I thought I was in love with Piero, but I was in love with Sicily. I went back to see him that fall, and again the next summer. He wanted me to move in with him. Once, in the summer, next to the cornflower sea, I asked him, “But what would we do in the winter?” He said, “We’ll stay at home, cook pasta, and steam up the windows.” I went back to Los Alamos, gave six months’ notice, and numbered the days till I could be in Sicily again.
~ Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily by Theresa Maggio
Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily by Theresa Maggio is about the ancient Sicilian ritual of bluefin tuna fishing, off the coast of the island of Favignana, where it is said Calypso rescued a shipwrecked Odysseus. Every spring, schools of giant bluefin tuna would swim to this location, to reproduce; and ever since the Stone Age, fishermen would go through a ceremonial trapping and killing of these giant fish. When the book first came out, this type of fishing style was a dying tradition. Today, it’s extinct.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it a few years ago and every once in a while I pick it up to reread. I enjoyed the book because it’s more than a fishing story. Mattanza is a combination of memoir, natural history and travelogue.
Maggio describes everything so vividly and beautifully – from the fishing custom, her love story, the people she meets on the island, to her relationship with them and the fishermen – that I couldn’t help but be fascinated. I couldn’t help but want to know more. Mattanza is a powerful, captivating story of man, fish, life, death and love.
Perhaps, I should have prepared some kind of tuna meal. However, I loved Piero’s response, above, to Theresa and felt like preparing a simple pasta dish – Pasta, Chickpeas, Onions and Oregano. This is a favorite recipe. I used whole grain spaghetti, oregano, thyme and chili garlic sauce. Mixed together with the spaghetti, the meal was delicious. Making pasta and steaming up the windows during winter (or anytime of the year) sounds like a good idea to me.
This is my contribution to the 18th edition of Novel Food, hosted by Simona of Briciole. I’ll return later in the week to provide a link to her roundup list of those who participated in today’s Novel Food.
Ed. Note: You can find a list of other participants in the 18th edition of Novel Food HERE. Check it out!
Pasta with Chickpeas, Onions and Oregano
as seen on Lucullian Delights
400-500 g/14-17,5 ounce pasta
1 can of chickpeas
a good pinch of dried oregano. You can also use thyme or other herbs
chili pepper, optional
extra-virgin olive oil
While the pasta cooks, slice the onion and cook them gently in a skillet for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, oregano and a little chili pepper and go on cooking for another 8-10 minutes. If you want, you can mash a part of the chickpeas with a fork. Squeeze a little lemon juice over.
Drain the pasta a minute before it is cooked and add it to the skillet, stir and cook for a minute and then serve.
Southern Seas – Manuel Vázquez Montalbán
A Pepe Carvalho Investigation
translated by Patrick Camiller
An unconventional mogul plans to travel to the South Pacific, but then he is murdered and his wife hires private investigator Pepe Carvalho to find out what happened. This is the story of “Southern Seas” by Manuel Vásquez Montalbán, a very famous Spanish writer whose stories are set in Barcelona. “Southern Seas” (Los Mares del Sur) is his most famous story in the Pepe Carvalho investigation series.
What an investigation this turns out to be. I like the way the mystery unfolds. The book is full of interesting characters from all walks of life. The most tantalizing character to me is the investigator Pepe Carvalho who appears to have a zeal for good food a good drink. He’s intelligent, tough, and street-smart. He can also be gentle and caring for others in his life – like Charo, his long-time girlfriend (a career prostitute); Bleda, the puppy that he spots in a pet store window, buys, and brings home; and Biscuter, who cooks many of his meals.
I enjoyed the dialog in the storyline. It’s sharp, fun and witty. I found myself laughing aloud several times. Investigator Pepe Carvalho certainly held my attention throughout the book.
I also like how Spanish politics, history and food references are sprinkled throughout the story. Like this scene between Carvalho and Biscuter, when Carvalho is about to take off in search of a troubled young woman:
‘You’re not going, are you, boss? Aren’t you staying to eat?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘I’ve made you some potatoes and chorizo à la Rioja.’
Carvalho stopped, with one foot outside the door. Potatoes and chorizo à la Rioja.
‘They’re hot,’ Biscuter insisted, when he saw him waver.
I’m not sure how potatoes and chorizo à la Rioja is prepared, but I was inspired to try my version. It sounded simple enough – potatoes and chorizo. Basically, I bought some fresh chorizo and removed the casing. I sautéed the chorizo in some oil; then I sautéed some onions and garlic, and added boiled diced potatoes to the cooked chorizo, onions, and garlic. Since the chorizo is already spicy and salty, I didn’t bother adding any salt, pepper or spices. It was tasty and filling. Now, I understand why Carvalho hesitated at the mention of the meal. I’ll have to find out how to prepare the real potatoes and chorizo à la Rioja, but overall, I liked what I’d prepared.
While I didn’t expect the solution to the mystery of the mogul’s death, the real shocker to me was the ending of the book, which had nothing to do with the mystery (or did it?). “Southern Seas” captivated my attention to the very end. I liked following the way Pepe Carvalho interacted with the people he met, as he solved his assignments. I plan on following Pepe Carvalho and the other mysteries that he will encounter and no doubt solve.
A few weeks ago, I received a free review copy of the newly translated “Southern Seas” from publisher Melville House. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to feature it as my contribution for Novel Food, the food blogging event that combines literary works with food. It is hosted by Simona of Briciole. You can find a lineup of other Novel Food submissions on her blog.
Ed. Note: A friend who lives in Spain sent me video link of a Spanish chef preparing potatoes and chorizo à la Rioja. It is totally different than what I prepared, more like a soup with the potatoes and chorizo and other spices. It looked very delicious. In the near future, I hope to be able to prepare it.
*You can find the round up of the 17th edition of Novel Food HERE.
"Before returning to Marinella, he dropped in at the grocer’s where he sometimes got his provision. He bought green olives, passuluna black olives, caciocavallo cheese, fresh bread sprinkled with giuggiulena, and a jar of Trapanese pesto." (page 205)
The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri (An Inspector Montalbano mystery)
Oh, how I love Salvo Montalbano, one of my favorite book characters. Inspector Montalbano is good at his job of solving crimes that come his way in Sicily. In addition to the way he does his job, I like the way he enjoys his food. He doesn’t mind company when eating, however, he prefers silence during the meal, so that he can concentrate on it. I’d love to be his dining companion but I’m afraid, I wouldn’t be able to keep silent for more than a few seconds. I’d have a lot to talk about to him.
Inspector Montalbano is always eating something interesting, whether simple or fancy. The mention of Trapanese pesto peeked my interest, especially after reading a side note about it. This is the book’s notation on Trapanese pesto:
"Trapanese pesto: Pesto alla trapanese, like its cousin, pesto alla genovese, is a sauce for pasta with ground or finely chopped basil as its foundation. The Trapanese version )from the Sicilian city of Trapani), however, uses finely chopped and toasted blanched almonds instead of pine nuts, as well as several finely chopped, uncooked tomatoes, which are ground into the blend with garlic, olive oil, and black pepper. Finally, after it [is] served on the pasta one adds a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs in the place of cheese." — page 244.
I liked the idea of this untraditional pesto, because it included tomatoes and almonds. While I could have easily made my Trapanese pesto based on the above description alone, I decided to look for a recipe that gave specific amounts and settled on a recipe from Lidia Bastianich. I like her added touch of a peperonchino to the mix, which lent an ever so slight touch of heat to the pesto. Lidia’s recipe calls for spaghetti, but I made linguine. I mixed my Trapanese pesto with the linguine and topped my pasta and pesto dish with Pecorino Romano cheese. Next time, I plan on trying the topping of toasted bread crumbs (mentioned above), in place of the cheese. Either way, my dish tasted oh so good — divine!
For once, I became like the Inspector. I ate in silence and truly focused and enjoyed the simple flavors of my meal — the basil, garlic, almonds, tomatoes, and touch of peperonchino. Perfect! I guess, there really are times when one needs to be quiet and enjoy one’s meal. This was clearly the moment, for me. I think I’ll be eating pasta this way for a long while.
This is my contribution to Novel Food, which Simona hosts over at Briciole. In a few days, you can see a list of others who have joined in on the Novel Food fun, with recipes inspired by books they’ve read. Check it out!
Linguine with Trapanese pesto
Spaghetti al Pesto Trapanese alla Anna
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 leaves fresh basil
? cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.
Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.
With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)
To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.
Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
Jarred pickles for sale at the Farmer’s Market last December –Five dollar per jar.
Black and White Wednesday is a culinary photography event, which Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook created and hosts. She is on hiatus for a few months, so there is no official line up of other Black and White Wednesday photos until her return.
January 31, 2012 | Filed Under Black and White Wednesday, Brussels sprouts, Farmer's Market, Food Blogging Events, Foods I Never Liked Before Until I Started to Cook, Harlem/Morningside Heights | 9 Comments
I posted a colored version of this picture on my photo blog and commented that I never liked Brussels sprouts. To my surprise, I received a lot of Brussels sprouts recipes. Very exciting! I’ve been trying all the suggestions and enjoying them. I’m shocked that I actually LOVE Brussels sprouts, now. Shocked! Here’s a recipe my friend shared with me. I love the mix of the mushrooms, onions and Brussels sprouts.
Peel off marred outer layer
Cut in half
Put in colander and wash (run water over them, gently toss with hands)
Let them drain and dry; bounce them around in the colander a little to get out excess water
Sautee the brusssel sprouts in a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. After a few minutes chopped (but not finely chopped) onion, Once sprouts are softened (no where near mushy), add sliced mushrooms and cook until sprouts are tender and onions have begun to caramelize. The last steps will be on highest heat without burning the food.
Add salt and garlic powder (or fresh minced garlic) when you add the onions.
This is my photo submission to Black and White Wednesday, a culinary photography event, which Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook created and hosts. Stop by her blog to see who else played and learn how to play along with us.