Carciofi alla Brace – Artichokes Cooked on Embers Recipe – Sicilian Artichokes

Pronounced car-cho-fee, artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables.  I may call them Carciofi the rest of my life because its a lot more fun to say than ‘artichokes’.  During artichoke season in Sicily you will see big plumes of smoke wafting on the roadsides in Sicily. Local vendors set up a huge trays of coals with 50 or so artichokes cooking away. We roll down Continue reading “Carciofi alla Brace – Artichokes Cooked on Embers Recipe – Sicilian Artichokes”

Are Sicilian Blood Oranges in the States?!?

I think that I have written about the blood oranges of Sicily (Arancia Rossa di Sicilia).  They are one of my favorite foods in Sicily.  During the orange season we keep a regular supply and I eat at least one per day.  All of the fruit and veggie markets have huge containers full of them.  There are a few different varieties as well.  My favorite are the Tarocco.  The blood oranges of Sicily are IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which basically Continue reading “Are Sicilian Blood Oranges in the States?!?”

Arancia Rossa Have Arrived!

We have been keeping an eye on the produce markets waiting for these oranges to arrive.  Last year we became obsessed with eating these.  Since everything is seasonal around here you have to wait in anticipation until they arrive again.  I think this build up makes the oranges taste even better.  Even with that in mind… I can honestly say that I have never tasted oranges like this.  I know that I have said this before about artichokes and other produce and you are probably sick of hearing it, but it is true.  The taste is unreal.  It makes me want to go to Florida and drop off a few bags and slap them around a little bit.

One of the things I like most about the local oranges  Continue reading “Arancia Rossa Have Arrived!”

Does the Mediterranean Diet Include Cannoli ?

Article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/25/mediterranean-diet-cuts-risk-of-heart-attack-stroke-death/1943305/

I saw this article today about how people could reduce the risk of stroke by 33% to 46% if they followed a Mediterranean diet.  This made me laugh since we are in the middle of the Mediterranean and I haven’t seen a whole lot of health nuts around!  The diet around here doesn’t really fall into the rules of the “Mediterranean diet”, when they enjoy humungous plates of pasta as a starter eventually leading to a round of cannoli as a finisher at midnight.  Nowhere is this more apparent than at the beaches during the summer when everyone shamelessly bares it all in their banana hammocks and bikinis.  🙂  At least they are proud of themselves!

In fairness… the non pasta or pizza dishes are healthier around here.  A lot of raw fruits & veggies.  Also seafood is a mainstay in the diet.  The biggest change that I have noticed is the primary use of olive oil over butter.  The news article does touch upon this fact about olive oil being an important part of the equation.  I have noticed that I have been eating a lot more of the foods that I note above… but this also includes the foods in the “bad” paragraph.  Overall I would say its tough to keep on a healthy regiment here, with the choices at restaurants and the irresistible desserts! Luckily I have hockey and surfing to keep things in balance.

Should the name of this diet be changed??  Maybe if it was called the “Italian diet”… then I would definitely have to throw a red flag on that!

 

Chiacchiere Season in Sicily

Chiacchiere is pronounced Kee-ah-kerry.  The word chiacchiere actually translates to “gossip” in Italian.  The treats are supposedly named this because this is the activity that people do while eating them with coffee.   That cracks me up that they would name something after that, but Im not surprised because the Italians definitely do gossip over coffee. (locally: cafe, cafe macchiato, cappucchino, etc)

You can get Chiacchiere baked (forno) or fried (fritto).  Surprisingly we Continue reading “Chiacchiere Season in Sicily”

Ethnic Section @ Sicilian Grocery Store

The Italians are a very proud bunch!  So much so that probably around 99% of the restaurants that you find here are Italian/Sicilian.  Im not kidding about the 99% 😐   Luckily I have honed my kitchen skills when it comes to Mexican/Greek/Chinese/Thai and the like to get our worldly mix.  Having access to the commissary on base is a necessity because below is the wide selection for “non Italian” that you will find at the local Italian grocery stores.  Literally we are talking one shelf that is supposed to cover rest of the globe.  Have you ever seen Uncle Bens Tortilla chips?!?  Well now you have:

 

 

What do you do with this fish?

I know that the Sicilians like to use everything…. and I mean everything.  I see many different things at the grocery store that baffle me.  This fish is an example.  I have caught big rays in San Diego bay when I used to fish there, but I would never keep them.  These little rays at the top left of the fish display at the store look like they have very little meat and the fact that they are red just makes me wonder…. what in the world do they do with these fish?   Any ideas out there?

 

Sicilian Grocery Stores

I have had some questions about the grocery stores here in Sicily.  Its funny to me how people think that Sicily is a 3rd world country.  Sicily has been civilized hundreds of years more than the U.S.   Granted the culture is definitely different and Sicilians do hold onto old traditions.  One of these traditions are the local markets.  In America there are the large supermarkets that have everything under one roof, while in Sicily the majority of markets are split up into specialties.

For example nearby there is a great baker that specializes in breads and right next door to him is a place that has fresh veggies and fruits.  Granted you have to spend the time to go to each spot, but each has its own personality that makes it kinda fun.  And the quality of their products can’t be beat since they are dedicated to those products.

There are also big grocery stores in the area (Auchan, Ipercoop, Interspar, and A&O) when we need that convenience.  The grocery stores are definitely different from the States in many ways.

  • Most of the big grocery stores are inside Malls.  This makes for funny scenes where people are pushing shopping carts full of prosciutto past the Apple store at the Mall.
  • The deli sections are awesome. Prosciutto crudo and Prosciutto cotto are our favorites.
  • I have never seen so much pasta in my life…. aisles on both sides full of shapes that I have never seen before.
  • A lot of different wines/liquors!  Imagine aisles of just Italian wines & liquors.
  • The fish section at these stores are unreal- definitely a high priority of the Italians
  • The cheese sections are also amazingly huge.  25 different Parmigianos and Mozzarellas… why not.   But there are zero orange cheeses… like cheddar.

 Its funny how we have adapted to this change in our lives.  We now tend to buy food just for that particular day instead of for a whole week.  For example having a baker nearby has spoiled us into thinking we don’t need to keep bread for a couple days.  The baker is this sumo wrestler sized guy that waddles out from the back when I come in and yell “Buonasera!”.  He is usually in a shirt 3 sizes too small with flour all over it and he is generally in a grumpy mood.  His mood is completely different when Jess joins me, which cracks us up.  So long story short its an experience just to get bread, which we have enjoyed.  Im not sure how we will react back in the States without these types of differences.

Below are some pictures that I have taken at grocery stores.

Uno Anno

A couple weeks ago we hit our 1 year anniversary of living in Sicily.  Its amazing that we have been here this long… it has really flown by.  Moving here was a huge leap of faith in that I had never even been to Europe before moving out here.  Jess had some experience from living in Spain for 6 months with a study abroad during University, but overall we were coming into Sicily blind.

People’s reactions to our plans were always mixed.  Some were completely confused why we would leave everything in San Diego for a “mobster” Italian island, while others were on the same wavelength.  We tried to keep low expectations before our big move over here.  We expected to be living in a one bedroom apartment in a cramped city with our clothes hanging on clothes lines connected to our arguing neighbors windows… you know the stereotypical Italian scenes.  Luckily this was not the case.

The people here have really made our transition a lot easier.  The Sicilians really go way out of their way to help out.  And they love Americans and especially people from California.  As soon as you start stumbling with the language they always smile really big and figure out what your trying to say.  And if they can’t figure it out there is usually another Sicilian nearby that joins the fray and helps out.  Its always a funny scene, which usually ends with them asking where we are from and their BIG response of  “California Bella!!”

I put together a list of pros and cons to summarize what we have found after a year:

Pros:

  • A lot more house for your money.  Rent for a house with ocean views is 3 to 4 times cheaper.
  • Launching pad to other European locations
  • Sicilian cuisine
  • Sicilian historical sites everywhere
  • Sicilian beaches and crystal clear water
  • Super fresh Veggies and Fish
  • Access to the base is like a “little America” on Sicily
  • The people of Sicily are friends before you meet them.
  • No signs of mob 🙂

Cons:

  • Trash – For some reason they cant find a trashcan
  • Graffiti –  I don’t get it, but you will see an unbelievable fountain on the right and graffiti across on the left.
  • Sicilian drivers – Nicest people in the world until they are behind a wheel
  • Learning the language is turning out to be harder than we thought.
  • Lack of food variety – All Sicilian everywhere!  And I mean ALL Sicilian.. not like the US where you can travel the culinary world on one street. Luckily we can still cook up our own variety.
  • Stores are not open conveniently. Still haven’t figured out the hours of the smaller grocery spots.
  • Air conditioning is MIA in many places.  The Sicilians have a much higher tolerance for heat. 🙂

There are some Americans here that definitely get hung up on the cons that I listed above.  This is sad because they are not seeing the forest from the trees.  Most of the time they are deciding to hold onto the American culture and not let go and embrace where they live.

I would be lying if I said that each of the cons haven’t bothered me at one point in time, but the reality of living in Sicily makes me get over it and smile.  We have definitely enjoyed ourselves here so far and we still have a bunch of places to see just on Sicily.  Its amazing that after a year we haven’t seen everything just on the island here.  Sicily has exceeded our expectations and we are looking forward to another year.

Jess and I about to go on a boat ride around the island of Lipari