The Island of Sicily
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and is bordered also by the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian seas. All of it is beautiful. Even though it is an island, it still has room for Europe's largest active volcano, Mt. Etna.
Sicily offers an abundance of different food crops that include citrus fruits, grapes, olives, artichokes, pistachios, mulberries, and others. These are used year-round, but they feature prominently during the Christmas season in the dishes below. Christmas is celebrated by much of the island, where the traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox churches are prevalent. However, Sicily has been a land of many faiths over the centuries, and in the 21st century, it is recognized as multicultural and multi-faith, with many different holidays in the winter season.
1. Sicilian Christmas Cookies
Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies
These are fried cookies often called "cuddureddi."
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1.5 cups ricotta cheese, drained
- Grated zest of 1 whole orange
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon rum flavoring
- 1/4 cup honey
- In a large bowl, combine and mix flour, sugar, egg yolks, ricotta, orange zest, cinnamon, and rum flavoring to form a sticky dough.
- For the Sicilian method, break off a piece the size of one tablespoon of dough and roll it between the palms of your hands until it looks like a finger.
- Continue until all dough is used.
- Fry the cookies in hot oil, a few at a time.
- Turn each cookie once in the oil.
- Remove cookies with a slotted spoon and drain on paper toweling.
- Serve immediately with honey to coat.
2. Traditional "S" Cookies
- 1 cup cream
- 2 sticks margarine
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 small egg
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Mix all ingredients together well in a large bowl.
- Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch diameter roll.
- Cut pieces 3" long and make "S" shapes out of them. Place on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven to cooling racks to cool.
- Dust cookies with powdered sugar.
3. Tuna and Cannellini Beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion, sliced thin
- 8 oz zucchini, sliced thin
- 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cans cannellini beans
- 1/2 cup green pesto sauce
- 2 cans tuna in spring water, drained
- 2 cubes of chicken or vegetable stock/bouillon
- 10 oz fusilli (or your favorite pasta)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the onion, zucchini, and mushrooms for 2 minutes.
- Add the beans, pesto, and tuna and mix well.
- Crumble the cubes of stock into the pan, add the pasta and stir all ingredients.
- Add enough water to just cover the ingredients and simmer for 7-8 minutes to cook the pasta. The liquid will have thicked to a delightful sauce.
4. Christmas Eve Fish Dinner
- 1 pound cod, cut into 1" cubes
- 1/2 pound shrimp
- 1/2 pound calamari/squid
- 1/2 pound prawns
- 4 large tomatoes, chopped coarsely
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
- 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
- 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, chopped
- 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
- 1 standard can of black olives, pitted
- Salt, pepper, fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to taste
- Saute the onions and potatoes until the onions are translucent.
- Add tomatoes and mushrooms.
- Add garlic, stir, and then add all the spices.
- Simmer on low until reduced to the desired thickness, form 1-2 hours. Slow cooking melds the flavors.
- Add the olives and cubed fish and cook 10 minutes more until the fish flakes.
5. Roasted Chestnuts
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Wash and dry the chestnuts.
- Take a paring knife and make a moderately deep X in each one of them.
- On a baking sheet, place aluminum foil and arrange the chestnuts with the slits facing up.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and serve.
- As you eat the chestnuts, peel off the outer shell and then the thin inner lining first.
6. Sicilian Fig Cookies
- 1 pound dried figs
- 1 pound raisins, light or dark
- 1 jar honey
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup almonds
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 bottle of your favorite sherry (or 1/2 cup of orange juice)
- Soak figs in water to reconstitute and then stew for 5 minutes.
- Chop nuts finely and set aside.
- Pour 1/2 cup sherry and all the other ingredients into a food processor gradually and grin.
- Remove food from processor and place mixture into a large bowl.
- Add the chopped nuts and mix well.
- Add additional sherry if the mixture becomes dry. It should be slightly moist.
- Place the mixture into a covered container in the refrigerator.
This filling can be stored for up to 12 months. Add a teaspoon of sherry monthly to maintain fermentation.
Use the filling with any standard cookie dough recipe. Place a teaspoon of filling in each round of flattened cookie dough, fold it over, seal and bake.
7. Sicilian Eggnog (Zabaglione)
I have not tried this eggnog, but I have eaten Zabaglione ice cream, which was very good. The eggnog itself should be tasty as well. For those who do not prefer alcohol, this recipe does use it, but it can be left out.
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks (save the whites for something else)
- 1 whole egg
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup sweet marsala wine
- Nutmeg, to taste (I like ground cloves instead)
- Beat sugar into all the eggs together.
- Add milk and cream alternately, a little of each at a time, and whisk constantly.
- Whisk sweet marsala in and add a pinch of nutmeg.
- Heat in a pan for 5 minutes on very low heat, whisking constantly. Do not cook the eggs.
- Keep beating the eggnog until creamy and serve immediately.
© 2008 Patty Inglish MS