Sicily

Sicily

I’ve been living in what is arguably the center of Europe for a while now (and I’m certain someone will get out their ruler and argue that technically, I don’t actually reside in the precise center of the continent – but let’s just go with that for the sake of the story), I don’t visit other countries as often as I’d like. It’s so easy to just stay home, not worry about airline tickets, packing, making sure you bring enough socks and don’t forget shaving cream, getting to the airport on time, the stress of unpacking everything to pass through security, and being herded onto, then cooped up in, a tight plane for a few hours in a seat that’s just barely big enough to hold a small child.

persimmons

The reward, however, is arriving somewhere, leaving the airport, and realizing you’re somewhere magnificent. Even if you have to nearly blow-up like a smoldering Sicilian volcano to get there.

Sicily

Sicily has been at the top of my list for a while now, but by the end of fall, less folks want to travel there. And because it’s not a popular winter destination, airlines heavily reduce their flights to Sicily and I had to do some sleuthing around to find out which one would actually take us there.

Sicily

I scored tickets – but in my haste, didn’t check them carefully, I guess. And the day before we were set to go, and I was all packed…having spent the week before making sure I had every single possible thing that I might need for a week away – chargers, unmentionables, sunglasses, shaving cream, a sweater, etc..I noticed the names were transposed on our tickets. (Of course, I forgot my sweater and sunglasses, and had to pay airport prices for a new pair of lunettes de soleil, which was an hour-long process because it’s Paris, and the woman insisted I try on every pair to find just the right ones.)

Sicily

Since I’m constantly going back and forth between American and European websites, I have to triple-check dates because, for example, a date like November 12, 2013 is expressed as 11/12/13 in America, whereas in Europe, it’d be 12/11/13. And as much as I knew I’d appreciate a trip to Sicily on December 11th as well, we were leaving the next day and I panicked because the airlines refused to change the tickets and wanted me to buy new ones – for €600 ($800) each way.

Trapani

The upside of the fiasco was that I got to see Romain tell off someone. If you’ve ever seen a French person tell someone off, it’s impressive. I’ve only been on the receiving end once and after working in professional kitchens most of my life, I’m pretty decent at a good put-down, but these folks are pros.

Sicily

Fortunately I live in the land of “Non doesn’t mean no. It means you have to to find a way to get out of a jam and make it work.” I won’t go into the details but when stepped past the boarding gate and got onto the plane and in our seats, I was so soaked that I didn’t think I’d need that sweater I’d forgotten.

We stayed on the farm of Mary Taylor Simeti, the author of Pomp and Sustenance, a terrific book about classic Sicilian cooking, who has lived in Sicily for 51 years with her Sicilian husband. Her house is situated in the middle of lush olive groves, there are rows and rows of grapes which they press into wine, trees heavy with rosy pomegranates, bergamots, citrons, lemons, and oranges. And here and there, a squash or two.

squash in Sicily

There were lots of cucuzza squashes everywhere. And you can see how tempting it is to take the most interesting ones, and display them in curious ways.

squash

One of my favorite things to eat in Sicily is the ricotta cheese. A by-product of cheese-making (ricotta means “recooked”, and it’s made with the enormous amount of whey that gets cast-off when the milk is curdled for other cheeses), it became our daily breakfast, piled on toast with a drizzle of local honey or jam made on the farm.

ricotta and honey on toast

After some confusion at the bakery with the baker – I forgot the word for “whole wheat” – I finally landed on the magic word, integrale, that became our daily bread. We get great bread in Paris, but ricotta really needs to be eaten a day or so after it’s made. After that, it’s lightness and fresh taste really diminishes.

Sicily

The Sicilian food I had was quite rustic, which is just fine with me, and I joked somewhere online that this was a low-fat sausage, and – like so many other things (like when I joked I made a non-fat carbonara with nonfat yogurt and smoked tofu, and some woman sent me a string of expletives – yikes!…), a few didn’t get the ironic joke. But no matter what you think of it, or my silly sense of humor, it’s pretty beautiful, isn’t it?

Proof that just like in other countries, you can get a bad meal in Italy, too, one of our first was a doozy. We had lunch in a repurported marble public building, which sounded like it might be fun. But our salad was a plate of wet iceberg lettuce with a few leaves of radicchio and a cruet of vapid olive oil to pour over it. When you are surrounded by olive groves (and groves and groves and groves of olives) I can’t think of any excuse to give people supermarket olive oil.

Sicily is known for its seafood so I’d ordered a shrimp pasta with arugula. What came out was a plate covered with those tiny bay shrimp (yes, the frozen kind) and perhaps four leaves of arugula wilted underneath. I didn’t feel so great the next day but right afterward, to eradicate the meal, I said, “You know, I need to eat something really great. Like, right now.”

So we drove out to Euro Bar (via Garibaldi, 11/13, Dattilo – note, they close from 2:30-4:30pm), which is famous for their cannoli. And proof that it’s not just in Paris that the longer it takes to get somewhere, the more likely it is that it’ll be closed when I get there, the metal awning to the caffè was down and we had about two hours to kill before they reopened. So we drove out to Trapani.

Trapani

Trapini is famous for the salt that is harvested there. And even though the museum and the all-important (at least to me…) gift shop was closed, and they were closing the jetty to the salt marshes, like the folks at the airport who nodded waved us onto the plane (not the ones in the office that Romain told off), the kind woman gave us five minutes to take a walk and a look around. See how much easier it is just to be nice, and helpful?

Big mounds of salt sit on the banks of the water, and they could not have been more beautiful. I was tempted to grab a few pocketsful, in lieu of being able to go on a salty spree in the gift shop, but I thought better of it, and left empty-handed. Or empty-pocketed.

Trapani

Back in Dattilo, we arrived at the bar and found that a few well-dressed older gents had taken up the tables outside, where they likely gather daily, as we all waited in anticipation for the shop to open. Fortunately they were pretty punctual and as soon as the heavy metal gate started sliding upward, we headed inside. And, fortunately the cannoli were as good as I’d heard.

Sicily

Each cannoli is deep-fried in lard and stuffed with sweetened sheep’s milk ricotta, bits of candied orange, and a few chunks of chocolate, and are made to order so the shells stay nice and crisp. They shatter when you eat them and I lost a few pieces to the floor. But they were so big that it didn’t matter. This massive cannoli made up of the plate of puny shrimp and lame salad. There were other Sicilian pastries which I was anxious to try, but I was more stuffed than the cannoli, feeling like I was going to burst out from top to bottom, too.

Sicily

On the opposite end of the “health scale” I love all the greens in Italy, and something I miss. Whenever I eat bitter greens, sautéd in garlic and red pepper flakes, I always feels like I’m scrubbing out my insides. There are piles and piles and piles of green everywhere, and an array of vegetables that is stunning, no matter where you look.

Sicily

You just need to pull up, park, and grab your greens-to-go. One night I cooked up a massive pot of green, most pulled from the grounds at the farm where we stayed, and tossed them in olive oil and pasta for a simple dinner with white wine. I was tempted to bring a whole bunch of greens back with me, which I did once from somewhere else, but decided to dedicate my luggage space to olive oil, which is everywhere.

Sicily

A fun thing about Sicily is that you might be walking through a small town or city, and come across a frantoio, or olive oil pressing place, where locals bring their olives to get mashed by granite rollers into juicy, green olive oil.

Olives in Sicily

Or you might come across a chestnut roasted parked on the side of the road, roasting chestnuts over a billowing fire, then tossing them in local salt.

Sicily

Each one was crackling hot when the vendor handed the paper cone over to us.

Sicily

Italians have a pretty intense sweet tooth, and while I like sweets (which is a good thing, because if I didn’t, I’d be out of a job!), like pastas, one should be judicious where they indulge.

Sicily

Almost every caffè and bar had a selection of treats to nibble on with your coffee, but the almond paste cookies were the most scrumptious of what we tasted. Many of the cookies were rolled in pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, or other nuts, than baked until crisp. They were perfect not just for afternoon coffee, but I found myself waking up earlier than the others and stealing a nibble before breakfast, too.

We also visited the butchers, where the artisans excel in rolling up spiedini, or skewers, with the meat rolled up with everything from oiled breadcrumbs and rosemary, to chopped pistachios. One day we asked for porchetta (roast pork) sandwiches which they kindly made, and we ate in the shop. And because it’s always more enjoyable to have something to drink with your lunch, even if you’re standing in a butcher shop, the butcher came out with three glasses of wine and handed them to us.

Palermo Sicily

If I had an Italian butcher shop, I’d do the same thing. And if I ever opened an Italian restaurant, I’d call it “Il Pipino Rosso”, or “The Red Penis” too.

Sicily

The last day we left the relative tranquility of the countryside and hit Palermo. It’s kind of crazy city – a mad jumble of streets, cars, dubious characters, massive and marvelous historic public buildings, and little alleys – and as we were looking for parking (thankful to have a Parisian driver), we passed a dog lying prone on its side, in the middle of a busy turnabout. Cars were whizzing past and people huddled on the sidewalk nearby, presumably talking about what to do with the injured, or deceased, dog lying in the middle of the road with cars swerving around it.

Sicily

We were on our way to get panica’meusa, or pancreas sandwiches at Porta Carbone (Via Cala, 62), which I wasn’t entirely anxious to try – especially since my tummy was still a bit sensitive from the crummy pasta meal. But I loved watching the counterman slice up the boiled meat, layer it between soft rolls, sprinkling the meat with Trapani salt and a bit of cheese, then handing it over.

Pancreas sandwich

I took a bite, and I must say, it was the best pancreas I’ve ever had. In fact, it was the only pancreas I’ve ever had. (And in fact, it may actually be spleen – although I’m not sure the difference is. If I was so smart, do you think I’d be making cookies for a living?) Whatever it was, it wasn’t connecting kindly with my turbulent stomach, and I had to pass on eating any more.

When we left, we passed the dog, which had been dragged to the curb. The Italian-speaker in our little group went over to express our condolences to the woman standing over it, who laughed, and said “He’s just taking a siesta!” And we laughed too, at the idea that a dog would just lie down in the middle of a busy thoroughfare and take a nap amongst the cacophony. But that’s Palermo for ya.

anchovies and sardines

Vucciria market was recommended to me by my friend Judy to visit, then a local told me it was “over”, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to try to find it. Fortunately as we walked through the winding little streets and passages, all of the sudden, we came up on a nice little market square with folks selling sardines, bottarga (dried fish roe), salted capers, beautiful fresh and tinned fish, and, happily, more pancreas sandwiches.

Sicily

I passed on a sandwich, but bought an old, metal gelato goblet for €2 and a horn for my bicycle for €1,50 made of green metal.

Sicily

We had a final lunch at Trattoria Piccolo Napoli (Piazetta Mulino a Vento, 4), which was all I needed to feel completely better in the tummy department. Evidently some culinary luminaries had also recommended the restaurant, and I found out that Anthony Bourdain was there with Mary Taylor Simeti when he was taping a television episode on Sicily, and a few tables were obvious fans of his. And judging from the check, the restaurant knew they were a television star as well.

But it was still Sicilian with tables of men coming in for lunch. And locals definitely outweighed the two other tables of non-Italians. We had a tangle of wild greens sautéed with whole cloves of garlic, deep-fried artichokes, and sheets of fried chickpea batter, similar to panisses, but not quite as crisp.

Sicily - pasta with clams

Like the French, Italians also still eat in courses so after our shared starter, we dove into a platter of fried sardines with a delicious crust. Next up were bowls of pasta, I chose vongole (clams) because as a New Englander, I have a deep fondness for the little bivalves.

I slurped up the tangle of al dente pasta while a dining companion had squid ink pasta, which she pronounced excellent. (Although we both had a little bit of a tangle when I said I preferred dry pasta cooked, because it absorbs sauce better. I passed on tasting, but was intrigued when a man come in the door with a tray of goopy octopi.

sardines, artichokes + squid ink pasta

I went to take a look at the delivery right before they were whisked into the kitchen, and a few minutes later the two men dining next to us were presented with, er, lunch.

Sicily

While one took a phone call, the waiter came over and sliced open the head from the tentacled beast, extracted something from the inside on the end of a fork, and speared it into the guy’s mouth while he chatted on the phone. We went to prawns, both raw and grilled, and while they were quite fresh, I was reaching my limit.

raw shrimp in Sicily

Lemon granita ended the meal and while we considered going back to Euro Bar for cannoli (one of my traveling companions lost a bet and I was considering holding her to it, the wager being a free cannoli), we extracted the car from the tight parking space (that’s Palermo!) – which my Parisian driver (that’s Romain!) did with relative ease – only unleashing the fury of 3-4 Sicilian drivers.

fennel and pomegranate

The next day it was back to the airport, with a suitcase packed with tins of organic extra-virgin olive oil. The oil went into a checked bag so there was no problem bringing it home, but passing through security, the officer pulled my carry-on aside, reached into my bag, and extracted my green metal bike horn. Curious, perhaps due to its musket-like shape, he held it up for his comrades to see. He asked if it was okay to honk it – probably to make sure it wasn’t something that could be fired, and I said, “Sure!”

Sicily

So he started honking away in the Palermo airport. First just once, then a couple of time – then they all had a good laugh and he gave it back to me. I needed the laugh to get over the stress of praying that they would let us on our flights home due to our names being inverted on our plane tickets – because otherwise my 9 liters of olive oil would be winging its way to Paris without me.

Sicily

I ended up arriving before the olive oil, which arrived the next morning after a 7:15am wake-up call from the airlines, saying that my suitcase was on route to my apartment. And soon I was in possession of several tins of Sicilian olive oil, a sack of lovely citrus fruits – citrons, bergamots, and some lemons – but no ricotta for my morning toast. So I think I’d better start slicing from fruits to make jam, which I managed to avoid getting into, coming from and going to, Sicily.

Persimmons

91 comments

  • Did you visit Mondelo? Such a tiny, but fantastic vacation town near Palermo.

  • Did you eat any pasta finocchio e sarde? It was always my favorite food as a child & it still ranks near the top. Wish I could have gone with you.

  • Reading this at 16.40 on a dark, cold day in England – well, just shoot my head off!!

  • Wow, thank you for virtual tour. The food, the clams, the produce all looks divine. I was interested to see that ‘Integrale’ meant wholemeal, which is very funny because there is an Italian car named a Lancia Delta Integrale. Wonder what made them name the car that?
    :-)

  • I need to go just for all of the pastries! Definitely what I love most about Europe in general, the sweets!

  • Vongole … for some reason I thought I didn’t like them. Then I ate them in Sicily with a bottle of Insolia and sgroppino afterwards … and the cannoli, and the gelato, and the sunshine, and the pistachios – and we’re going back next summer!

  • No arancini? Those are what I would go for first on my next trip to Sicily. The Catania fish market (east coast) is extraordinary and interesting to visit. And here’s a plug for one of the funniest books I’ve ever read: “Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany” by Shamus Sillar.

  • Beautiful. Thanks for the food tour! My gall bladder is still recovering from 2 weeks in France, so I especially appreciate the greens, etc.,. But the nut covered cookies (nut covered anything, actually) just make my mouth water.

  • What are you making with the persimmons? We just got back from two weeks in Italy and there was some version of persimmon in every dessert we had. Yum.

  • Yeng: We just ate them raw – when they’re as soft as filled water balloons waiting to burst, they’re ready!

    David: We mostly ate at home. With all the amazing organic produce on the farm, and the excellent salumi (charcuterie) and skewered meats we got at the butcher shop in Alcamo, Delizie, to grill off, we didn’t go to that many restaurants.

    Judith: Don’t feel too bad – it’s pitch-dark here as well, and getting cold. I recommend a winter trip to Sicily; it was 22-24ºC every day – in November (!)

  • Hi David,
    What is the name of the cookies in the 5th photo in your articles? I believe they are made of marzipan & probably glazed with apricot jam. I have had them before but need the name to google a recipe.( unless you have one) I have also had a large cake size dessert like the cookies. I remember eating the best almond cookies in Taormina.
    You have a great blog.
    Bernardo

  • Looks like a lovely time for a visit. I spent 2 weeks there last year in mid-Oct. It was still quite hot. Loved the trip which was with Road Scholar.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Beautiful, inspiring post.

  • Oh my, oh my! I’ve only read about Sicily (in Andrea Camilleri’s giallos) but this is enough to lure me…

    I have to ask, are those GREEN cauliflowers? Such a beautiful green! I’ve only seen white and orange-y ones here…

    And greens are one of my favorite things too. But I am disappointed that you didn’t find out what was in the head of that octopus…

    Fantastic blog, one of my very favorites, even though I am more of an eater than a cook…

  • You must of course return to Sicily and the pasticcerias of Palermo and above all Catania for the exquisite art of minisculptures in marchepane – so beautiful that one cannot bring oneself to eat them. And they keep very well indeed.
    In Catania another unbeatable treat: going on the Circumetna railway, leaving from the Borgo station (not the regular train station). This oldfashioned commuter line,
    110 km long, serves the little towns around Etna, in turn Europe´s largest active volcano. Trip takes 3 hours. Feels like being in a movie.

  • You should read “The Cat Who Went To Paris” and its sequels. You of all people would appreciate the travels of this remarkable cat and its human companion, screenwriter Peter Gethers, and their culinary adventures.

  • The cookies look like my mom and grandma’s (Benedetta & Maria)…grandpa (Salvatore) and grandma both grew up (and immigrated) from Licodia Eubea in Sicily. The other side (my dad’s) is Calabrian. So nice to see some of Sicily through your experience.

  • Thank you so much for this blog. One of my favorite mystery series is by Andrea Camilleri and takes place in Sicily. The author has a penchant for letting us know what everyone is eating. These pictures really brought it to life!

  • Be still my heart!! What a fabulous post…and I think you covered it all! (C’mon…how many cannoli did you REALLY have?)

  • Gorgeous photos and a great story. What else could a reader ask for? Loved the parts about people — the airport guy who honked the horn, the waiter who fed the guy on the phone. Bravo!

  • the pancreas is a small flattish gland alongside the stomach which helps to digest fats and starches and also produces certain hormones, such as insulin. it produces corrosives enzymes (very alkaline) opposite to the stomach’s enzymes (very acidic).

    the spleen is mostly a blood filtering organ and as such, is almost entirely blood vessels, blood, and fibrous connective tissue. it is generally larger, redder (or browner when cooked), and much thicker/meatier/tougher than the pancreas which is mostly glandular, and quite thin.

    however, i can’t tell from the photos which organ you are eating, because i see what may be some holes and lumpiness in some strips, indicating splenic vessels, but i also see the small cottage-cheesey appearance of the bumps in some of the pieces, which seem more like pancreatic texture to me. the color isn’t a good indication i don’t think, because there may have been some marinade or sauce that they were prepared in; but if not, i’d say the dark color looks more like spleen…

    well, i’m an animal surgeon, not a chef, so i’m not sure i should speak about the cooked product…

    :)

  • oh, and i forgot to ask before i started ‘lecturing’ you, can you please, please give us a recipe for those little almond pine nut cookies in the first photo?? are they the ones that are made with eggwhites / no baking soda or powder?

    thanks

    • No worries about the “lecture” – you obvious know more about animals than I do. The friend who I was traveling said it was pancreas and she wrote a book on offal, but I’ve heard others say its spleen.

      I am hoping to make the cookies for the blog. Most of the time I think they use powdered almonds and egg whites. I’ve made them before with almond paste so may go that route, as ground almonds can be harder to find for people. Hope to get a recipe on the site when I do…

  • I thought you wanted to live in Spain!
    Lovely. Blog and wonderful pictures.
    I can’t eat persimmons when they’re do soft. I like them still a bit hard but past the mouth-drying stage.
    The cat was gorgeous. I love tabbies.

  • I’m so glad you managed to get on your flight. I’m smiling trying to picture the “telling-off” that took place. : ) The food looks simply amazing (I just love all Italian almond cookies). One of my very favorite things is chestnuts, too. It’s hard to get fresh ones in the U.S. (and so expensive). I’m buying them now to savor while I can, and the ones imported from Italy are usually so good.

  • what a truly delightful post (are there ever others? no no no signore)…. I took a good moment to realise that you were not talking about cannelloni —> what a relief ! They look so totally gorgeous!!
    I ‘met’ and ever since have an ongoing love affair with my first ‘bitter’ vegetables (Radicchio, cima di rapa, chicorino rosso, but also ruccola-rocket salad) when I stayed in Florence for an Italian course – I also fell in love with freshly made pasta, tiny strong caffè at the local bar, little biscotti as you so well and beautifully presented…. I think I could live in Italy anytime if I had the opportunity – people were always very friendly, helpful, there was no snobbery (unlike in Milano), fish was abundant and wonderful…. I need to wake up now – there’s no time to dream.
    Grazie per les vacanze, Davido

  • It looks like you and Anissa had a fantastic time at Mary’s. You’re so lucky to have spent the week there!

  • I forgot to mention the ‘salted’ chestnuts !!! Wonder oh wonder…. never had that but can imagine how beautiful they taste (and at such a terrific price too!).
    I treated myself to a paper cornet of 100gr in Switzerland two weeks ago – they cost me something like CHF 3.50 or 3.80 (€3.- or $4.15 for 100gr)
    Now I want to return even more – and taste castagne, and, and, and….

  • The exact center of Europe, believe it or not (speaking geographically) is in the middle of nowhere in Western Ukraine. Which, psychically, is about a million light years from the center of Europe.

  • everything looks so wonderful! great pictures! drool, drool. when i am well again, i plan on selling my house in sf bay area and taking a dream (eating adventure) trip to italy and sicily, france, etc. thanks for sharing!

  • aagghh! you’re killing me here. gorgeous pics of caullflower/pickup truck…are those really fava bean marzipans? i’ve heard that the crudo in sicily is even better than japanese sushi. great post!

  • Fun! Would like to see a picture of the infamous green bike horn….

  • It’s spleen. I’ve had the sandwich in Palermo and in a long gone hole in the wall in New York’s East Village. “Panica’meusa” (or “pani cà meusa”) is the Palermitan Sicilian version of the standard Italian “pane con la milza.” Interesting, in that “miltz” is the Yiddish word for spleen. If you liked spleen in Palermo, I recommend a sandwich of “lampredotto” which can be found in Florence at the main market and at street stands which also sell delicious tripe sandwiches. Lampredotto is made from the cow’s forth stomach, while the more popular tripe comes from the animal’s first three stomachs.
    I love offal!

    • Thanks ~ that’s kind of what I thought but wasn’t sure. It’s not really something I crave, with is perhaps cultural, but it was interesting to try & I loved the funky little place where it was served – and watching the crowds start pouring in right before lunch!

  • You brighten my day, David. Sounds like a wonderful (and hilarious, as always) trip!

  • Whenever I see that you have a new post, I immediately go to see all the pictures, but I rarely have time to read the post and the comments until several hours (and sometimes several days) later. It is kind of cheating, but I like to read your posts without any distractions and really take it all in…..and I cannot resist looking at the pictures asap. So anyway, I browsed your Sicily photos before dinner and that octopus on the plate picture has been burned in my mind for some reason. I was hoping it was a marzipan octopus or a joke, and the second I got the kids off to bed, I came back to read the entire post and I cannot believe someone eats that! Eeek. I was relieved to see that you did not :)

    Thank you for the adventure. After reading your travel posts, I feel like I have been on a trip myself!!

  • This just reaffirms my resolve to get my butt over to Sicily. (And that snake-looking squash freaked me out!!!)

  • Oh, what fabulous images!

  • I enjoyed reading your post. We visited family in Sicily for 2 weeks this past summer and were amazed by the great food everywhere we went. When we visited with family in Palermo every meal was about fish, and in visiting family in the Madonie mountains it was about freshly made ricotta, cheese, vegetables and meat. Of course, every meal began with pasta. We spent 2-3 hours eating pranzo (lunch) each day with family. One of our favorite food items that we purchased to bring home, was a sauce made of sundried tomatoes. It is similar to tomato paste but better. Some onion and garlic are sautéed together, then 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce and some water are cooked together. We then top our pasta with the sauce and toasted breadcrumbs.

  • o.m.g…The Red Penis? lol…wow. and for a butcher’s shop, haha. ballsy.

    And, i’ve prob. made this comment before but nothing is like fresh olive oil – it’s basically fruit juice. So delicious!

    What a GREAT post – so long and entertaining, and with great photos. Thank you!

    • It was actually a restaurant and we talked to the woman (a woman in her 50s or 60s) who thought it was terribly funny to call her restaurant that. I won’t go in to what she said in detail (!) but she made other illusions to the, um, object, which the restaurant was named after.

      (And yes, the fresh olive oil is amazing. Glad I lugged home so much!)

  • Excellent post on Sicily. Loved every word and every photo. Just returned myself from Roma. too bad you were not there for a Gelato tour. I miss you every time you are in Texas. Maybe this year will the the time I see you. Love to you and Roman. Keep up the good/great work!

  • Wonderful post about a place I knew very little about. Fantastic photos: I particularly loved the double-decker squashes and the cute guy pouring out olives.

    @Sara: the green cauliflowers are broccoflowers.

  • Hello David
    I’ve been following for a long time, but now I had to comment, because this is fabulous! The writing, the photos, all just amazing.
    You are always a great writer, and I wait impatiently for every new post. I am even beginning to think of buying all of your books, even though I rarely bake or eat cakes or other sweet stuffs. (I do love making ice creams, though, even though I don’t eat it much..) Thank you

  • Love your tales of the trips you do; For someone complaining never to have much holiday this year, seems to have been great for travel(dare I say Vacances)

    • I spent a lot of time this year (and the previous year) holed up working on a project – and now that I’ve (almost!) wrapped it up, I’m trying to see more places in Europe. Some are/were work-related trips, but am trying to be more “European” and take real breaks – and to see some of the other countries, and more of France, in the upcoming months : )

  • I am new to your blog, and I am really enjoying it. Thank you for such wonderful info., and the photos are superb! I look forward to the next one. Cheers.:-)

  • Where is a picture of the bicycle horn? I kept scrolling and scrolling! Love this blog and love living vicariously through you; I gain about 5 pounds per blog.

    • Due to the snafu at the airport, the luggage had to get repacked and divided up into various suitcases. I hadn’t unearthed it by the time I wrote the post, and I had so many pictures here (over 100!) that I had to finally just finish the post up and publish it. If the horn doesn’t get swiped off my bike, I’ll try to post a pic at a later date…

  • I love to travel vicariously with you, and your trip to Sicily was exceptionally enjoyable. I commiserate with your comment that, upon returning to Paris, there was “no ricotta for my morning toast.” I had given up buying commercial ricotta and avoided recipes requiring it until this past June, when the NY Times Dining section diva (meant kindly and with appreciation) Melissa Clarke demonstrated how to make ricotta at home. It is just as easy as she claims, and the result belongs in the “just give me a spoon immediately” category — it’s that good! If you can fit a little time at the stove followed by deft use of a colander and beaucoup de cheesecloth into your busy routine, your morning toast will bring un sourire to your face.

    • Yes, you can make homemade ricotta, which is actually not true ricotta (you’d need to have access to a lot of whey) – but makes something that is a close approximation. They may carry the real stuff at the Cooperative Latte Cisterino in Paris, which gets amazing cheeses and other products from Italy, although it really is best a day or so after it’s made so not sure if they import that.

    • Nancy Stone;

      we want a LINK to this fabulous idea; I would make my ricotta in a second if I knew how to do it – and if it’s easy, even more so!!! :) Pls add it to this post of David – he sure won’t mind, since he also is now a platform for people to meet (! :) ]

      Thank you

  • I also loved spending time in Sicily and enjoyed revisiting it in you photographs. In one caption you say about your visit to Trapani “they were closing the jetty to the salt mines”. The salt is not mined, it is extracted from drying sea water in those ponds in the photographs. The water evaporates slowing and the residue is cleaned and concentrated in a series of pools, then shoveled out into the piles shown and allowed to age and dry. The end result is a wonderful sea salt.

    Speaking of salt ~ I recently made your salted caramel ice cream. It was well loved and it will make another appearance over our multi-day Thanksgiving gathering. Thank you.

    • Thanks. I meant salt “marshes” but this post got rather long (almost 3000 words, with way too many pics – sorry folks!) and I was bound to get a few words off. But they are, indeed, salt marshes. Glad you liked the ice cream; I really wish I was able to get some of the salt when I was in Trapani. They sell the commercial, iodized salt in supermarkets, but I was hoping to get a lovely finishing salt. Ahh, next time…!

  • Ahh Sicily, my favourite place. Glad you had some great eats in the end because truly, we never had a bad meal for the 3 weeks we spent travelling around. I miss Sicily & it’s al dente pasta & salty sea bites, sea urchin & ricotta, oh the ricotta!
    Heidi xo

  • Thank-you David for the great post and pictures of Sicily. I feel homesick – that is how deep Sicily penetrates you once you have experienced it. We also spent a week there and were seduced by the food, history, culture, and the uniqueness of this Italian island. My husband ate the spleen sandwich at Porta Carbone in Palermo with enthusiasm. I chose to be a spectator only. Our favourite food area was Ragusa – a real foodie region just west of Syracuse, famous for their black pig. We ate at the Duomo Restaurant in Ragusa – highly recommended! Nearby Modica is the chocolate town, where chocolate is made similar to Aztec methods introduced by the Spanish. Sugar and pure cocoa are combined in low temperatures making a grainy, crunchy texture. We most loved Taormina, under the shadow of Mount Etna – oh how we wish to return! And don’t get me started on the cannoli in Noto- OMG! The ricotta is mind-blowing.
    I do so envy your stay at Mary Taylor Simetis’s farm, what an experience it must of been.

  • salt in trapani: there are no salt mines there. the salt is harvested in marshes or fields (dehydration). the windmills (like the one in the pictures) were used to pump water from and to the basins. your appetitizing story and pictures want me to go back. next time also try the beautiful, handmade and handcolored frutta di martorana! buon appetito!

  • I also wondered if where the picture of the horn was and the other thing you bought.

  • We took our first trip there in Sept. and spent two weeks in the Northwest corner too. At our pensione in Scopello, there was warm sheep milk ricotta every morning, made fresh daily and served with a perfectly ripe tomato, olive oil made by the pensione owners from their own trees (and they send all of their guests home with a few tins), the local salt, and sliced bread from a wood-fired oven down the street. We ate better in Sicily than anywhere ever, but I have to admit that this morning ricotta was my favorite thing on the whole trip. (I came back to Seattle hoping to find a source of sheep milk for ricotta, but no luck yet.)

  • gorgeous food pics of italy… and now what do u think of the Behavior tax Hollande wants to put on the unhealthy drinking of wine in FRANCE…..? strange guy and his taxations

  • You finally got there!! :) Looks like you had beautiful beautiful weather, too.

  • Which airline is this and which deal is this? Would you share please??

    I agree it’s all to easy to get caught up with work and deadlines and not move anywhere.

    thanks!

  • We went to Sicily on our honeymoon a few years ago, and seeing all your wonderful photo has made me crave Sicilian food once again. I don’t think that I have ever eaten quite as well as I did when we were there. I love the ricotta too – we had it every day with fresh pears and a drizzle of honey – oh-so-very good!

  • Such a great summary of your Sicily trip that filled me with a sense of urgency to visit asap. I just returned from Northern Italy (Verona) and was given a tupperware container full of Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil, chilies and garlic as a gift. Since I was traveling with a carry-on only I was on pins and needles while my bag was being scanned. Sure enough, I got pulled over by the security. My hear sank only to find out it was my eye lash curler they mistook for a pair of scissors! What a relief, my sun-dried tomatoes were safe. :-)

  • I adore Sicily and think they have one of the most delicious food. I love their sweets and can’t fault anything. Love your travelogue

  • Fascinating, David…and wonderful photos, as usual….but where’s the gelato cup and the bike horn? We really need to see your loot. (I asked the PRC guide assigned to us in Beijing where I could get bicycle bells, like the ones on every bike there. They tinkle charmingly. He sent his minder off to find them and he came back with two. They both thought I was nuts, but…)

    A dear friend, now deceased, was married to a man from Palermo. They and she (after his untimely death) spent many happy times there.

    When we were last in Italy decades ago the Red Brigade was doing nasty things in the South, so Sicily was definitely off the itinerary. Your travelogue is a good substitute for those who live vicariously. Thank you…

    • There were already 100+ photos that I added to this post and had to stop somewhere (!) Sicily does have a history, not all of it entirely pleasant. But it’s a fascinating place.

  • I enjoyed taking your trip to Sicily this morning with my second cappuccino on my computer. I’ve used many of the recipes you share with us and hope you keep up your energy to continue publishing your blog for many years to come.

  • Hello David,

    What a magnificent story and beautiful pictures. It lighted up my day…just getting up here in Vancouver, Canada. I love your sense of humour and you are right that the gent français sont professionals at putting people in their place and leave with their eyes and face intact. My husband is French and I’ve seen him in action when someone has diss me or treated me improperly, scary and impressive at the same time.

    Anyhow, thank you so much for putting all that sense of humour in each story that you write, and for sharing your delicious recipes with us
    Salut!

  • My mother was born in Dattilo and when I am with my Sicilian friends , they tease me because they never heard of Dattilo. Then we argue about the cannolis and which town has the best. By far Dattilo still wins. Enjoyed your blog so much. Lots of nostalgia for me.

  • I’m responding to Kiki’s request that I supply a link to Melissa Clark’s demonstration of how to make ricotta at home. The video and recipe can be found at http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/how-to-make-fresh-ricotta/?_r=0. My comment yesterday was the first time I’ve joined the conversation at David’s blog, which I have followed for a long time. It’s such a congenial and informative community, reflecting–of course–David’s enthusiasm for his life’s work and willingness to share it with us.

    • Thank you so much Nancy!
      I shall follow this up very soon and if I take it up I shall think of you – lovingly….
      You see, it’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of David’s blog – his is simply one of the best(est!)…. I always have a smile on my face at the end – and usually a terrible craving for whatever he just so eloquently described and so beautifully captured!
      Cheers, Kiki

  • David, I’ve been a reading–and loving–your blog for quite some time now.
    Felt compelled to tell you that I’m pretty sure ricotta cheese is not made from whey but, rather, produces a lot of whey in its making. I know this because I’ve made my own ricotta (very easy to do) and it takes about 8 cups of milk to make a pint of ricotta cheese–the rest becomes whey.

  • Hi David, I have a question about chestnuts. They are plentiful in the groceries right now but I had an awful time peeling them last year and I’m not sure I want to live thru that again. Any tricks ?
    BTW, you’re very funny and endearing !

  • Wow! What an adventure! I share your hesitation to leave home base. For now I’m living vicariously through folks like you so I’m particularly grateful for posts such as these.

  • My, what a wonderful post, I want to pack my bags and fly off to Sicily right now! Thanks David for sharing your adventures in food.

  • I visited Sicily a few years ago and absolutely loved it. And, oh man, the cannoli – so, so good! I don’t think any cannoli anywhere else will ever compare.

  • Here is Lydia’s recipe for Sicilian almond paste cookies…

    http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/744

  • Centrifugally speaking, you need not worry, there are nine noun-sense definitions for “center” in my dictionary. For instance, in hockey, the center can be behind the net or anywhere on the ice at any given time.

  • I have a good recipe for almond biscuits, made with ground almonds, egg whites, sugar, honey and lemon zest. A similar mixture is used for making the ones with pine-nuts. A word of warning: make sure the pine nuts are not from China. They are from a different variety altogether and sometimes they can have the very unpleasant side effect of leaving an incredibly bitter taste in your mouth for up to 2 weeks (it happened to me, I thought I had been poisoned!). I think they should come with a warning, but they don’t, so now I just check for provenance. Italian pine-nuts have become almost impossible to find though.
    Great pictures!

  • I’d be surprised if anyone actually cooks and serves pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin and enzymes required for a functioning digestion. Insulin is highly heat sensitive so I doubt that blood sugar would tank if one eats any. I’d refrain regardless.

  • Sicily is one of the most beautiful lands on the planet. l love all the pics. They are awesome and very inspiring. Thanks so much for taking the time to describe everything.

  • Good morning.

    What a couple of wonderful posts! But just like Bernardo, I’d like at least the name of the cookies in the fifth picture down — the ones made with a pastry/icing tip, glazed, and containing rum.

    Golden rum. Mmmmmmmm:)

    Thanks for everything.

    • Bernardo and fiona: Those are actually small almond cakes. I don’t know what they called them, but I think those are ribbons of baked almond paste that enshroud them. Euro Bar unfortunately doesn’t have a website, but they do have a Facebook page and perhaps if you head over there, they can give you more complete information.

  • It was a spleen sandwich, not pancreas! I tried one myself, on my last visit to Palermo. Not exactly my thing…

    Did you get to try any arancini during your visit?

  • Ah, the cannoli of Dattilo… having a husband from Trapani I would say you chose well… the grainy sheep ricotta they use has no comparison, n’est pas?

  • Whew! That post flew by like a whirlwind ;-)
    If you like ricotta, you must try the affumicata!

  • David, anything with pinenuts is divine. And speaking of nuts, I hope you’ll write an update on making ‘candied nuts’ for the holidays. Don’t miss a post. I want to see the green horn for you bike too! About to crack open the noisettes I brought back from Paris. Oh yum! Mrs. G