Sicilian Watermelon Gelo (Pudding)

July 7, 2011

Watermelons are piled high wherever you look. These heavy-as-boulder ones come from nearby Pachino, a town famous for its ruby-red tomatoes.

Watermelon truck in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Watermelon used to bore me, conjuring up corporate picnics, American flags, and pig-out contests.

But I like it the Sicilian way–as gelo. It’s simple and fast.


1. Roughly cut up a 3-pound watermelon (seedless, unless you want to pick out seeds one by one as I did) and discard the rind. Puree the chunks until liquified. (I have no blender–I’m trying to live a minimalist life–so I smooshed the chunks with my fists.)

Slice of Sicilian Watermelon, copyright Jann Huizenga

2. Whisk 2/3 cups sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch in a non-reactive pan. Whisk in the pureed watermelon. (OPTIONAL: Add jasmine flowers.) Bring the mix to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will take only a few minutes to thicken and bubble.

Making Sicilian Watermelon Gelo, copyright Jann Huizenga

3. Remove from the heat and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla. With a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. You can leave it in the big bowl, or spoon it out into individual serving bowls, as I did. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.

Making Sicilian Watermelon Gelo, copyright Jann Huizenga

4. To serve, garnish with some or all of the following: grated dark chocolate, ground cinnamon, chopped pistachios, jasmine flowers. Serve with whipped cream if you like the calories.

Sicilian Watermelon Gelo (Pudding), copyright Jann Huizenga

This recipe was adapted from Saveur. Hope you enjoy it!


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Baked Fish with Roasted Puttanesca Sauce

February 8, 2010

Here’s an easy Sicily-inspired recipe for you, courtesy of Karen Covey, a Boston-based food blogger, recipe developer, and creator of Gourmet Recipes for One,  a website featuring simple, healthy, luscious recipes focusing on cooking for 1.

Photo of Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Karen Covey

Why did you start your website?

Karen: Out of necessity. I was going through a divorce and I’d stopped cooking, something that I’ve loved to do since I was a child. The idea of cooking for myself didn’t seem as appealing as cooking for someone else, and paired with the emotional place I was in, I simply stopped cooking altogether. One day I woke up and realized I needed to start again, and so the idea for the website was born. It was really my way of creating recipes for myself and documenting them. I hope to  publish a cookbook later this year.

You took a trip to Sicily recently. What impressed you the most about Sicilian food?

Karen: I went to Sicily last fall and absolutely fell in love with it. I was staying in a private villa surrounded by lemon and olive trees and it was simply magical. I loved experiencing the food culture: going to the markets every day to see what was fresh and trying all the local ingredients like pistachios, olive oil (my favorite), gelato and granita and capone (the local white fish I based this recipe on). Everything was so fresh and delicious.

Karen Covey's Baked Fish with Roasted Puttanesca Sauce, copyright Jann Huizenga

The Recipe (1 serving)

Roasted Puttanesca Sauce

5 cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small garlic clove, finely minced

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped capers, drained

5 pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley


Cooking spray, for greasing

6 ounces fresh white fish (cod, scrod or haddock)

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place tomatoes and red onion on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally until vegetables are softened. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

3. Spray baking pan with cooking spray and add fish. Season fish with salt and pepper and bake for 10-12 minutes, until fish is firm and cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, chop tomatoes into smaller pieces and transfer tomatoes and red onion to a medium bowl. Add garlic, vinegar, capers, olives and parsley and toss together to combine.

5. Transfer fish to a serving plate and top with sauce. Serve warm.


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Baked Sausage, Sicilian-Style

Oct 27, 2010

Here’s a good chilly-weather recipe. It takes only minutes to prepare (plus an hour in the oven). Light a crackling fire, pour a tumbler of wine, and cozy up.

The recipe comes from Giovanna Bellia La Marca’s Sicilian Feasts, chock-full of simple home-style recipes. This one may remind you of something from Northern Italy or Bavaria, but I can vouch that baked sausage and potatoes is a very typical dish in southeast Sicily.

Sicilian Feasts by Giovanna Bellia La Marca

Ingredients (for 6-8)

2 pounds Italian hot or sweet sausage, or a combination

6 baking potatoes cut in wedges (I used fingerlings instead)

2 bell peppers (red or yellow) cut in wedges

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

sprinkle of dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Separate the sausage links. Place the sausages, potatoes, and peppers in a large baking pan. Add the olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Bake for an hour, stirring the contents of the pan twice during baking to be sure nothing sticks to the pan. Serve with a good crusty bread.

Sicilian baked sausage, copyright Jann Huizenga

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Tonno con Cipolle: Lunch for One

July 8, 2010

Onions, copyright Jann HuizengaI’m trying to learn the Sicilian art of slow living, so my Sicilian self often sits down for a leisurely hot lunch at midday. Today’s was exceptional. Made by moi for moi.

But, really, all the credit goes to Giovanna Giglio, a cooking teacher in Ragusa.

Giovanna in her garden

My niece and I took classes with her in June; this is just one of her wonderful recipes. Super easy! Prep and cooking time less than 10 minutes. If you’re interested in lessons with Giovanna, contact me. She’s fun and inexpensive. Though she says she’s “just a housewife who cooks like all other Ragusan housewives,” she’ll be featured in Saveur magazine next spring baking her Easter breads.


Ingredients (serves 4)

*fresh tuna fillets for 4 (about a 1/2-inch thick)

*olive oil

*2-4 large onions

*10-15 cherry tomatoes


*fresh oregano

*salt and pepper

1. Coat the tuna fillets lightly with flour. This will allow the fish to cook quickly and will seal in the juices. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook the tuna for a minute or two on each side until golden. Remove from pan.

2. Cut the onions in half and then cut them thinly into moon-shaped pieces (they’re pretty this way but can also be sliced any which way). Add them to the oil and juices already in the pan (add a bit more oil if needed). Fry until slightly wilted and golden.

3. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan until they soften (you can mush them with a fork).

4. Add capers to taste. If you’re using salt-preserved capers, be sure to rinse them before adding. (I used to be caper-phobic, but now that I know to rinse these babies, I’m quite smitten.)

Rinse the capers!

5. Put the tuna back into the frying pan, add the fresh oregano, salt and pepper and let everything simmer for a few minutes so that the tuna is infused with the flavor of the other ingredients.

6. Remove everything to a serving platter. The dish is good served hot, but even better served at room temperature. (You can let the tuna sit out for a couple hours. Refrigerate if you’re going to serve it the next day.)


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Seafood alla Siciliana

I love seafood but have always been a fraidy-cat about cooking it myself. I can throw a fillet under the broiler or on the grill and make Ruth Reichl’s amazing shrimp curry, but that’s about it.

So when Toni Lydecker sent me a copy of her gorgeous new book, Seafood alla Siciliana (Lake Isle Press, 2009) I was excited to expand my repertoire.

Seafood alla Siciliana by Toni Lydecker

Toni’s recipes are super easy to follow and most are short. Exactly what I need to overcome my fish-cooking phobia.

Before sharing the first recipe I tried from Seafood alla Siciliana (a future blog post will feature another), I have some good news:

You can win this cookbook! It’s somewhat smaller than coffee-table size, with thick, glossy paper, very pretty photos, and stories about Sicily’s cuisine. All you have to do is leave a comment on any of my blog posts between now and May 9, and I’ll enter your name for a random drawing on May 10. (You can enter one comment a day, max.) The only hitch is that you must provide a US or Canadian address for the shipping, so my apologies to readers on other continents.

Mahimahi Stewed with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers from Seafood alla Siciliana by Toni Lydecker

(4 servings; prep 10 minutes; cook 20 minutes)

*4  fillets (about 1.5 pounds) cut from medium-firm fish such as mahimahi, bonito, grouper, sea bream, sea bass, cod, or snapper

*sea salt or kosher salt

*1 small onion, chopped

*1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

*1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

*1/3 cup Mediterranean olives (optional)

*leaves from 1 or 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped

*1 heaping tablespoon salt-preserved capers, soaked in water for several minutes and drained

*hot red pepper flakes


Sprinkle the fish fillets lightly with salt.

Combine the onion, olive oil, and 1/4 cup water in a skillet large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer briskly but not furiously until the onion is tender. Add the tomatoes, olives (if using), parsley, capers, red pepper flakes to taste, and another 1/4 cup water.

My skillet before the final step of adding the fish fillets

Once the cooking liquid returns to a simmer, lay the fillets on top, skin side down. Cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. At this point the tomatoes will have released their juices and there should be a small ladleful of brothy sauce for each serving; if not, remove the fish to a platter, add a little more water and heat briefly. Taste and stir in a bit more salt and pepper flakes if needed.

Ladle the sauce into shallow soup bowls; place a fish fillet in each one.

Recipe from Seafood alla Siciliana

My finished product

“Wow,” commented my husband. “This looks and tastes like a restaurant dish!” It brought back a bouillabaisse we had last year in Naples.

Really easy. Really lovely. I served it with a crusty baguette and wished only that I’d added a bit more water at the end, as per Toni’s instructions.

Image from Seafood alla Siciliana by Toni Lydecker, photo by Tina Rupp

Image from Seafood alla Siciliana by Toni Lydecker, photo by Tina Rupp

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