Friday, December 26, 2008

"Sicilian Home Cooking" & "Cucina Siciliana de Gangivecchio" - Shepherd's Fusilli and Christmas Salad with Oranges, Olives and Capers

Date I made these recipes: December 24, 2008

Sicilian Home Cooking – Family Recipes from Gangivecchio by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene with Michele Evans
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 037510399-X © 2001
Recipe: Shepherd’s Fusilli (Fusilli del Pastore) – p. 119

La Cucina Siciliana de Gangivecchio – Recipes from Gangivhecchio’s Sicilian Kitchen by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene with Michele Evans
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0679425101 ©1996
Recipe: Christmas Salad with Oranges, Olives, and Capers (Insalata di Natale II) – p. 269

Since this year was the first Christmas without my mom, my husband and I have a very, very low-key Christmas. Some might say it was a non-event since we dispensed with the tree, the decorations and even the holiday music. And I have to tell you folks, it was pretty liberating. Instead of being caught up in the buying and the wrapping and shop-till-you drop mentality, we spent the day holed up in our house with my husband doing some work in his workshop downstairs and with me watching The Hallmark Channel. That’s right, the Hallmark Channel. Got a problem with that?! Don’t worry, earlier in the day I caught the last hour of Holiday Inn and then later in the evening we watched Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck. I also addressed my holiday newsletter/pamphlet/small novel to friends who were awaiting its delivery. All in all, it was a fun day.

But despite our desire to lay low over the holiday, there’s one tradition that I couldn’t ignore and that was to make a pasta dish for Christmas Eve dinner.

When I was growing up, we either had spaghetti and meatballs (if the Pope said meat was okay to eat that year) or spaghetti with tomato sauce. Last year, while up at my parents for Christmas, my sister-in-law and I made homemade manicotti shells and meatballs for our repast. This year none of us were able to get together for Christmas but when they all come in next week for New Year’s we will recreate the scene.

But tradition is tradition and so I pulled these two Sicilian cookbooks off the shelf and used one for my pasta dish and the other for a salad. Both dishes were great and right in line with the food of my childhood. The one thing I can’t get over, however, is that both mother and daughter (cookbook authors) are blonde. Blonde Sicilians? Not in my family (unless it comes from a bottle in which case it doesn’t count!)!

My only complaint about this meal is not with the recipes themselves, it’s with my complete inability to find veal in this town. For once, my local market had veal chops, veal scallopini and veal roasts but did they have ground veal? No. I swear if this were the east coast you could find the damned stuff in a convenience store! So please—local grocers, get with the program!!

Shepherd’s Fusilli – Fusilli del Pastore – Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a main course
1 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 pounds mixed red, yellow and green peppers, cut into thin strips
¼ pound ground veal (we substituted ground round)
¼ pound ground pork
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup tomato paste
1 cup fresh tomato sauce (Salsa di Pomodoro – I used my Aunt Rose’s sauce and that’s a secret to all but family members)
Pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound fusilli
Freshly grated pecorino cheese

Fresh tomato sauce – makes about 4 cups
5 pounds ripe tomatoes, stem ends removed, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup freshly chopped basil leaves, plus 6 whole fresh basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper

To make the tomato sauce (note: I think you can get away with store-bought, just make sure it contains tomatoes and basil and go with a brand that uses sugar rather than corn syrup).

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and basil together in a large pot. Season to taste with salt. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

A few cups at a time, pass the mixture through a food mill. Return the sauce to a clean pot with the olive oil, basil leaves, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make the pasta dish

In a large saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it just begins to turn gold. Stir in the peppers and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the peppers have softened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the veal, pork and wine. Cook over high heat, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, hot pepper flakes if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of salt. Stir in the fusilli and cook until al dente, stirring often (follow package directions).

Drain the pasta saving 1 cup of the hot pasta water. Return the fusilli to the saucepan and add the sauce. Add a little pasta water if too dry. Toss well and adjust seasoning. Serve with the pecorino.

Christmas Salad with Oranges, Olives, and Capers – serves 8 (I made half the recipe)
2 quarts curly endive or escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
3 celery ribs with leaves, thinly sliced
½ cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and finely chopped (I used Cerignola olives and pitted them myself)
1/3 cup capers, washed and drained
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 navel oranges, peeled, with white pith removed, and very thinly sliced
3 lemons, peeled, with white pith removed and very thinly sliced (seeds discarded)
½ cup pomegranate seeds

Immerse the endive or escarole and celery in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain well.

Combine the endive or escarole and the celery with the olives, capers, and a little olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste.

Oil a 1-quart bowl and spoon the mixture into the bowl. Press the top down gently and let rest for 15 minutes…or not. I skipped this part and instead combined all the ingredients in a bowl. It was much easier, and besides, there was nobody here to impress (assuming it all held together!).

Invert the salad onto a serving dish and place the orange and lemon slices in overlapping, alternating rows over the entire top of the salad, which is now a delicious dome. Sprinkle with rosy-red pomegranate seeds.

Note: never having dealt with a pomegranate before, I was unsure how to get the seeds out. Thank goodness for the internet as they had a simple process in place: cut the top off the pomegranate, then score it all the way around, being careful not to slice all the way through. Place the pomegranate top side down in a bowl of water for 5-10 minutes. This loosens the skin making it easy to take the seeds out without having a mess on your hands. You should know, though, that these seeds stains so be careful with your clothes, cutting boards and cupboards!

No comments: