I spent a week at the famed Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily this summer. Fabrizia Lanza continues the rich heritage of her mother’s garden to table instruction in a venerable stone farmhouse amid rolling hills of wheat, ancient olive trees and rows and rows of manicured grape vines.
David Tanis, a friend and more importantly, chef at Chez Panisse for 25 years, cookbook author and a weekly NY Times columnist was teaching in Fabrizia’s kitchen, who could resist? http://cooking.nytimes.com/64537581-david-tanis/my-recipes
I love David’s Summer Pasta recipe – have prepared it several times!
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and thus a combination of its size, the classes and the July heat – I didn’t explore much of the island – a reason to return. We were driven two hours south east from Palermo to Case Vecchie, the Tasca 200-year-old family property, consisting of 1300 acres of vineyards in the verdant hills near the village of Vallelunga Pratameno, blink and you miss it.
The grainy industrial outskirts of Palermo quickly changed to golden rolling hills of wheat, as far as you could see, the neatly rolled bales dotted the hillsides. After an hour or so, the terrain gradually shifted to a deep green, just as the hills had been dotted with haystacks, now rows and rows of tended grape vines consumed the entire horizon. The Sicilians use every inch of land for rich crops or grazing, similar to their cooking customs, nothing goes to waste.
The setting is divine – cooking with fresh vegetables from Fabrizia’s garden every day with supplemental explorations to the local Fish Market in Catania or the local sheep herder for daily freshly churned cheese. Life is lived and food is prepared as it has been for centuries, traditional recipes with farm to table ingredients. Sublime.
A few scrumptious recipes from my class.
Look for Fabrizia’s cookbook – Coming Home To Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking from Case Vecchie
Serves 8 to 10
1 kilo (2.2 pounds) eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Oil, for frying
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) tomato sauce, plus more if necessary
1 bunch celery, tough outer ribs discarded, strings removed and coarsely sliced, then poached
3/4 to 1 cup (170 grams) green olives, pitted and cut into thirds
1/4 cup (40 grams) capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) wine vinegar
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved, for garnish
Chopped parsley for garnish
Heat 1 inch of oil in a large sauté pan. Fry the eggplant pieces, a batch at a time, until browned. Drain well on paper towels. Season with salt.
Sauté the onion in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until just golden. Add the celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, and salt to taste. Gently stir in the eggplant, being careful not to break it up. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and then transfer to a large bowl or platter and cool.
Pile the caponata in a pyramid and surround it with hard-boiled eggs, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve cold or at room temperature. (This is even better if made a day before.)
Peach cobbler Serves 10
For the dough:
500 g AP flour
200 g butter, at cool room temperature
200 g sugar
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
For the filling:
1 jar of Lemon Jam from Pantelleria
2 jars of White Peaches from Leonforte, chopped
80 gr of Green Pistachio
Butter, cut into pieces
Combine all dough ingredients in a mixer and mix together quickly until dough just comes together. Do not overwork. If necessary, add a drop of milk. If mixing by hand, pile the flour and make a well in the center. Add sugar, salt, yolks and egg into the well and mix in, little by little. Once it is all incorporated, make another well and add the butter in small pieces. Incorporate quickly.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough ¼ inch thick. Place in pan, then cut so sides are 1-inch high (you can also pat the dough into the pan). Cover bottom of dough with tarocco lemon marmalade and add the peaches. Sprinkle with pistachios, brown sugar and butter. Bake for about 30 minutes until pastry is deep golden. Serve it cold.