Panelle aka Sicilian Chickpea Biscuits

One might be surprised to find this chickpea recipe from Sicilian Cookery, but if one knew their history one should not be surprised.

Sicily, our favorite Italian island infamous for being the birthplace of the mafia has always been a bit wild. You could say it is Italy’s version of the wild, wild west.

If we scale back to the middle ages, back when Sicily was its own kingdom and ruled by the Normans, you’d find a kingdom “governed with considerable tolerance and flexibility.” (Hearder 66)

This was to accommodate the fact that Sicily was a Mediterranean melting pot. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Arabs, Italians, and Greeks all called Sicily their home.

The Normans handled this by allowing each culture, specifically the religious cultures to govern and judge their own people. For example, the Normans led by Latin law and the Muslims and Jews had their own set of rules.

This country of tolerance, I imagine bled into the culinary arts as well. This high influence of Mediterranean culture would certainly make good use of chickpeas. Why not make little chickpea biscuits then?

See how it all makes sense now? Good, let’s get to cooking then!

What you’ll need

  • 500 g or 3 cups of chickpea flour
  • water
  • salt

This is another simple recipe as you can probably ascertain by the ingredient list. All you need to do is boil salted water in a sauce pan. Once it’s boiling, slowly mix in the flour and churn that mixture with a wooden spoon until it becomes a thick paste.

Once we find the right consistency, pour that mixture onto a pan and then flatten into the thinnest layer you can muster. The cookbook even recommends using a mallet which I say use it if you got it. Anytime you can pound something without causing pain, I say do so. Got to get out aggression when we can folks.

When you have pounded out your nice thin layer, grab a circular device, whether that be a cookie cutter, a circular ravioli cutter (this is what I used) or the rim of a glass and make little round biscuits.

These biscuits will then be thrown into a frying pan of hot oil. Fry them up until they are lightly browned and then enjoy!

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Rachel Speth (b. 1984) One Burned Biscuit Is Diversity, 2019 Oil in pan, on cat plate

I was excited to try this out, being part Sicilian and all. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

I’d have to consult a nutritionist to fact check this, but I feel like this may be a healthier alternative to biscuits. The frying in oil is problematic and could be the factor that rules this theory out. Either way, there’s a reason I called this Sicilian Biscuits and that’s the best comparison I can give you for this recipe.

Garbanzo flour is a little flaky and is much earthier in taste then regular biscuits. It’s not as airy and fluffy, but the taste is very similar.

I brought this to a 4th of July party and had no leftovers to bring home. Everyone was shocked when I told them how tasty and simple this was to make. These two factors warrant an Italian like aka you should try this.

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The history lesson of Sicily came from the source below

Harry Hearder, Italy. A Short History (1990) Cambridge University Press

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Olives Rolled around in Fried Breadcrumbs

I have changed the translation of this recipe from Sicilian Cookery to the above, because I feel it is mis-leading. The cookbook translated Olive Con Pangrattato Fritto to Fried Breaded Olives. This puzzles me.

I know this is an authentic Italian cookbook that was translated into English because my sister got it for me when she visited Italy. The Italian portion should be correct but it doesn’t add up for me.

I studied Italian in college and I wouldn’t brag about my translation abilities, but I’m pretty sure fritto is Italian for fried. I did not know what pangrattato meant and had to look it up. It means breadcrumbs.

Olives = Olives, Con = with, Pangrattato = Breadcrumbs, and Fritto = Fried.When we put it all together and translate this literally, it’d be Olives with Fried Breadcrumbs.

Olives with Fried Breadcrumbs is a more honest and accurate translation in my opinion.

My current job is quality control for subtitles. I’ve seen a lot of languages pass my way and have encountered cases where translators debate on how to translate because just like certain words in English can mean the same thing, they can also be interpreted differently depending on where you live and/or the placement of such translated words.

In this case, I think the term fried solely applies to the breadcrumbs, whereas in the United States, when we say fried we mean the whole damn thing is fried. If it’s just one portion we are quick to point that out.

What can I say, we enjoy the delicacies of frying and to flat out translate this as Fried Breaded Olives, just makes it seem like it’s fried olives. It’s offensive I say to trick us like this!

Of course, I’m just joking around and translating is a hard gig. It’s a lot of pressure. You gotta be careful sometimes. Still at the end of the day, this translation is mis-leading. I’d reject it if I was translation q.c.

What you’ll need

  • 1 pound/3 cups of green olives, scored
  • 4 ounces/1 cup of dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • hot red pepper
  • olive oil
  • vinegar

The first step is to fry the breadcrumbs, do so by heating a little oil in your pan, adding the crumbs, and stirring continuously.

In a bowl, get your olives and toss them around with your seasoning of garlic and some chopped parsley that was not mentioned in the ingredient list for some reason.

To be fair, parsley is practically in every Italian recipe. It’s just something a chef of Italian cuisine should just know.

We will then add the hot pepper, olive oil, a pinch of vinegar, and the fried breadcrumbs.

Mix this well and serve!

I brought this recipe over to my friend’s place because I wanted verification that I was reading the recipe right. Despite knowing Italian I was thrown off by the whole fried breaded olives interpretation.

We read the instructions a couple of times and determined that was indeed not fried. So we moved forward and created the below.

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Blessed be the olives

I’m not going to lie, they’re a little odd, but they aren’t bad. Ultimately I don’t know if I liked this enough to make again. My friend seemed to like it, but I was on the fence. The breadcrumbs were just too crumbly for me.

What I liked most were the olives. Why bother spreading bread crumbs all over if they aren’t enhancing the taste?

This might be wonderful for some people, but I’ll admit I’m just not really feeling it. I recommend making this recipe but leaving the breadcrumbs out.

Then again, if you’re like me and enjoy trying new things, you really should just try it and decide for yourself.

Choose your own adventure folks. It’s the way of life.

 

Olive Condite AKA Sicilian for Dressed Olives

Whenever I eat olives I think of this song called “Jerusalem” by Dan Bern.

A friend of mine from college introduced me to this song and when he showed it to me I was instantly hooked. I love songs that tell a story and this one most certainly does. It’s also a little quirky and funny at points. So you should check it out. It’s good stuff.

Towards the end of the song, Dan sings,

And all I ate was olives
Nothing but olives
Mountains of olives
It was a good ten days, I like olives
I like you too

Well thanks Dan, I like olives and you as well.

I think, anyway.  I’ve never met you. You could be a secret jerk.

Hopefully, like these olives from Sicilian Cookery, you’re far from it.

What you’ll need

  • 1 pound/3 cups of green olives
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Hot red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar

Your first step is to crush the olives. You don’t have to completely beat them down, it’s mostly to get the inner olive juices flowing.

Once crushed, season them with garlic, basil, parsley, and chopped hot, red peppers. Place this mixture in a jar and add olive oil until the jar is almost filled. The remaining space will be filled with a few drops of vinegar.

Once you let it mix and marinate you’ll have no reason to go to that infamously expensive olive bar at Whole Foods! You’ll have your own!

Side note, I’ve calmed down a bit about Whole Foods because they do have standards on how they treat their animal products and I do support that. I just get irritated by how expensive their other items are. Some of it doesn’t seem necessary to me.

The final result is what can be expected if you enjoy olives. As some of you know, I’m a spice lover, and naturally those peppers combined with the olives left me in heaven.

If you’re not big on spice, however, there are alternatives the cookbook mentioned which consisted of seasoning with pickles and oregano.

No matter how you like your olives, if you want to be a good Sicilian, you gotta keep those olives on hand for all your important guests to snack on. You never know, they could be the next messiah.

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Mt. Etna of olives

Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

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Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Melanzane Alla Parmigiana aka Eggplant Parmesan

Here’s another Sicilian recipe from Sicilian Cookery. Eggplant Parmesan is one of my favorite Italian dishes, so I was excited to make this.

I do have to warn the dear readers that eggplant is a fussy one-eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater. Wait. That’s something else….

Ok, so maybe it doesn’t fly and eat people, but it is purple, you could say it has one horn, and trust me when I tell you that it can be a difficult vegetable to cook.

I was going to seguue a joke about eggplant emojis, but I just found out Prince died. It just doesn’t seem right to do now. I mean Prince is not an eggplant emoji, but when it comes to purple beings you can’t deny that he reigns them all.

What would Prince have to say about all of this? I wonder if he enjoyed eggplant? I have a feeling he did. I mean it’s his favorite color and based on that pancake skit from Chapelle Show I have a feeling the man liked to cook.

So, Prince, I dedicate this purple recipe to you.

Here’s what you need for your Prince Eggplant Parm

  • 5 eggplants
  • 2 pounds of tomatoes
  • 1 pound of onion
  • 6 oz of Primosale cheese
  • 1 cup of grated cheese
  • basil
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Eggplant is kind of princess and needs special treatment, so the first step is to give it a nice salt water spa bath for 30 minutes.

Drain, rinse, and pat your princess dry and then fry her in some hot oil.

If you are like me and was never taught how to fry food, then you might need some help here. Even if you were taught how to fry food, eggplant can be troublesome. Eggplant soaks up oil like a succubus and that makes monitoring the frying process extremely difficult.

Soaking the eggplant in salt water is supposed to prevent the mass soaking of the oil, but in my case I soaked and that purple succubus still managed to suck my oil dry.

The internet tells me that larger eggplants seem to be more likely to do this, so I can deduce that if you have a larger variety then extending the soak to an hour will reduce the effect.

If you find that during the frying process that it’s still greasy and oily, my best advice is to blot out the oil with a paper towel as much as possible.

The time it takes to fry eggplant can take up to ten minutes. Again the internet told me this. I enjoy this cookbook, because it is authentic Sicilian food, but it’s not the best teaching tool for cooking. They leave out a lot of details like how long to fry the eggplant.

Since it does take ten minutes to fry, feel free to start cooking your sauce. Again, the cookbook doesn’t give you too many details about how to do this. All it says is “make some tomato sauce with plenty of basil.”

Yeah. I know.

Thankfully I was taught how to make my own sauce. So when I read that, I knew what to do. I’m going to assume that my readers might not though, so here is how you do that.

The first step is to cut an x on the top of your tomatoes listed above. Boil those tomatoes until the skin starts to peel. Once that happens, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water or place on a bed of ice. Ice is more ideal by the way. When the tomatoes have cooled, peel them and then cut into cubes. Place the tomato chunks in a pan and then cook until it resembles a sauce.

Feel free to add your favorite spices to the sauce as well. I stuck with just the basil because of the cookbook, but I ended up adding oregano and garlic later.

When the eggplant is fried and the sauce is cooked, you will bake. Oil a pan of your choice and place a layer of eggplant on it. Cover that layer with sauce and a layer of cheese. Continue this layering until everything has been used up.

Drizzle the top layer with oil and then bake for 15 minutes.

The final result is a simple eggplant Parmesan recipe that you can use as a base and later add your own personal preferences to it.

I, for example, doctored up my leftovers by adding different spices to my sauce and eating it with a side of spaghetti.

My initial tasting of this did disappoint me. This was because I didn’t properly fry my eggplant. It was greasy, spongy, and oily.

My leftovers were much better than my initial tasting thankfully. I think this was mostly because when I re-heated the eggplant it somehow diminished the oily, spongy texture.  The tweeks I made to the sauce also helped.

Anyway, I’d love to make this again but I’d probably be lazy and buy a jar of sauce and use mozzarella for some layers to give it more of a gooey stringy cheese texture.

So, so good, that gooey stringy cheese taste.

Sicilian Orange Salad

My next recipe from Sicilian Cookery is a refreshing orange salad that is simple and so easy to make a child monkey could do it.

All you need is 2 oranges, preferably, 1 blood orange and 1 other type, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

To fancy it up you can also add red onion, garlic, parsley, and olives. I fancied mine up and it was well worth it.

As I said, there’s not much to this recipe. The cookbook doesn’t even give you measurements really. This makes me laugh, because from what I gathered of the stories my mother told me, that’s an extremely Italian thing to do. Eyeballing measurements is their thing.

My Italian great-grandmother taught my Irish-American grandmother how to cook by this eyeball method. My mother and grandmother taught me how to cook some of their recipes in the same manner. I still remember when my mother taught me how to cook something for the first time. It was Tortellini Soup. She took my palm out, poured a bit of garlic powder on it and beamed as she told me about how her grandmother taught her how to cook this soup. Since I was a precocious child, I was like, “Mom! Shouldn’t you being using measuring tools?”

My mother was always amused by me, so she didn’t take offense. She just laughed at me and explained that cooking isn’t always a perfect science and that my great-grandmother’s generation knew that and for them their hands, ladles, and spoons were their measuring cups.

Thankfully I thought that was pretty cool. Still do actually. In fact when I make that soup, my measuring requirements are palm of garlic powder, one soup ladle of white wine, half a cup of  empty chicken broth can of water, the chicken broth, and two bay leafs.

So when you make this salad, you will cut the oranges into cubes, dice the garlic, and slice the onions. You will use one garlic clove by the way. For the onions, just eyeball it into a fairly even ratio with your orange cubes. Add these to olives that are also a fairly even ratio. Sprinkle some olive oil on it, however much seems appropriate to you. Then add a palm’s worth of parsley and pinch of salt and pepper.

Mix all of these ingredients together until everything is properly dressed.

The final result is a refreshing Mediterranean salad. I admittedly thought oranges and olive oil would be disgusting together but there’s something about the oil that calms and compliments the acidity of the orange.

On a side note, olive oil is the most miraculous cooking tool. I swear it’s good on everything and makes every gross vegetable actually appetizing. The only other thing that tops it is cheese.

We are talking about this orange salad today, though. So my final note, is that if you enjoy oranges and olives, this is the refreshing side dish for you. So as an Italian would say, “Just go on and eat it already! Whatta ya waitin for?!”

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Sicilian orange salad

Frittata Con La Ricotta, Sicilian for Ricotta Omelette

This recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery. I find it funny that in my last entry I confessed that I’m terrible at making omelettes and then my next recipe ended up being an omelette. Well, this omelette recipe was easy and yet not easy. I know that’s probably confusing my readers. Well, if it helps at all, I’m confused too.

On second thought, that’s probably not helping anyone. Story of my life, constant confusion. Constant confusion involving eggs and cheese.

As far as taste goes, I thought this turned out ok. It was a little weird for me.

This cookbook is making me sad. All my life, I’ve wanted to be a gorgeous, hot, sassy, Italian chick and yet I don’t like Sicilian food so far. What does that mean?! Am I not those things?! What am I going to do with my life?! What do I have to live for?!

Then again, Italians are opinionated little mofos. They all think their region has the best food and even in my small town, my mother said all the matriarchs complained about each other’s cooking. Northern Italians cook different from Southern Italians and Sicilians are a whole different ballgame as well. Even the Italian family I stayed with when I went to Rome had a rift about their cooking styles. The husband, Mossimo, was Roman and the wife, Nila, was Sicilian. One night Nila lamented to me that no one in her family liked her cooking. They complained it was too Sicilian. I love Nila, but I think I’m more Roman than Sicilian myself.

Anyway, to make this recipe you will need; 14oz of ricotta, 5 eggs, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can also add parsley and grated pecorino.

Your first step is to coat your frying pan with the olive oil. No need to dump it, just put enough to cover the pan. Once the oil is warmed up, place the cheese in. You’re supposed to brown the cheese on both sides. Mine never seemed to brown and I got impatient. This was most likely a mistake I made. As I said in my last entry, I get impatient when I make breakfast.

Once the cheese has been browned, you add the eggs. Hopefully you already know that you have to beat the eggs first, but I don’t like to assume.

Guess what?! In this next step, I actually did something right! I waited the right amount of time to flip the egg! This is usually where I fail with omelettes. I get impatient and then it ends up becoming a scramble or a half omelette. The trick is to not be impatient, obviously, and to continuously swirl the pan so all the excess egg liquid gets cooked evenly. This cookbook also gave a great tip that I will share. They recommend turning the pan to one side and using a pot lid to help flip over the other side.

Hopefully, you won’t need any of this advice because you are an awesome person. I’m not, though. I need all the help.

After flipping, there’s not much else to do except to wait for the other side to cook. Once that’s done you can go ahead and eat your omelette.

I ended up putting parsley on my omelette, by the way. I mean this is an extremely easy and simple recipe, I figured I might as well add parsley to it.

As I said earlier, my final analysis is that it was ok. I think ricotta is too similar of a texture to mix with eggs. At least it was for me. It just gave it a slimy and strange sensation. I have to make another confession though. I’ve never been crazy about ricotta. I mean I like it just fine, but in the rankings of cheese, it’s on the low-end for me.

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Parsley and ricotta cheese omelette