Thursday, 6 November 2008

Antipasto di Siciliano - Cook the Books

Rachel at The Crispy Cook, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen and Jo at Food Junkie not Junk Food have joined forces to present a brilliant new food blogging event - Cook the Books. It's an online bookclub where - in addition to the normal bookclub features of talking about the book and drinking wine (although that might just be me...) we cook something inspired by our reading.

The first book off the ranks is La Cucina by Lily Prior. Murder, magic realism, quite a lot of sex and fantastic food in a Sicilian setting. A lot of the dishes that Rosa makes are rather more involved than was feasible for me. And the gorgeous, deeply flavoured sun-dried tomato paste that she and L'Inglese concoct so painstakingly requires rather more sunshine than you get in Hertfordshire in November.

I was particularly moved by the passage where Rosa transforms her grief over Bartolomeo into a houseful of food. She recounts all the different preserves and dishes which inspired me to have a go at preserving mushrooms - fungi sott'olio. I mostly followed this recipe but I used cultivated chestnut mushrooms and a handful of dried wild mushrooms instead of fresh wild mushrooms (which are a bit out of my price range). They only got a week to stand before I served them as part of a La Cucina-inspired Sicilian antipasto.

Some salami (store-bought, Calabrian with a lovely strong fennel aroma); some caponata, seasoned with cinnamon, sugar, white wine vinegar and capers; a bottle of fiano, which you would think would be overwhelmed by the vinegary flavours of the other dishes but stands up to it well, and some fried cacciocavallo cheese on rustic bread. The cheese, fried with garlic and oregano and sprinkled with a little white wine vinegar before scooping onto the bread, was delicious.
As a dessert, I made some pinenut and chocolate macaroons, taking some of the characteristic flavours of Sicilian food and turning them into a delicious, chewy biscuit. I started from this recipe but used 20g of chopped 70% chocolate instead of the cocoa, and 100g of demerera sugar instead of the caster sugar, and 1 whole egg.

Note well - do NOT attempt to get them off the baking sheet until they are completely cooled or you will end up with the crumbled mess on the left. Still - it was useful as a cook's perk. I intended to serve these with a bottle of aleatico - red Italian dessert wine - but they were so good with a cup of tea that we didn't get that far.

16 comments:

kat said...

Sounds like a really fun book club!

ARLENE said...

Oooooooh, I'm drooling. As if the melted cacciocavallo weren't enough, you have an antipasto including caponata, one of my favorites. I'm tracking down the cheese tomorrow. I can feel it, salty and melted, on my tongue with the sharp bite of the garlic.

Esi said...

I love this idea! Combines a book club with a supper club.

Rachel said...

Wow, you really got inspired and pulled out all the stops with this antipasto. The pickled 'shrooms sound divine. And if I don't get some melty caciocavallo soon I think I might have to take a vacation day to hunt it down. Great Cook the Books post!

HH said...

Wow! Wonderful wonderful! What lovely food and what a marvelous idea, I love being inspired by what I am reading and having it cross over into real life! That is great!

Natashya said...

I can smell that from here. What a wonderful array of Italian flavours. Just perfect.

Debinhawaii said...

PERFECT! What a great post for Cook The Books! You, Rachel and Natashya are making me look bad! I love antipasto and mushrooms and that cheese sounds incredible!

Sam said...

Everything looks so delicious!

I'm going to try those macaroons I adore pine nuts but have never tried making anything sweet with them.

Foodycat said...

Kat - it is! I get to read something new AND cook AND eat, what could be better!

Arlene - the caciocavallo is just as good as the book said.

Esi - exactly! I am so pleased the ladies came up with this idea.

Rachel - if you like pickles you will love the shrooms. They taste almost like marinated artichoke hearts.

HH - thank you!

Natashya - isn't Italian food wonderful?

Deb - You have plenty of time to come up with something amazing!

Sam - the macaroons are really good. It's nice having something a bit different as a sweet.

Dee said...

What a delicious food review! I have the book and am thinking about cooking something up too. It's such a good idea for an event. Unfortunately, inspiration is scarce over at my kithchen these days, so we'll see how it goes.

Johanna said...

I don't know why I hadn't seen this earlier. i am really sorry! Your entry is fantastic! I loved that passage too, how she transforms the grief into food.

Foodycat said...

Dee - I just thought it was a great excuse to eat Italian food!

Joanna - thank you! I love her pickling and preserving, and the fact that it kept her family fed for years, even when she wasn't there any more.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

you did well to have a dessert after that delicious array of antipasto!

Debinhawaii said...

Congratulations! Check out the Cook The Books site--you won! Lily Prior picked your Antipasto. Rachel will be contacting you to get details to send you a cookbook!

puppymomma said...

Congratulations on being the first winner in the Cook the Books Club!

I wish I would have seen it sooner!

Meryl

Foodycat said...

Med Kiwi - I wouldn't have wanted anything more than a biscuit!

Deb - thanks! I am very surprised but delighted.

Thanks Meryl! You've had a few things on your mind lately. I hope you are back in your home!

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