Phaidon’s Silver Spoon: Sicily

Sicilian Pizza from Phaiton's Sicily cookbook

Planning your summer holiday?

Pick up Sicily: 50 Authentic and Easy-to-Follow Recipes from the Silver Spoon Kitchen (Phaidon 2013), and you will start planning your trip to this fair isle. It is hard to resist the stunning photographs of twisted ancient olive trees, stunning churches and ancient temples, and the sea.

Sicily is a travelogue, a history, and a cookbook. Each chapter focuses on one of the island’s provinces, while special sections explore the foodstuffs and local spices. This could be the backbone of a student’s history and culture course – but, of course, your kids will want to go to Sicily, too.

Sicily has been ruled by many different cultures, and all have left their mark on its cuisine

If the Greeks made their contribution in agriculture, the Arabs (Berbers and Spanish Muslims, often called Moors or Saracens), who arrived in the early 800s, should get credit for many important new ingredients that took root over their two centuries of dominion: aubergines (eggplants), citrus fruits, apricots, watermelons, many spices, rice, seeds, nuts, dates, saffron and sugar cane. (p. 11)

Sicily by Phaidon - Silver SpoonThe first chapter is on Trapani in the northwest, famous for salt flats, fish, capers, and olive oil – ingredients that alone would make a great pasta. Gamberi e Capperi, a simple dish of shrimp, white wine, tomatoes and capers, is pictured in a earthenware dish with a couple of forks: “The best capers are those from the islands of Pantelleria and Salina. Their intense flavor is due to the iron-rich volcanic soil there and to the almost complete lack of rainfall.” (p. 36)

If you have access to excellent seafood, then try Cuscusu Alla Trapenese (pp. 40-42), a saffron rich fish broth made into a sauce, served with deep fried seafood over cousous. The oddly intriguing Tagliata Di Tonno Con Miele E Patate, Tuna with potatoes and honey sauce (p. 55) brings together millefiori honey, pine nuts and potatoes with a tuna slices. An essay on Marsala is paired with a recipe for Scaloppine di Vitello al Marsala (p. 58) that will show off good veal and dry Marsala wine. Finish your Trapani meal with Biscotti Con Marmellata Di Cedro (p. 61): little cookies with citron jam that look much like rugelach, dusted with powdered sugar.

Sicily is a much-maligned country, because of its association with organized crime. However Sicily uncovers much more of the heritage, beauty, and bounty of the island. It is a lovely gift or an invitation to go traveling this summer.

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