I’ve been wanting to get back to writing about Italian food. The cuisine holds so much interest in me, that I cannot stay away.
The food of Sicily holds a special place in my heart, as I grew up in an area of Pittsburgh that had many Sicilian immigrants. I can easily recall the Italian deli that was three blocks from our house, and the aromas it contained. I’ve been hooked on Italian food ever since.
Sicily in unique in regard to Italian history, as it was one of the few regions that has not been heavily influence by the Roman empire. In fact, if one is to look for influences upon Sicily, your better served by looking towards the Ancient Greeks (circa 475-400 BCE) and the Saracens/Muslims who were part of the population from about 827 AD until 1224 AD, when Frederick II expelled them off the island.
As far as cuisine is concerned, there is a strong Saracen influence, but there’s also traditions that predate even the Greeks. Defining the etymology of the cuisine is even more difficult when it’s learned that there are three pre-Grecian traditions at play as well; the Siculi, the Sicani and the Elymi.
The fertile Volcanic soil supplied by Mt. Etna allows for a variety of crops, including oranges, lemons, figs, olives and grapes. Some of the grapes go to wine making, others go to making raisins. Honey is popular as well, due to the prevelance of citrus flowers. Wheat also plays an important part of the island, and various wheat products (think bread and pasta) are commonplace, if not out and out ubiquitous. Some of the vegetables found on the island include artichokes, cauliflower and peas.
It seems that meats play less of a role in the Sicilian traditions when compared to other areas of Italy, but pork, seafood and some beef do their part in providing protein to the citizens.
But the key aspect of Sicily, and the one that grabs my own attention, comes from the desserts. Due to the Saracen and Arabic influeces (and their ready access to sugar cane) came a tradition that still is in existence to this day.
So in addition to the recipes surrounding yogurt, I’m also goign to be working on Sicilian food. Additionally, instead of doing the 4 recipes per region, I’m going to up the ante a bit to 6 recipes, including 3 meals and 3 desserts.