Sunday, September 30, 2007

Top 10 Sicily: Sicilian Dishes

I love the little book Top 10 Sicily. I bought it soon after arriving here and still refer to it when I need a quick reference to find something. I also love the idea of "top ten" and even use it in my teaching. I have a Powerpoint for AVID students: "The Top Ten Ways to Succeed in AVID." And I just briefed my new principal with a presentation entitled "The Ten Most Important Things to Know about AVID." I was recently inspired by Letterman's "Top Ten Campaign Promises" for Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, back to Sicily . . . and the book. I'm withholding my opinion of their overall Top 10 things to see in Sicily until I visit the Aeolian Islands, the only thing I've yet to see on their main list. But I have eaten a lot of new dishes here (probably too many), so I have my opinion on this topic.

According to the book, the Top 10 Sicilian Dishes are as follows:
  1. Bread (No way, all Italian bread is pretty bad, nothing like American-Italian bread. Notice I'm not eating it in photo above.)

  2. Pasta (Yes, but some are spectacular here)

  3. Risotto (Yes, but except for seafood risotto, it's better up north.)

  4. Fish and Seafood (Once again, which ones? They say tuna . . . )

  5. Meat (They say especially lamb, pork, and sausage/salsiccia--the last one I agree with.)

  6. Caponata (Yes! This is a great antipasta or side dish of eggplant, tomato, and other ingredients that vary from place to place--it's sweet and yummy.)

  7. Arancini (Deep fried rice balls, a kind of Sicilian "fast food" that is overrated, in my opinion.)

  8. Panelle (Never even heard of it, and neither have my friends!)

  9. Gelato (Yes, but more specifically granite!)

  10. Cassata and Cannoli (two sweets that are spectacular. I would not lump them together.)

MY TOP 10 DISHES would be . . .

  1. Swordfish (Without a doubt, the best and freshest in the world. They display the head and sword in the markets so you know what you are buying--see right.)

  2. Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia (Squid ink sauce on spaghetti. It looks and sounds terrible but is absolutely delicious!! See photo HERE.)

  3. Granite (I have written several blog postings on this one. Go HERE.)

  4. Pistachio sauce (For pasta or for scallopine, this is so, so delicious. The nuts are grown on Mt. Etna.)

  5. Blood Oranges (The best in the world come from here, grown on my doorstep. Once you've had them, you'll never eat another orange without wishing you had one.)

  6. Sweet and Sour Rabbit Stew (I grew up eating rabbit, so I like it. This is domestically raised rabbit and it's fantastic. Sicilin winter comfort food, at least on Etna. I will always order it when it's on the menu. And no bb's to spit out!)

  7. Salsiccia [sal-SEE-chee-uh] (The handmade Sicilian sausage that is grilled. You can actually go to the butchershop and have it made to your specifications--cheese? fennel? spicy pepper? You name it.)
  8. Cassata (This Sicilian "wedding cake" is so sweet and so heavy, they sell it by weight! It's loaded with riccota cheese.)
  9. Bruschetta (Okay, the bread is a LOT better when you put this tomato stuff on top! Every restaurant has their own recipe for it and it's usually served with no charge as a little appetizer.)

  10. Grilled vegetables (You cannot not love vegetables that are fresh, brushed with olive oil, then grilled on a wood fire. They are not mixed, but served side-by-side--peppers, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, even radicchio! You can get this as a side dish in any restaurant that I know. Spinach, made to your specifications, is a close second.)

So, this is only MY opinion. I know for a fact that all of my friends have a different list. Hopefully they will share some of those on COMMENTS.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Moment of Fame on Sicily Guide

I was honored to recently be interviewed about Sicily by Maria Tuttocuore for her website/blog Sicily Guide. Go HERE to read the interview!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Etna Blowing Her Stack Tonight!

These photos were taken just moments ago, between 7:00-8:00 PM, September 4. My friend Kendra called me from her house to the east, on the coast, to ask if ashes were falling in my yard. She said it was raining ashes on her house from Etna. Luckily (for me), there is a strong, strong wind out of the west, so it's moving away from us in Nicolosi.

I went to Rob and Jacque's across the street and got these photos from their back patio. I don't have a great camera. Jacque's photos will be better. It's shooting several hundred meters high. Kendra reports the lava flow on her side of the volcano is growing and moving down the mountain. (She's not in danger, nor are we.) It's just so awesome . . . we were all ooohing and aaaaahing like the Fourth of July.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Oliveri Blogger

This weekend, I had the pleasure to meet Sharon Barresi, author of the blog "Respiri di Vita." I found Sharon through her blog (or she found me, I don't remember which), and we began to correspond about a year ago. She is much more regular in her postings than I am, usually writing just about every day about life as an American ex-pat here in Sicily. Sharon was recently interviewed for a website about Sicily and a link to her answers are on her blog--very interesting insights about Sicily and Sicilians!

Here is the other half of the photo on Sharon's blog--that's her!

Anyway, it was a very please drive to Oliveri, the seaside village where she and her husband Andy live. The town is located underneath Tindari, the famous archaeological and religious site. I had been to Tindari half a dozen times, but never to Oliveri, which is a quiet little town of 2,000 most of the year and a summer mob scene of sun-seekers from England, Germany, Scandanavia, and northern Italy. Sharon and Andy like it better when it is quiet.

We had a walk around the town which also included photographing a bride literally "going to the chapel" with her whole family accompanying her, as is the custom here. Then we toured the little downtown, the beach area, and "Residence La Tonnara," an old tuna factory that is now a posh vacation condominium. We had a lovely relaxing lunch at home and an afternoon shopping foray to an outlet for athletic wear (including Kappa) in a nearby town.

All in all, we deemd it a highly successful visit and hope to stay in touch and visit whenever we can! Bloggers unite!!

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Arrivederci & buon fortunato, Mike!

About a year ago, Susan and I were at the Papaveri Papere bar here in Nicolosi one weekend morning and we noticed a blonde man who was obviously an American waiting politely for his turn. (That's how we knew he was American, along with his clothes, shoes, blonde hair, military haircut, stance, and no sunglasses.) When he finally turned around, Susan beckoned to him and we got him to come over and talk to us. This is how we met Mike Rice.

Soon Mike met our entire "breakfast club" and became a regular. Much to my surprise, he was here on active duty with the US Navy. The surprise was that he lived way up here on the volcano, at least 20-25 miles from his workplace. Most military members live much closer, most right on base. So, we knew he must be really okay if he chose to live up here with "the mountain people," as we civilians sometimes call ourselves.

We learned that Mike had joined the Navy late in life (we are not really sure why) and that he had been in for eleven years. He lived alone and had been working for twenty years or so restoring a 1967 pickup truck for a hobby. Yes, the government shipped it over here! I never actually saw this famous truck, but I heard a lot about it. A few months after meeting Mike, he announced that his girlfriend Ann, from the Phillipines, was coming for an extended visit. And so we had the pleasure of having Ann become part of our group during two extended stays here in Sicily. She even took care of Pete and Repeat for me this summer!

Throughout the year, Mike (and Ann when she was here) joined us on outings, eatings, and Sunday morning coffee club. Our favorite saying of Mike's followed another memorable meal at Lisa's: "Just another occasion to totally stuff myself!" And our favorite photo of Mike is Jacque with her hand on his suddenly gigantic belly after an eating extravaganza at Trattoria Incognito. (Usually he is not only very slim, but also very modest in his eating and drinking!)

Now, Mike is going to sail off into the sunset, literally. He has had more than enough of the Navy. He and Ann are going to the Pacific to find a nice island, far, far away from "civilization" and just live there, for as long they want. We hope it for happily every after. (Get settled and we will all join you to play Gilligan's Island!)

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