Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sis in Malfa

My sister, Mary Burrill in our little rental kitchen on Salina. She hates having her picture taken. I think we had boiled potatoes and sage butter with tomato braised involtini of Manzo...I think Sis is cleaning up the last of the olive oil and cheese with her bread.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pomp and Sustenance

There is a great book available if you are interested in our Island/Sicilian cooking heritage. This is one that follows cooking traditions through the centuries, through the various invasions and occupations of our part of the world. Mary Taylor Simeti is an American woman who married a Sicilian man and moved to Sicily. There she became fascinated with cooking traditions in the region and wrote a great book about her discoveries. Though we are not strictly Sicilian, we were influenced over the centuries by Sicilian culture and cooking traditions. We were usually over-run by the same people as Sicily! It is wonderful reading.

Pomp and Sustenance--Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food--Mary Taylor Simeti--ISBN 0-394-56850-8

is a bit difficult to find, but it is worth the search. It is usually a bit expensive having seen it anywhere from sixty to one hundred and sixty dollars depending upon who is trying to scalp you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A new book worth having.

On the advice of my friend Maria Tarranto, I have ordered a new book of interest to all who love Mediterranean food. I found a couple of copies on Amazon.com in good used condition for less that ten dollars. I did not expect much for my few dollars and was thrilled when it arrived as a large and attractive hard bound book called: "A Mediterranean Feast", by Clifford A. Wright. The ISBN is: 0-688-15305-4. This is a history of Mediterranean cooking liberally sprinkled with black and white pictures, maps and most important, Mediterranean recipes. Well worth while, escpecially for the modest price of the used book.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pani Caliatu.

I have just received the bible of Aeolian cooking and customs. I have been trying to collect the recipes from family. I still want to do that because we invariably have variations from the norm. I have seen many already, though my collection is not yet very large. I ordered this book at BarnesandNoble.com . It was less than $20.00 and arrived in perhaps 4 days. What a deal. it has lots of colored pictures and has mountains of information about language, products, traditions and food. The author is at least a part time resident of Salina, so that hits us pretty close to home.
The ISBN Number is: 88-900873-0-7. The authors are: Susan Lord and Danilo Baroncini. Don't think this excuses you for a minute from sending recipes, but do try to get a copy. I know you will enjoy it.

The funniest thing just happened. I was reading this great book and found in it a soup that was remarkably similar to one that my family has been doing for years. Basically ours just has coarsely crushed canned tomato, water, cubes of potato and broken spaghetti in it. The aeolian one has a more complicated recipe which I will not publish as I do not think the publishers would like it. I called my sister to read it to her. She was amazed that it was so close. Now here comes the funny part. You knew it would come eventually right? She said, "I have to tell you something". "Mom got that recipe from Dot Campbell in Littleton."
Dot is about the most un-Italian person you could ever imagine and was born in New Brunswick, Canada. She knew Mom when we had barely a penny to our collective name in northern Maine. Dot ran the kitchen in her family farm where she knew how to feed a crowd including hungry farm hands on very little. The perfect relationship for my mother. OK so it was not perhaps the funniest thing ever, but it was a bit strange.
A clash of cultures....

Memories of Pani Caliatu

Dear Bill, … After sending you this last e-mail about “Pani Caliatu” … my personal “memory chips” were re-energized and I recalled how my mother and Aunt Jo would prepare ‘pani caliatu’. I might mention that at the time … and I was pretty young, … we used to have bread delivered to the house from a bakery in Chelsea (the Rossi Bros., I think) … owned by a Mr. Randazzo, a good friend of our family. I knew him and his two boys and a daughter very well.
So, for the ‘pani caliatu’, … they used the Italian ‘scali’ bread (unsliced of course) which is a bit heavier in texture than the normal ‘Italian bread” that you mainly find in stores. They would cut the bread in rather thick slices and bake it in the stove oven until it was pretty dry and crispy. Then it was crumbled for use for stuffing, in soup etc as well as for dipping in an olive oil mixture … that, I particularly liked.
Anyway, I thought I would pass on my memories of ‘Pani Caliatu” … Best Regards, … Joe(Col Joe Cafarella)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Oh, My God! I am out of grating cheese!"

I think that I have mentioned this practice before, but I think it is time that I discussed this properly.

In the south of Italy, where most of our relatives are from, it is common to serve spaghetti, or any other form of pasta with Parmesan, Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano grated over it. However, in the south, it is not uncommon to be a little short of money. It was common to top the pasta with bread crumbs instead of cheese. Plain would certainly work, but since almost everyone had olive oil up to their ears and herbs grew in some form all around them, it was common to enhance them a bit.
It would greatly enhance the bread crumbs if you toast them in a dry pan, but it would be even better if they were moistened in olive oil and herbs and/or garlic.

Simply coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil. Stir in the bread crumbs to moisten. Toast them by moving the crumbs around constantly for just a minute or two. when the color darkens slightly you may add herbs of your choice(dry might be a good choice here) and salt and pepper to taste. You could also add very finely minced garlic or crushed nuts at this point. Do not allow the garlic to burn, which it will certainly do if you add it too early.
Herb combinations work well, such as chives or onion tops mixed with sage. Dried, powdered sage might not be appropriate here as it makes everything a very disconcerting color. Mincing herbs early in the day and just allowing them to dry for a couple of hours would be fine. You could add fresh herbs at the last second, but be careful not to add them early in the process, as you want the toasting to occur and the moisture from them might hinder that process.
Do not forget to try minced hot red pepper for a distinctly Calabrian taste.

Also, it is a nice dish just to toss freshly cooked pasta with olive oil, then put a large handful of the flavored crumbs in the pasta and toss just before serving, or even at the table.

Fresh bread crumbs would, of course, be best. This would be dry old bread as discussed elsewhere. An alternative would be store bought crumbs, but there is not as much texture. Even better would be Panko to hold up for a few minutes in hot pasta. I feel though, that a more authentic taste comes from dried Italian bread coarsely crushed.

How about serving this with fried Eggplant or Zucchini?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your Preferences

If you are reading these recipes, and if you have any relationship at all to the family, I want your comments.
If you say to yourself:"That isn't the way my mother did that."... Call me...Email me...come pound on my door if you want.
Let me know what your family did. I want this to be a record of OUR FAMILY.
When we are all gone to our makers, I want children, grandchildren and hangers on to say, "Lets make Aunt So and So's Spaghetti this Sunday".
I would like the memories of Sunday dinners with family to be passed on to a progressively detached future generation.
You know they will never ask for recipes they want till you are gone, and if they have them, nine times out of ten they will lose them. I don't know how many times I have asked my sister to give me the same old recipes when I have misplaced them.

Now is the time to step up to the bat and get this done so our mini-culture does not disappear. PLEASE HELP WITH THIS.

What do you wish you could ask your Grandmother right now? Someday that will be your grandchildren. Remember that the other blogs are there too. I need Bios for those as well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Part of Giovanna Cafarella Cincotta's brood

From left to right we have Jennie Vasquez, Rosina and husband Jake Cincotta, Giovanna Cafarella Cincotta, John and his wife Rafaella Cincotta.

My mission.

I would like to save some of the culture of the islands and our family. There is not much that is more valuable to a family than it's culinary history. What do we remember more than the family getting together for those big meals on holidays? I would also like to remember the average days. They somehow mean just as much, but they are often forgotten. There were wonderful cooks in the family. I struggle along, but I cannot compare with Grammie, Uncle Phil and my mother. We all love our mothers' cooking unless she was particularly bad at it. Grammie was special though, with the hoards of kids and cousins at the table all the time, visitors, cousins and siblings added to her usual brood of children. She did this with little money and lots of well disguised love and pride in her contributions. I also hear stories of Aunt Jo and all the things she taught Texas Mary when she was a young bride. I know there is a lot of good food hiding in our recipe boxes. I hope you will all contribute by sending recipes to my e-mail at: anerio@yahoo.com I will do my best to post them promptly for all the family to see.

We finally found Grammie's family home.

It is unfortunate that I went back to make an appointment with the new owners of the Cafarella/Cincotta house on Via Gelso in Malfa to visit them before we left, and they were making their own plans to leave after their holiday. I did not have my camera, so it was impossible to take a good picture of the kitchen. It seems that when the locals heard that the house had been sold, they went into the house and cleaned it out! The only reason the tiles in the kitchen were saved was that the new people had removed them to be restored and duplicated...they were my least favorite tiles anyway...dull blue and ochre yellow with bits of white(there are some pictures of similar tiles from another location somewhere, posted below)...I will try to get some pictures of the kitchen later from the owners. We left there unhappy that the house was no longer in the family, but happy that the people were so very nice and planned to restore the house to it's original condition. Signore Nardi showed me the two cisterns, one of which was bell shaped. There was a small platform around the back of the oven, under an almond tree. We were told that that was where my cousins used to sit on hot, sunny days. We tried our best to find seeds from the lemons on the ground and from the tree in the front. We drank a lot of lemonade that week. Unfortunately, every time we found a seed, which was not very often, it was immature. I do not know if this was because of the season or because the tree was old. I would not have found this house except for a fluke search for Anerio Cincotta's address that happened to be on file even after all those years. We were only convinced that it was the right house when my sister recognized the arches leading to the undercrofts on the right side of the house. This is where the looms and stores of food for trips were prepared and potential cargo were stored. The islands were exporting raisins, Malvasia and other wines, table grapes(rarely) and capers. They would also go to Lipari to pick up pumice and other products not from Salina. They would also drag the bottom on the underwater slopes of the islands for coral and take it and obsidian from Lipari to Torre Greco near Naples to be sold, made into jewelry for the family, or resale.

1. Inside the oven. note the volcanic rocks lining it(what else is there on the island?).
2. The back of the oven and the early morning sun through the almond tree.
3. The stairway up from the courtyard to the Cincotta side of the house.
4. A view of the oven.

Views of the restored oven in Malfa

The space was too narrow to get one good picture of the oven.

Tile pattern

These may not be the exact pattern of the tiles in the house, but they are very close...the colors are the same...just not my color blue I am afraid.

Via Gelso in Malfa


This is the oven under the almond tree in the Cafarella Cincotta house in Malfa.
This house stands on Via Gelso according to the town records, but in fact, it is on the corner of Via Gelso which is little more than a stepped alley on one side of the cross street and just a driveway into a field on the other. It mainly lies on Via Fratelli Mirabito, and this is where the present owners have their driveway.
The oven on Via Gelso.