"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.
“Adelina had made pappanozza for him. Onions and potatoes boiled a long time and mashed with the back of a fork until they blend together. Seasoning: olive oil, a hint of vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. It was all he ate. He wanted to keep to light food.”
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri ( Chapter 8 )
An Inspector Montalbano Mystery
Pappanozza. I like this
Italian Sicilian word. I like the way it sounds – fun. I like the way it rolls off my tongue – Pap-PA-noz -za. Pap-Pa-noz-za!
I’ve been reading the Inspector Montalbano mystery series by Andrea Camilleri. Inspector Salvo Montalbano is not only good at his job of solving mysteries, but he knows how to appreciate his food – whether it’s simply or elaborately prepared. I first learned about this sharp Sicilian inspector from Simona, when she featured his stories on her blog. After reading the first book, I became hooked and fell in love with the Inspector. I enjoy not only the mysteries, but the characters, foods, and romance mentioned in the stories. You can read more about Salvo Montalbano HERE.
The passage about pappanozza, practically had me salivating, when I first read it. I love the simplicity with which the food is described and the plainness of the ingredients involved, and the way it’s prepared. The description inspired me to make my own pappanozza.
After I peeled, cut, and boiled 4 large potatoes and 6 yellow onions (normally I like to use red onions but didn’t have them), I added olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to the mixture. Tasty! I’d used a good quality olive oil, which enhanced the taste of the potatoes. I was able to detect the hint of the vinegar, which also made a difference in the taste of the potato/onion mix. I love simple things. This was nothing fancy, yet it tasted delicious. Like Inspector Montalbano, that is all I ate. I, too, wanted to keep to light food. It was perfect.
This is my contribution for Novel Food, which Simona of Briciole is hosting. After Sunday, you will find a list of others who have participated with their contributions of good books and tasty recipes on her site. Thanks, Simona, for hosting this fun event and introducing me to the Inspector!
Ed. Note: You can find the roundup of Novel Food contributions HERE.
The other day, I pulled out the only food left in my fridge — some chicken cutlets. I had no idea what to do with it. So, I e-mailed a friend who likes to cook.
"Got any suggestions of what to do with chicken cutlets? Hmmm… I’m cooking for my mom and myself."
1) – Dice them into 1/2" cubes, add Olive oil, salt, oregano, "Italian seasoning" to taste. Chop onions, carrots (very thin), mushrooms, chunks of pineaple, fresh tomatoes, and stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.
2 – leave them whole, put them in a 2" deep sauce pan or baking dish, cover with 1/2 bottle of ranch dressing, add 2 big handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff, the fresh hard Parmesan. bake for an hour (give or take) then serve over pasta or with baked potatoes.
3) – Season and salt to taste, pan fry at a high heat, server over a fresh salad with the best thai peanut dressing you can find.
4) – Put cutlets on sheet of Saran wrap. Wrap and seal. Put all cutlets in a zip lock bag, pressing the air out. Seal back, stick in freezer, go out to dinner.
I laughed at suggestion #4 and emailed him back to let him know that I was going to try suggestion # 1. Except that I had to go grocery shopping for the rest of the ingredients — mushrooms, pineapples and carrots… etc… My fridge was empty.
He wrote back:
Italian stir fry is my "what’s left in the fridge?" recipe. Add anything you want. Be careful with the pineapple. It’s a strong flavor, so don’t use too much. Season to taste. This is improvisational cooking at its best.
Ready to start cooking, I went grocery shopping. Okay… Okay… I didn’t go shopping. Instead, I had the grocery store deliver my groceries. When I finished preparing the meal, I garnished it with cilantro, my favorite herb (parsley would have been nice, too.). And since I like a little bit of heat, I added some chili sauce. Loved it! Delicioso! I should do some more improv cooking, for sure.
Italian Stir Fry Improv
Chicken cutlets (diced into 1/2" cubes)
Carrots (sliced thinly)
Tomato (fresh, diced)
In pan, add olive oil, diced chicken cutlets. Add salt, oregano, Italian seasoning to taste. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, chunks of pineapple, fresh tomatoes. Stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.
Penne with Fish Sauce
Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Catherine of A Blithe Palate joined together to host a food blogging event in celebration of the release of cookbook/travelogue, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The rules for this event were simple: Instead of writing a review, participants were asked to choose and prepare a recipe from the book and share a story about a friend or family member with whom they’d share the dish. Or the participants could share a story about a friend or family member who inspired them to prepare the dish.
Many recipes, from this book with beautiful watercolor illustrations that took me to Italy, caught my eye. I decided to make the Penne with Fish Sauce. Penne is one of my favorite pasta types and I was intrigued with the idea of the fish sauce.
My friend Francine inspired me to make this dish. A wonderful cook, I think it’s something that she’d like. She’s one of my best friends from my college days. I still remember the times when we
suffered breezed through our Classical Latin classes together, trying to remember those damned challenging declensions and conjugations. We studied very hard and prayed (very hard) that our translations of the authors and poets’ works, like Virgil, were correct. We prayed that our professors wouldn’t pick on us. *Sigh* Those were the days. Thankfully, we passed our Latin classes with good marks.
For many years when I didn’t cook, my friend would invite me over her place and prepare meals for me. She’d encourage me to cook and give me simple recipes with which to start.
The recipe calls for fish to be cut in small strips. I cut the fish in strips but as it cooked and I stirred the pot, it crumbled. Probably it was because of the type of fish that I used — blue fish (one of my favorites). However that didn’t detract from the taste. The combination of the fish sauce, lemon zest, parsley and penne make the meal delicious.
I think that if Francine tasted this meal I prepared , she’d like it alot and I
hope think hope that she’d say I did a good job.
The recipe made for an easy cooking adventure for me. I prepared the bagna caôda sauce first — the main ingredients included anchiovies, olive oil, and orange juice.
Then I fried the fish. When cooked, I drizzled the sauce over the fish and served it with rice and salad.
Mmmm, Mmmm, good! Good to eat and easy to prepare! The tilapia fish was light and fluffy, and the citrus bagna caôda added a special explosive taste to the fish.
In a previous recipe post where I used tilapia (Fish with Tomato Sauce/Peixe com Mollo de Tomate), the question came up whether one could find tilapia in Italy. According to Helen of Beyond Salmon, the answer is ‘no.’ However, there are many other substitutes, such as:
Catfish Cod Hake Haddock Pollock Red Snapper Bass Sea Bream (Orata in Italian) Mediterranean Bass (Branzino in Italian)
Helen says that you can use, pretty much, any white or cream colored fish that is delicate or slightly firm as a substitute for tilapia. Thanks for the advice, Helen!
Ed. Note: Gia has informed me, in the comments section, that while not popular, tilapia is available in Torino.
Ed. Note: Feb. 1, 2011 – Seems like I’ve lost half of this post, including the recipe. I’m reposting the recipe, which is by Giada De Laurentis of Food Network.
Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
- 4 anchovy fillets, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 6 (6-ounce) skinless tilapia fillets
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the butter and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over low to medium heat just until the butter is melted, stirring frequently. Add the anchovies and stir until the anchovies dissolve, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Stir in the orange juice, basil, and lemon and orange zests. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt.
The bagna cauda sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before using.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and brush both sides of the fish with remaining 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Working in 2 batches, fry the fish until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while cooking the second batch of fish. Drizzle the sauce over and around the fish and serve.