Food is more essential than clothes
~ Sicilian proverb
I have a story to tell you, but it has to wait until I get where I can think clearly enough to write it. Actually, I have a few stories to tell, but the noise that invades our apartment from this neighborhood bothers me so much that I have trouble sleeping, reading, and thinking. That is, alas, one of the stories, but all of them will have to wait a bit.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share more photos of food—particularly sweets—that we’ve either had or seen while in Palermo. Enjoy.
Street food is a big thing in Palermo, and you cannot walk anywhere without seeing someone chomping on some food or other. Panelle and croquettes are popular because they are compact and easily carried. As you probably know, croquettes are fried food rolls—potatoes (above), ham, ground meat, etc. Panelle are the original Sicilian fast food—a simple dish made with chickpea flour, parsley, salt, pepper, and water. Sicilians eat it as above or in a sandwich.
Another favorite street food in the western part of Sicily is sfincione, a thick type of Sicilian pizza. Tomatoes, onions, and ricotta salata cheese sit atop sfincione, but there are varieties that include anchovies and other ingredients. The most important thing to note, though, is that breadcrumbs crown the sfincione, making it crunchy.
In addition, sfincione has very little cheese compared to regular pizza. Mike and I went to Monreale this afternoon, and on our way back to the bus stop, we walked into a bakery to get a cookie. We ended up buying a sfincione topped with tomatoes and sausage similar to pepperoni. It was phenomenal.
In Sicily, the late summer weather that hits the island around the beginning of November is “St. Martin’s Summer,” and it coincides with his feast day on November 11. Typically, Sicilians enjoy St. Martin’s Biscuits or Cookies with moscato wine on his feast day.
There are three types of St. Martin’s Cookies. The same dough is the base for all three, but the difference is in the end result. The original cookie (top photo) is a hard biscuit made with anise seed. They are relatively hard, so people dip them in wine (moscato or marsala) to soften them before eating.
In the second version (no photo), the cookies bake less time, so they are softer when they come out of the oven. The baker cuts them in half and fills them with a sweet ricotta cream (of course) and tops them with sugar or icing.
The third version is the most ornate and sweetest of the three (photo directly above this section). Icing covers the cookie, and decorations adorn them. A small chocolate sits on top.
Sfoglia is a puff pastry, so it follows that sfogline are pastries made from sfoglia. The ones above are plain pastry with chocolate chips (left) and pistachio-flavored pastry (right).
I don’t quite get the attraction of eating huge meringue cookies, but they are pretty popular over here. The ones on the left are about the size of my fist.
Both pine nuts and pistachios are popular nuts in Italy, and the Sicilians use them in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Arabs brought pistachios to Sicily, and since that time, Sicilians have been using them to make stuffings and fillings for meats and vegetables, to create sauces for pastas and meats, to coat or top fish and meat, and to flavor gelato, cookies, and other sweets. The tarts above combine both nuts in a sweet delight.
I’ll sign off with hopes that the person who is letting the entire neighborhood listen to his/her TV realizes that it’s after 10 pm and there just might be a few people who need to go to sleep so that they can get up to catch a flight to London in the morning.
One can only hope….