Cooking in A Convent, Sicily

June 21, 2014

Happy summer!

My buddy Roberta and I welcomed the season with a luscious summertime lunch whipped up by the chefs-in-training at the Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla in Ragusa Ibla. Talk about “Farm to Table” fresh! The chefs were out in the school’s garden picking our lunch a mere 30 minutes before we scarfed it down. Their assignment was to find something in the garden that inspired their creative fancy.

Chefs at the Nosco Cooking School in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

The squash blossoms were out in full glory. (Can you guess what ended up in one of the dishes?)

Nosco Cooking School, copyright Jann Huizenga

This chef threatened to stab me if I didn’t stop taking his picture.

Nosco Cooking School, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The wizard behind the magic is Peppe Barone, below, a chef who has inspired and trained many top chefs in Southeast Sicily. (He also owns the restaurant Fattoria delle Torri in Modica.) You can watch him on TV here.Peppe Barone of the Nosco School, copyright Jann Huizenga

An illicit aside:

Right under that rock wall is a deep black hole. Peppe explains: “It is the tunnel that the monks dug. It leads all the way to the nunnery.” He was not kidding. (The convent and nunnery were vacated sometime in the 1950s.)

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Goodies in hand, the chefs traipse back to the kitchen and get to work.

Nosco School of Cooking, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Steam steam steam. Chop chop chop.

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Roberta and I went down to the dining room in high anticipation, studying the skulls, scrolls, and other frescoes, wondering why there were no more monks. Is gastronomy the new religion?

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Frescoes at the Nasco Cooking School in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

And then the moment arrived. We were poured a local bubbly rose.  And then these marvels–and many others–were placed before us, like benedictions.

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Eggplant and tomato torte

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Tomato pasta with local cheese–and do you see it?–the squash blossom! Stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried.

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Pasta with great big green leaves picked in the garden. That’s all I know. Divine.

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Pasta with a leek, onion & potato broth. Shoestring potato garnish.

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A “convent cannolo” with sweet ricotta cream. Cute and amazing taste.

A big GRAZIE!!!!! Chef Peppe, to you and all your fine sous chefs!

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The Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla can arrange custom cooking classes for you  You’d need to find nine friends, to make a minimum group of ten. Or visit Ristorante Cenobio to taste the student chefs’ creations. The convent is at the back of the Ibla Gardens.

 

Summer 2014, Bella Figura

June 15, 2014

I went to a wedding the other night on my church steps.  I wasn’t invited, of course, but what I love about Sicilian weddings is that tourists and others can stumble through the church while the wedding is underway and hang around afterwards. Weddings here are fashion shows. (And the bride wasn’t the only one in lace.)  Sicilians may be experiencing serious economic woes, but you’d never know it judging by their glad rags.

 

Sicilian Woman in Orange Dress, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Woman in Black Lace Dress, copyright Jann Huizenga

Yellow nail polish and gold rings on 6 fingers

Young Sicilian Woman in Lacy Dress, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Woman in Pink Shoes, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Woman in Red and Black, copyright Jann Huizenga

I’m sure her nails and lipstick are red too.

Sicilian Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Couple All Dressed Up, copyright Jann Huizenga

 

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A Story of Sicilian Bread

May 25, 2014

Sicilians revere bread. The never lay it upside down. If they drop it by accident, they kiss it. They never throw it away. Well, if it’s moldy they can, but not before apologizing to Jesus.

Since becoming gluten-sensitive, I idolize bread too. This is the round loaf sold by a man in a little truck who comes merrily tooting his way up the street everyday. Look what 80 cents will buy. I pinch it and sniff it and then prop it up on my sideboard, just so, to remind me of the good ole days when I could wolf down the entire loaf in one sitting, slathered in sweet butter and Sicilian orange marmalade.   Round of Sicilian Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga Buon Pane a Tutti! is the bread man’s mantra. “Good bread for one and all!”  It’s baked in a forno a pietra, wood-burning oven. Bread Truck in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga My favorite part about bread shopping is watching my sweet across-the-street neighbor Lina, who lives on the second floor. She tosses some coins in a basket and lowers it.

Lowered Basket for Bread in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Giorgio loads in the bread.

Hauling up bread in a basket in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaAnd up it goes with a tug of the wrist, just in time for lunch.

Hauling up Bread in a Basket in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

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Mid-May Peaches, and Other Thoughts

May 15, 2014

Eeek! It’s already mid-May. I don’t know where the days go. It’s hard, changing careers at this stage of my life–tackling photography, translation, and writing after so many years of teaching. Figuring out how to afford a life in a new country. I’m slooooooooow, everything takes hours–and then more–to seep into my thick head. So with apologies: I have only enough time today to post peaches. (Compliments of my local market.)

Each juicy peach is filled with the perfume of Sicily. And with love, for you. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sicilian peaches, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Peaches, copyright Jann Huizenga

PS I’ve been posting on Facebook everyday. I’d love you to visit me there!

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Sicilians on (Easter) Parade

April 21, 2014

The week-long Easter madness in Sicily is winding down–whew.  (Today is Pasquetta, when folks move en masse to the countryside to picnic on yesterday’s leftover lamb and sleep it all off.)

Sicilians get all dolled up for Easter, like Americans used to do about 40 years ago. Fashion trends this season seem to be bow ties and rat’s nest coiffures for young men and super-stiletto-platform shoes for women. (Flowing robes for Jesus, Mary, and priests.)

Young Sicilian Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Girls, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Man with Bouffant Hair Style , copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Women, copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Men, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Boy in Porkpie hat, copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Priest, copyright Jann Huizenga

Jesus and Mary meet in Pozzallo, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

 

Hope you had a great Easter/Passover/weekend. xxxxx

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