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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Sizzle of Sicily with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and the MLCC

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of presenting Sicilian fare at the Madison Square Liquor Commission as part of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy programming. The stories of the regional flora were presented by Assiniboine Park Conservancy Education Coordinator, Bonnie Tulloch and the excellent beverage pairings were presented by MLCC Product Consultant, Karen Simard.

1. Insalata all'Eoliana
(Aeolian summer salad)
Paired with Santa Margherita Valdobbiandene Prosecco #1146 $17.02

Ingredients (serves 4)
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tropea or other red onion
a small handful of capers
8 slices of lightly toasted bread
1 clove of garlic (crushed or chopped very finely)
8 anchovy fillets chopped into largish pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

While toasting the bread (thick slices), halve the cherry tomatoes, crush or finely chop the garlic and chop the anchovy fillets into large pieces. Cut the onion into thin rings and then place all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
When the bread is toasted put onto 4 plates, dribble with olive oil, add a few spoonfuls of salad on top and serve.

2. Caponatina di Melanzane
Paired with Cusumano nero D'avola #143610 $16.99

(Sicilian eggplant relish)

This is one of Sicily’s most popular and versatile eggplant dishes. You can eat it with bread, as part of an antipasto, or as a side dish with hot or cold meats or fish. This is the original recipe from Palermo. A caponatina is a “small” caponata.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
600g meaty eggplants
6-8 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 celery hearts (inner heads only), cut into little chunks
500g ripe tomatoes, chopped
100g pitted green olives
60g salted capers, rinsed
100g slivered almonds
2 ripe but firm pears, cored, peeled and sliced
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
50g caster sugar
50ml white wine vinegar

Ideally you want the pale violet type of eggplant, without too many seeds. Cut the eggplants into cubes the size of a walnut. Immerse in salted water for 1 hour, then drain, squeezing the water out. Pat the eggplants cubes dry.

Heat about 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan and fry the eggplant cubes until golden. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Adding more oil to the pan if necessary, fry the onion until soft, then fry all the other ingredients, apart from the sugar and vinegar. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the eggplant to the mixture with the sugar and wine vinegar. Taste for salt and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Caponata can be eaten warm but it is also delicious cold.

3. Spaghetti con i piselli e mentuccia

(Spaghetti with peas and fresh mint)
Paired with Mezzo Mondo Pino Grigio/Chardonnay #11051 $10.99

Ingredients (serves 4)
600g spaghetti, broken into 5cm-long pieces (optional on breaking pasta)
400g fresh or frozen peas
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1 glass of dry white wine
1 small chili pepper (I used a finely chopped jalapeno chili but you can also use a dried red chili)
1 handful of fresh mint
2 tsps white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Finely chop the onion, the garlic and the chili pepper. Soften the onions in some olive oil and add the garlic and chili. Add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Then add the peas and mix well.

In the meantime, heat some water for the pasta. When boiling, add salt and break the spaghetti into it. Add some of the pasta water to the peas, just enough to cover them. Season with salt and pepper and leave them to cook slowly, making sure there is always a couple of cm of liquid.

Chop the mint finely and place in a glass. Add the vinegar and the sugar and mix well and then stir into the peas.

When the spaghetti is cooked, add to the peas and mix well, making sure there is still plenty of liquid. Serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

It's also very tasty served cold on a hot summer's day.

4. Stuffed Grilled Figs
Paired with Chilled Pellegrion Superiore Dolce Marsala #230367 $11.66 and Toschi Nocello Liqueur #10446 $24.54

1 lb fresh figs
parmesan reggiano
balsamic reduction

To make the Balsamic Reduction:

Heat a saucepan over high heat. Add a cup of balsamic vinegar to the pan and reduce liquid by half. Take pan off of heat immediately.

To make the stuffed figs:

While the balsamic is reducing, heat your broiler on high. Cut the figs in half lengthwise, (but do not cut all the way through). Stuff with Parmesan cheese, cheddar is also good (you can also then wrap the figs with prosciutto), place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes or until cheese is browned. Serve with balsamic reduction drizzled over top.

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