Prickly Jewels

In the early fall, Sicilians enjoy the tuna, or fruit, of the cultivated “ficudinnia” in Sicilian, or “fico d’india” in Italian. We call them prickly pears. “Prickly” is a good description because their spines, both tiny and large, can penetrate your skin easily. Before eating them, you must remove the spines and then peal the…

Hit the Couscous

At the end of September, the seaside resort town of San Vito Lo Capo hosts the annual International Couscous Fest. From September 18 to 27, 2015 thousands of Sicilians will fill the streets of the white-washed town to taste couscous recipes from an international representation of chefs, to watch cooking demonstrations, talk shows, and competitions,…

Let’s Get Wild

In the spring, wild fennel grows throughout Sicily’s mountainous regions. It’s on the side of the road, in orchards under olive trees, in fields… It seems like everywhere you look, within a few meters, you’ll see it. When it’s young, it possesses a wonderful anise or liquorice scent and flavor. On Sunday, in the Madonie-mountain…

Say It, You’ll Like It

Carciofo (or carciofi, plural) is one of my most favorite Italian words to say. It sounds and feels like when you are chewing, (Car-Chiey-Oh-Foh) which is why I like it. It means artichoke. And well, in Sicily, spring is artichoke season! Artichokes pervade every market right now, and you know what that means–there are artichoke…

Bloom and Song

From February 12-22, 2015 the city of Agrigento celebrates the 70th Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore (The Festival of the Blooming Almond Trees) and the 60th International Festival of Folklore. The “in Fiore” festival marks that spring is arriving and the almond trees are in bloom, while the folklore festival features performances of not only…

Chestnuts… in an Open Basket

These two figurines from Palermo’s Museo Etnografico Giuseppe Pitrè are carrying traditional baskets filled with foodstuffs. The woman carries eggs, and the man, it’s hard to say. I’m going to venture to guess that perhaps he’s carrying chestnuts or “castagne.” This is the season for harvesting chestnuts–and like the olive festivals also celebrated in November,…

Celebrating Ricotta? Count me in!

October in Sicily is packed with feasts and festivals celebrating local gastronomy. This weekend in Paternò on the southern slopes of Mount Etna, they are celebrating the 2nd annual Festival of Ricotta and Mostarda. Ricotta, pictured here, is a fresh cheese made with either sheep’s milk (most common in Sicily), cow’s milk, or goat’s milk….

It’s a Symbiotic Relationship

In the beginning of October, Ragusa celebrated the 20th annual “Ibla Buskers Festa di Artisti di Strada.” The Baroque city’s piazzas were full of musicians, circus performers, artists, and–probably most important, spectators. The Associazione Culturale Edrisi and ibla Buskers aims to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between performers and audience and the best street art in…

Into the (Really Big) Frying Pan

The feasts and “sagras” that take place this week and next make Ferragosto (August 15) season very special. For example, this week in Pozzallo (Ragusa province), they are holding their annual Sagra del Pesce, a seafood and music/entertainment festival. Since 1967, during the Sagra, the town shows off its riches of bountiful, excellent seafood and…

Cous cous is also Sicilian! Really from the western province of Trapani, where annually at the end of September in San Vito Lo Capo they celebrate this historically rich dish with international chefs and world music. I made cous cous in NYC last night wishing I could be at the Sagra too. N.B. This ceramic…