From Agrigento to Trapani, Sicily '50 authentic and easy-to-follow recipes from the Silver Spoon Kitchen' (Phaidon Press, April 2013) takes us on a journey across the island and introduces us to its rich history, sights and cuisine.
Each of the 9 chapters is centered around a different area, in order of appearance, Trapani, Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Messina, Enna, Catania, Ragusa, Siracusa.
To start, i chose a dessert recipe from Palermo chapter.
Cassata Siciliana Sicilian Cassata
Preparation time: 1 hour + 24 hours chilling
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Note: The Arabs brought this dessert to sicily and the name ‘cassata’ is said to come from the Arabic quas’at, meaning bowl. The dessert was adapted in the sixteenth century by nuns, who were excellent pastry cooks, from the many convents on the island.
- 1 10 ½ inch sponge cake
For the filling
- - ½ cup candied fruit, chopped
- 2 tablespoons white rum
- 4 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
For the pistachio paste
- ½ cup shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped
- 1 ¼ cups shelled almonds, finely chopped
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons white rum
For the rum syrup
- ¼ cup superfine sugar
- ¼ cup white rum
For the decoration
- 1 tablespoons apricot jam or preserves
- 1 lb fondant icing or 1 cup ricotta cheese creamed with 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- candied fruit, to taste
First, make the filling. Put the candied fruit into a bowl, add the rum and let soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the ricotta with the sugar in a bowl until smooth and even. Drain the candied fruit and stir into the ricotta mixture with the chocolate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 12 hours.
Make the pistachio paste. Put the pistachios, almonds, sugar and rum into a blender and process to a paste.
Make the rum syrup. Pour the 1 cup water into a shallow pan, add the sugar and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil, without stirring, for a few minutes, then remove from the heat. Let cool slightly, then stir in the rum.
Rinse out a 10 ½ inch cake pan with water and line with plastic wrap. Cut the sponge cake into slices and put half the slices side by side on the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Drizzle with half the rum syrup. Cover with the ricotta filling and top with half the remaining sponge cake slices. Drizzle with the remaining syrup. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 12 hours.
Remove the cassata from the fridge, discard the plastic wrap and turn out onto a serving plate. Heat the apricot jam and 1 tablespoon water, then brush is over the cassata. Either cover with the fondant prepared according to the package instructions or with the sweetened ricotta. Roll out the pistachio paste on a surface lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar and stamp out diamond shapes with a cookie cutter. Brush them lightly with water and stick them around the outside of the dessert. Decorate the cassata with the candied fruit and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
(* Recipe from Sicily -April 2013, $39.95- by Phaidon Press, reproduced with permission, all rights reserved)