Eastern Sicily 2009-Part1

Sicily, Feb the 9th.By Filippo BartolottaOne of the biggest natural harbours in the world. One of the most southern European city. A place where in one single building (the Duomo) one could detect four different styles: on a greek temple (Athenaeuros) was built a Bizantine church on the VII aC which was restyled by the Normans and then redecorated in the early 17th century in a Spanish baroque style and in the 18th century with late Sicilian baroque. This is Syracuse.The same blend of cultures and dominations can be found in Sicilian cuisine. The Arancino is a great example for that: an orange shaped rice (arrived from the arabs) croquette filled with cheese (brought in the island by the greeks), tomato (a Spanish influence) and meat rag (a french invention). Both my parents are Siclians altough I haveneurot being back there for a while. I met my family in Catania on the first night of arrival.Maria and Laura (my unt and cousin) prepared an amaizing fish dinner. Despite being extremely tired and late (it was ten p.m. when we begun) I staterd feeling better and better. A sense of place was taking over me. The little red hot chilly pepper jam with ricotta bruschetta gave me the right kick. Then bits of different caciocavallo cheese and more saffron chees helpd me getting back into shape to fully savour the awsome fried thistle, the flat whitebaits (u muccu) balls, the anchovies (the masculi catanesi) pastry with raisins with a creamy and ripe Busillis 2003, a Tuscan Viogner from Angelini, opend in my honour.After the never ending antipasti is time for pasta! In case someone invites you for dinner, bare in mind that the more you eat and the happier your host will be. Once I remember not having a second helping of pasta at some friendseuro birthday dinner so that I was asked if my little appetite was due to sickness or maybe to the fact that I might have had lunch that day. I said I was sweet but that I indeed had lunch. They all made faces at me implying I foolish I had been.Mariaeuros made a very luscious euroSpaghetti al Nero di Seppiaeuro -Squid ink black spaghetti-, which I, honestly, had to have a second helping. I passed the love test. Everybody relaxed and we carried on with more sea food: oven sea bas and stewed calamari and then all sorts of wild vegetables. Having a fish meal in a sea area is such a great experience that often I wonder if thereeuros any point at all to have it anywhere else.During the main course Eugenio, a gourmet friend of zio Luigi, opend a couple of sicilian reds: Santa Cecilia-Planeta 2005 a jammy rich merlot and a very fresh and elegant Cerasuolo di Vittoria by Cos.My zia for dessert made euroil Gelo alla cannellaeuro, which is a fake gelato. Iteuros a cold jelly cake made with flower and fecola di patate and cinammon and then chilled in the fridge. Before going to bed though I was served also some cannoli, the famous fried crispy pastry filled with ricotta and covered with pistachios. I first had a half, then the other half and then another half just to make sure I had nice dreams. The morning after Zio brings along a very welcomed espresso: we are going to have breakfast at the bar, he says!At the pasticcieria Savia, one of the oldest in town, there is an feast of sweets of all kind. I go for the "Granita al caff con panna sopra e sotto"Acrushed-ice drink made with different flavours, from the candid almond paste, to the naughtiercoffee, to any fruit selection one can imagine. I went for the coffee and cream one together with a brioche.Granita was possibly invented in the Mount Etna, where snow is prettyabundant. They used to make wholes in the snow, wait for some fresher snow to come and then bring it into town with whatever fruit juice they had. Like the real Napolitan Pizza, the Granita you find in Sicily, specially Catania, has nothing to do with what ever you have been tasting so far. This is a luxurious experience where the ice is somehow transformed into avelvet and silk cream to dye for!Once our tummies are filled we are ready for some market action.Just behind the "acqua u lenzolo" (the bed-sheet water, for it's shape fountain) fountain in the Piazza del Duomo there is the beautiful mercato catanese.Here every morning, even in St Agata day, one can find the freshest selection of fish, fruit and vegetables and meat.It is quite amazing to see so many man gathering around the fisherman little kiosk to buy fish.The masculi catenesi (the little anchovies) is the most sought after fish.I tried some raw prawns and anchovies.I wish I had some more time on my side to buy and prepare it with lemon, salt, extra-virgin olive oil and pepper right that morning, but I had to much to cover in a few days.Although iteuros the beginning of February at 9 am iteuros already 17C. The weather is a little gray, but I am filled with an unusual easiness. I was expecting Sicily to be more difficult to digest, but so far I was wrong...
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