I remembered to freeze the insert that came with the bag and then to take it all to the market.

Our refrigerator is tiny, and I am trying to be mindful and use every bit of food I have before it gets green and fuzzy with mold. Everything is wrapped in either paper or a white plastic bag and that means that I frequently unwrap and rewrap the same leftover more than once. I have augmented the minimun number of bowls and containers by re-cycling the blue and green plastic cups from the gelateria and four of them where filled with the remainder of a steamed potatoes aand carrots from our first dinner party and there were also bits of mushroom salad and artichoke salad.

I thought that swordfish carpaccio would  pull all of the odd bits of food together. When we had finished lunched and washed up there were fewer packages in the fridge and more empty small bowls in the cuppboard. Lunch was a culinary success, a successful use of leftovers and certainly a dietary success. We ate a small amount of swordfish seasoned with lemon and olive oil and lots of vegetables. The carpaccio was a breeze to make. Here’s how I did it: … read more

Gift from the Kitchen #3 – Preserved Lemons

December 12th, 2009 / comments 2

Lemons preserved in salt are a condiment used in traditional Moroccan dishes. They will be a perfect gift for my friend Daniel who has been trying to perfect his version of chicken tagine.

ZPF Lemon Branch 01 Gift from the Kitchen #3   Preserved Lemons

I think a jar of these lemons will help him. This recipe has only two ingredients and needs no cooking so it is a breeze to make. Here’s how I made it: … read more

Gift from the Kitchen #2 – Lemon Rosemary Relish

December 11th, 2009 / Comments 0

I created a lemon rosemary relish for Richard, my friend who loves to barbeque chicken even if he has to shovel a path through the snow to get to his grill.

ZPV Rosemary c egbert Gift from the Kitchen #2   Lemon Rosemary Relish

The relish is perfect as a way to add flavor and moisture to well browned chicken.  It will also add a spark to a ham sandwich. Here’s how I did it: … read more

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