Sicilian Surprise!!!

In the summer of 2018, I traveled to Sicily to do some serious menu research & development with my brother!

Since we do so much ethnic from all over the world, part of my job is to travel all over the world to make sure we are getting it right.

Sicilian food is all super-fresh and most come from VERY local sources. In fact, I ate at one restaurant which is part of the “zero kilometer” movement…which means the restaurants try to source their food with one kilometer!

In addition to eating at 36 different restaurants, we visited many local markets, did wine tastings, olive oil tastings, toured a couple local kitchens, etc (tough job but somebody’s gotta do it)

We also rode bicycles over 200 miles through the countryside in search of culinary delights. The bike rides were hard…It’s damn hilly…burned over 4000 calories per day…the island was formed from volcanoes. Mount Etna (the world’s largest active volcano…10000 feet) stares down over all. I got my ass kicked by Mount Etna on the bike a couple of times. Ugh…

Siciliy is a very wild and pretty land of mountains, seaside towns and small fields of agriculture (the tomatoes are downright orgasmic,,, the sundrieds and the fresh ones)

But all my hard work was worth it… I found some real nice ideas, many-of-which we will be putting on menus soon. The highlights…

  1. Sea Urchins– eaten raw…the most intense flavor of the sea I have ever experienced. Brings me back in time to seaside vacations from my past
  2. Fettucini with Tomatoes & Basil– sounds simple but sooo good. The trick is they use 2 kinds of tomatoes…they first toss the pasta with intense sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil, then top the already-damn-good pasta with sautéed cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and parmigiano reggiano cheese
  3. Beef Carpaccio– thinly sliced RAW beef served over snapping fresh, super pungent arugula accompanied by sun-dried cherry tomatoes, black olive tapenade and balsamic vinegar
  4. Sheep’s Milk Cheese almost exclusivlely…very few cows. In one of firmer sheep’s milk cheeses, they put in pepperoncini which is quite popular.
  5. Gelato & Espresso!!
  6. Modica Chocolate– they don’t use any dairy! It is grainy and intense!
  7. Lemons, Oranges, Blood Oranges
  8. Smoked Swordfish Rolls– stuffed with cream cheese and arugula
  9. Smoked (and lightly grilled) Ricotta Cheese
  10. Pizza (of course)- with speck, fresh artichokes, egg and pistachios
  11. Red Wine– made from the nero davalla grape (we ordered litre carafes because they were much cheaper yet still very tasty)
  12. Eggplants & Zucchini– served everywhere in every manner imaginable
  13. Super-Fresh Seafood– shrimps, cuttlefish, octopus, shrimps, sea bass, mackerel, sardines, anchovies (I ate them all, of course)
  14. Cherry Tomato Marmalade– an awesome accompaniment to fresh ricotta
  15. Olive Oils– pungent and richly scented of apples, herbs and the “field” (Sicilian women are said to live to 95 because of the high anti-oxidant levels in these oils…but what about the men?)  The mafia gets them of course J
  16. Pasta with Sardines, Pine Nuts and Dried Grapes
  17. Raw Shrimp Crudo– with local orange and sea salt
  18. Succulent Blood Orange Salad– with fennel and sweet onions
  19. Intensely aromatic buds of Italian oregano (nothing like what we get here…more like the buds you might get in Colorado 🙂