Tea Party in Sicily

April 9, 2013

My Roman friend Roberta–who has moved to Sicily–proposed that I host an afternoon tea.

Great idea, you say?

Ha. Consider this: Roberta works for Gambero Rosso, Italy’s gastronomic bible, which pitilessly rates and ranks food.  She’s reviewed fancy Michelin-starred restaurants all over Italy … and Paris … and London … and New York. She’s penned cookbooks and other food books and now runs a restaurant near the shore with her new Sicilian marito.

So the thought of feeding my food-goddess amica filled me with a kind of horror.

But I’d been fed at her table plenty of times, so it was time to step up and act like a Big Girl.

Whaddya serve at a tea party, anyway? Was Roberta expecting high tea or low tea? I was sure mine would be low–very, very low.

You eat breads and cakes, don’t you?  I can do that. I like to bake. I ran my usual repertoire through my head.

  1. Cranberry-nut loaf. (But there are no cranberries here!)
  2. Pumpkin tea loaf. (No canned pumpkin here!)
  3. Chocolate chip cookies. (No chocolate chips!)
  4. Blueberry-oatmeal muffins. (No blueberries or oatmeal!)
  5. Buttermilk biscuits. (No buttermilk here!)
  6. Etc, etc, etc Ach!

Every single thing I’d ever baked in my entire life contained a key ingredient that this isle lacks.

So to the Wide Web I went, trolling for lemony-orangey things. Because mountains of lemons and oranges we have.

Then I got to work squeezing lemons, chopping nuts, whipping eggs. It was warm enough to toss the doors wide open. Big furry bees circled the honey.

I made Tuscan lemon muffins using whole ricotta instead of skim (no such thing here), and more lemon zest than the recipe calls for.

Tuscan Lemon Muffins, photo copyright Jann Huizenga

And an orange-nut loaf.

Orange nut bread

And lemon meringue pots de creme, a NY Times recipe.

Lemon Meringue Pot de Creme, recipe from the NY Times, photo copyright Jann Huizenga

And raisin scones, totally unworthy of a photo.

You can just get a glimpse of them below–those things in the back that are flat and hard as hockey pucks. What self-defeating instinct made me put pucks on the table????? The fact that I had good mandarin marmalade and zagara honey to scoop on them was no excuse.

Tea time

I had a Plan called Prosecco. When my guests arrived, I would get them tipsy so they wouldn’t care what they were eating. I let the Moroccan mint tea steep and steep while we tossed back the sauce. We toasted the slaves of Milan and New York who do not know the perks of the free-lance life, and we toasted Sicily.

Moroccan mint tea, copyright Jann Huizenga

The orange-nut bread was unremarkable, but Roberta rushed to the rescue: She pulled a pastry bag of ricotta cream from her purse, like a rabbit from a hat. Abracadabra! The perfect spread!Ricotta cream

The Tuscan lemon muffins were good and moist, but Roberta reserved her praise for the lemon meringue pots de creme.

Roberta Corradin, copyright Jann Huizenga

Roberta Corradin

Hooray! I got the Gambero Rosso thumb-up!


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Poached Egg with Warm Tomato Sauce

December 1, 2012

What to do when you have nothing in the house but stale bread, a few (great) tomatoes and a fresh egg?

And not much energy to cook?

This is the dish for you:

Tomatoes on a Vine, copyright Jann Huizenga

1. Heat olive oil and and a clove of unpeeled garlic over a medium flame until fragrant.

2. Add several peeled & chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt.

3. Cook for 10 minutes and remove the garlic clove.

4. Put the tomato mixture into a blender. Blend.

5. Bring water to a boil in a smallish pot. Add a good pinch of salt. Poach your egg(s) in the boiling water for a few seconds (if you’re Italian) or longer (if you’re like me).

6. Add the warm tomato sauce to a shallow bowl. (OPTIONAL: Spoon on a dollop of fresh ricotta.) Carefully place your egg(s) on top. Garnish with fresh basil or thyme & serve with toast drizzled with a yummy oil.


This recipe was adapted from the recipe for cuciniello in Roberta Corradin’s gorgeous book, Taste and Tradition (2): A Culinary Journey through Southern Italy. Thanks, Ro!


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Ricotta Mousse with Honey, Direct from Sicily

March 16, 2012

Ricotta is the ultimate comfort food for Sicilians— pillow-soft and creamy, not at all like the rubbery goo at Albertsons. For this recipe, buy it from your local Italian grocer or an upscale market like Whole Foods or make it yourself (not that hard!).

Ingredients for Ricotta Mousse (serves 6):

*9 oz ricotta

*1/2 cup Sicilian Moscato (you can cheat with a California Moscato from Trader Joe’s)

*2 T sugar

*3 oz pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts (2 kinds of nuts will suffice), coarsely chopped

*5-6 T eucalyptus honey (or substitute any other nice honey)

*candied orange peel, slice thinly (optional)

*mint sprigs (optional)

Making Ricotta Mousse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


Whip the ricotta with the sugar and Moscato. Force the mixture through a sieve to get a velvety consistency. Sprinkle a bit of the nut mixture into 6 Martini or wine glasses. Top with the mousse and a final sprinkle of nuts. Garnish each glass with a dollop of honey, and if you are using them, candied orange and sprig of mint.

Making Ricotta Mousse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Buon appetito!

Making Ricotta Mousse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

This recipe is adapted from Taste and Tradition, Vol 2 by Roberta Corradin and Paula Rancati. It comes from Chef Angelo Treno of Al Fogher restaurant. TOURIST ALERT! Al Fogher is the place to eat after visiting the Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina.


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Addio Roma, Hello Rubber Shoes

May 22, 2011

Not long ago she lived in trendy Trastevere among wine bars and super-chic Romans. She wore stilettos and took her coffee on Piazza Santa Maria.

Now Roberta wears rubber shoes and lives among cows and pigs, horses and dogs, carobs and rocks. Gnarled olives sway in yellow skies; she’s landed in a Van Gogh canvas come to life.  Out in the direction of Africa, there’s the distant glint of the sea.

“I’m not a country girl,” she insisted a few years ago when she bought the tumble-down Sicilian farm house.

Roberta Corradin with Lettuce, copyright Jann Huizenga

I watch now as she saws the lettuce root off with a knife. She rinses the leaves in an outdoor sink, tucks them into a tea towel, and spins her arm around like a windmill.

Roberta Corradin in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

“Is that a Sicilian farmer’s technique?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “I did the same thing hanging out my window in Rome.”

How virtuous it feels to eat lettuce just five minutes out of the ground, seasoned with a just-plucked lemon and Sicilian sea salt.

Salad in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Note how Italians slice their lettuce into ribbons thin as fettuccine.

We also eat a salad of carrots, provolone cheese, basil, and almonds.

Carrot and Provolone Salad, copyright Jann Huizenga

And the traditional Sicilian cucuzza soup. Cucuzza is the baseball bat-size zucchini that’s in all the markets now.

Vegetable market in Sicily (including the long green cucuzza), copyright Jann Huizenga


Roberta Corradin is the author of Taste and Tradition: A Culinary Journey Through Northern and Central Italy. (Yup, I helped.)

Roberta Corradin in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Taste and Tradition: A Culinary Journey Through Northern and Central Italy by Roberta Corradin and Jann Huizenga










4 Ways To Cut a Bella Figura This Winter

January 12, 2011

Here’s what the Sicilians are wearing this winter.

Winter Fashion in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

1. The puffy.

The temps here in Sicily are not really low enough to warrant these. But fashion is dictated by freezing-cold Milan, and shops in Italy all sell the exact same clothes, so that’s why down here in sunny Sicily, where trees are dripping with lemons and oranges and almond blossoms are popping out, people walk around looking like they’re ready to schuss down the Matterhorn. Note that the jackets must be either black or white–absolutely no colors. Capisci?

Men's Hats in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

2. The hat.

Men wear hats in Sicily, and they’re ADORABLE, don’t you think? The coppola (on the left) is a symbol of the island, and now adventurous women in Sicily are wearing them, too.

Winter Fashion in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

3. The scarf.

My friends Roberta Corradin and Antonio exude Italian chic with a boho twist.  Look at the ease, the nonchalance of these scarves. How do they do that? I got my husband one similar to Antonio’s for Christmas, but he can’t for the life of him figure out how to tie it. The scarf either strangles him or unfurls like a long flag in the wind.

Men's Red Plaid Suit in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

4. The red plaid suit.

Men are the real peacocks in Italy. As they say here, Wowa! Would you or your guy wear that?


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