5 Tips That Will Help You Be a Better Chef
Is it the food? Is it the people? Is it the culture? Is it the history?
Yes, it is all of these things in that wonderful interaction of the slow way of Sicilian life, where little old nonnas (grandmothers) sit outside their front door of the house they have lived in for 50 years; where older men gather in the afternoon to play bocce in the town square; where the traditional ways of slow cooking are passed on from family to family.
Have you been dreaming of experiencing a trip to Sicily? It’s scintillating and fascinating, it’s tasty, it’s colorful and passionate. Your senses will implode as you experience rich ancient historic sites, pristine turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and white-washed coastal villas.
Pumpkins would have to be one of my favourite ingredients: their magical and enchanting connotations, their golden, almost jewel sparkle when cut and their sweet clean flavour.
The versatility of the pumpkin is not to be sneezed at either, taking it from savoury to sweet in any nationality of cuisine.
The history of the pumpkin dates back over 7000 years ago with its origin coming from the squash family and a relative of the cucumber. Known all over the world, Antarctica is the only continent where the pumpkin is not grown.
The pumpkin and its many varieties Queensland Blue, butternut, Jarrahdale, Jap, Golden nugget, are widely used as ravioli fillings, soups, gnocchi, scones, pies, stews, curries and really just about anything as its delicate flavour lends itself to all manner of dishes, cooking methods, flavour combinations, and additional spices.
Rich in beta-carotene, high in fiber and potassium the pumpkin, like all other orange-coloured fruit and vegetables, is a great antioxidant. So versatile is it that even the shells of the pumpkin have been used and woven into mats.
The flowers like those of the zucchini are also edible. When cooking, steaming or roasting is preferred to boiling which makes them rather wet and not so appealing.
For intense flavour, pan-frying, roasting or chargrilling over moderate to high heat is best as it caramelises the natural sugars. You can now purchase pumpkin seed meal, oil and pestos that are ideal for salads, dressings and baking.
How to cook pumpkin
Tip for a nutritious snack:
Dry pumpkin seeds on paper towel and then toss with a little oil and sea salt or tamari or soy sauce and roast in a moderate oven of 150 c until dry to touch ( about 40 minutes).
Tip for a perfect side dish:
Zucca Fritta Con Cannella Ed Aglio
Fried Pumpkin with Cinnamon and Garlic
• 125 ml olive oil
• 700 g kent (jap) pumpkin (peeled, seeded and cut into 5 ml thick slices)
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 ½ tbsps. White-wine vinegar
• 3 tsp. White sugar
• ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat a small amount of the olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat and cook the pumpkin in batches for 30 seconds on each side of until golden brown. You may need to add a little more olive oil to the pan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a serving dish.
2. Keeping about ¼ cup (60 ml) of oil in the pan, gently fry the garlic over low heat for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn it. Remove the pan from the heat and from yourself as it may splutter when you add the vinegar. Add the vinegar, sugar and cinnamon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 30 seconds, and then pour the mixture over the pumpkin.
3. Set the pumpkin aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Serve at room temperature.
This how-to cook pumpkin recipe is taken from “My Taste of Sicily” cookbook.
Try some of my other pumpkin recipes like Salmon and Fennel Risotto with Carrot and Pumpkin
Tour Western Sicily, personally guided by Dominique Rizzo to take an in-depth look at of Sicily’s most historic cities and sights.
In my years of traveling back to my ancestral homeland of Sicily, I have had the great pleasure of getting to know many of the amazing local people. In my Sicilian food tours, I love to ensure my guests experience the local people as much as possible. Sicilians really are the salt of the earth. I thought I would share with you some of the qualities that make Sicilian people so special, and Sicily such an amazing place to visit.
Learn all about Historical Sicily at Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana di Casale and Caltagirone on Dominique Rizzo’s Sicilian tours.
Perched on a hilltop like many hidden treasures is the town of Caltagirone, the town of ceramics.
A place which always takes my breath away on my trips to Sicily, is Caltagirone.
A long time ago, the soil here was perfect for making the original terracotta pots used by the Greeks. The original designs were usually yellows and browns with geometric patterns. Influences from the Arabs brought the art of firing. Pottery also became highly decorative with the introduction of colours such as blues and yellows. Designs became more intricate.
The ceramic stairs
On your trips to Sicily, you will find a major interest in this tiny town with it’s wonderful staircase studded with decorated tiles. Colourful hand painted tiles line each of the 142 stairs. They entice you to journey to the top where the views of the town are magnificent. During the festival of the Madonna, the locals will line the stairs beautifully with tubs of flowers precisely placed. They form a floral design when you view the staircase from the bottom or top. In the evening they line the stairs with candles. This makes for an amazing photo and unique visiting experience.
They are often studded with the iconic ceramic pine cones that feature in many ceramic shops throughout Sicily. The road leading into Caltagirione is lined with vases and glorious coloured cones.
They remind you that this is the town of the vases. While browsing the many stores, you will notice that the ceramics come in many designs. With traditional and artisan patterns, some historically original and others unique to each artist. You can often find artists hand painting the ceramics as you enter in the stores.
The ceramics are not only a sight to behold in Caltagirone, they are a fantastic experience of Sicilian culture that you can enjoy on my Sicilian Tours.
For the latest news on trips to Italy, go to Dom’s travels to Italy and Sicily, and her next tour dates
Any questions? Contact me.
Italians and Sicilians in particular do cheese so well, that’s why I love to incorporate cheese as part of my Sicilian food tours!
Baked Dishes of Pasta, rice or vegetable are something that we all grew up on and the best thing about having them for dinner is that they taste even better the next day.