Minestrone alla Genovese – The Classic Minestrone

The famous Genoese-style minestrone is a very dense and satisfying meal.  It utilizes both seasonal vegetables and the famous pesto alla Genovese, made of garlic, basil, pine nuts, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  But, as the Italian gastronome Massimo Alberini has said, as good as minestrone is, it is not a gastronomic specialty but rather an elemental […]

Sicilian Eggplants Are Pearls Over Pasta

Eggplants were first introduced to Europe by Arab farmers in Spain and Sicily.  The anonymous Cordoban Calender of 961 mentions eggplants.  In Sicily the word for eggplant, milinciana derives from the Arabic word for the plant bādhinjān.  It was not at all popular at first.  As for the combination of pasta and eggplants which is […]

Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches Make “Moon of the Faithful” Syrup for Crêpes

This Sicilian sweet syrup is part of what is known folklorically as being part of cucina arabo-sicula, the cooking influenced by the long ago Arab presence in Sicily.  In some Muslim countries, the apricot is known as the “moon of the faithful.”  The apricot belongs in the same family as the peach and nectarine, all […]

“Oh, Wonderful!” Sicilian Eggplant

The Sicilian expression—although little known among contemporary Sicilians—sciàtara-e-màtara, is an exclamation of wonder–or contempt!  It might be said like “Oh, wonderful!” or contemptuously as in “God! Great merciful God!”  The expression derives from the Arabic shātirū yā mā tāra as in “oh, the cleverness that you see!” which Arabs say sarcastically when someone from whom […]

Fava, Artichokes, and Porcini Mushrooms with “Straw and Hay” Fettuccine

June is the time for fava and artichokes and what better way than to cook them with pasta as is typical of Italian cooking. In this recipe inspired by Tuscan cooking, the name of this pasta dish in Italian, paglia e fieno, is a slight twist on a typical dish in Siena, that means “straw […]

Switzerland’s Hot and Cheesy Casserole Named After A Disease

Goms is a valley in the rugged mountainous canton of Valais in Switzerland, where this pie originated. The unusual name of this pie, Gomser Cholera, derives from the cholera epidemic that hit Switzerland hard in 1836. Rather than leave the house and risk infection, people tended to prepare meals with the food they had on […]

Make A Spicy Jewish Soup from North Africa

Bread bakers set aside a portion of yeasted dough to act as a starter for the next batch of bread. This starter is called a sponge, poolish, levain de boulanger in French, and biga in Italian. But in this medieval soup of the Jews of North Africa it is the foundation to a soup. The […]

Christmas Eve Risotto from Venice

This is a typical Christmas Eve dinner preparation and is unusual for two reasons: it is not cooked according to the risotto method even though it’s called a risotto, and it combines cheese with fish. The dish probably evolved from a simple fish pilaf, one using, perhaps, gò (goby, an ugly little fish that lives […]

Greek Classics For A Special Dinner At Home

Greek food is one that is festive, healthy, simple and delicious, and Greek restaurants are always fun to go to. Greek food is easy to cook at home too, as long as you have the basic staples — none of which are exotic — such as olive oil, tomatoes, oregano, lemon and feta cheese. When […]

Sicilians Know Swordfish!

The popularity of swordfish in Sicily goes back to the ancient Greeks when they established colonies on the island.  But this preparation has four of the hallmarks of cucina arabo-sicula, the folkloric cuisine believed to be vestigial of Arab influence from the Arab-Sicilian era of the ninth to twelfth centuries: the use of citrus, grilled […]

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