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isicilian

http://www.isicilian.boonrepublic.com

about me:

Marianna Pisciotto was born in Agrigento, Sicily in 1959. She now lives in Miami and is married. She has one child and 3 grandchildren. She’s a committed cook. Even though she experiments many different cultural cuisines. Her style is mainly Mediterranean.

EXPERIENCE:

She has traveled extensively both in the US and abroad, granting her the experience of different culinary cultures. She is the creator of many original recipes, is a depository of culinary information and has been cooking since the age of 10.

EDUCATION:

Her family of cooks have shared, created and passed on recipes to one another. She has studied an infinite amount of culinary works and the characteristics of the more seasoned cooks professional or amateur. She persists in the learning process as she continues to discover foods.

From Marianna Pisciotto:

I Sicilian feautures dishes and the Mediterranean flavor, accompanied with personal experiences and history.

My motto is “If others eat it, you can too.” If you were born in another country, rest assured your eating habits would be different, so always keep an open mind to new dishes. It is surprising how you’ll find more satisfaction rather that disappointment.

favorite foods:

Anything and everything prepared well.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Fresh Tomato Sauce

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Tomato Sauce always reminds me of lazy sunny Sundays in Sicily. In Sicily, Sunday was traditionally, Pasta with Tomato Sauce day. On Sunday, no matter who’s house you went to, Pasta with Sauce was served. Sometime the sauce would have meat in it, or eggplant, or broccoli rape, sometimes just plain sunny tomatoes, either chopped, creamed, pureed or from a paste. But a good sauce always starts with good tomatoes, wether canned or fresh. I really believe that fresh tomatoes give a superior taste, but in the absence of fresh ones a good can of Italian San Marzano Tomatoes are quite suitable. During the school year the daily routines were identical from year to year. In those days the school week consisted of 6 days. Sunday was our only lazy day. In general the whole family stayed in bed later than normal, and families spent time together on that day, with very little to do outside the home. I remember some Sundays waking up to the aroma of tomato sauce. It would swirl in a stream, from the kitchen down the corridor and then make a right into my room and find my nose under the covers and gently fill my lungs with the sweet scent of tomatoes. It’s the most pleasant way to wake up. The anticipation of eating pasta would make me walk to the kitchen half asleep and give my mom a big good morning kiss, then I’d ask where everyone else was and I’d go visit my dad and my brothers in their room. Sometimes I’d get in bed with my brothers and we’d play. My brother Pippo would tuck the sheets under his body weight and completely wrap himself in a fort of sheet, and I’d have to find an unprotected area to get through and touch him in order to win and then it would be my turn. Pippo was ten years older than I and he always won, leaving no uncovered areas. I on the other hand always left a vulnerable spot for him to catch me under the sheets. Even though I knew I was weaker than him, I always cherished that game, and I could play until my mom would call that it was time to get ready for lunch. When we looked presentable for the table, we would sit at our assigned seats at the table and my mouth would water with anticipation. I would close my eyes and take in deep breaths of pleasure. The sweet smell of tomatoes and pungent essence of the basil had filled the whole house and made memories that to this day it’s hard to forget. This was a time to be together and talk about what we’d been up to during the week. Wine was on the table, fresh Parmiggiano that we would grate over the dish and always a crusty bread freshly baked by our neighborhood baker. The bread I, for years tried to reproduce and finally have brought to my table after many trials and errors. In those days meals seemed to be long lasting, when families had so much to talk about. It wasn’t just an act of stuffing food in our mouths but a time of assimilation, of concession, of confession, understanding and appreciation. Believe it or not, after lunch we would all be expected to take an afternoon nap as if a long night sleep had not been enough. I had a hard time with that, knowing that after the nap we would go for a stroll somewhere, and sleeping in the afternoon when I felt restless was too much of an effort to try and refrain my energy. I would instead play around the house away from the bedrooms so as not to disturb my parents during their nap. By 5-6 PM we would all be ready for an outing somewhere where people took a stroll, on the main strip of Agrigento, or at the beach in San Leone or Porto Empedocle, or wherever my dad’s car drove us. We’d eat a snack at a local bar* or an ice cream, or just have a Coca Cola, my favorite drink then, which I was allowed to have only on occasions like this. By sundown we’d go home in time for dinner and have a cold dinner of salads, cheeses, smoked fish, olives and whatever else didn’t need any cooking. By the end of dinner it was late and I had had a long day, I was ready to go to bed. Kissed everyone goodnight and looked forward to the following Sunday Me to the left, my brother Pippo next to me, Silvestro on top, Mom on the right The recipe below is my favorite way of making tomato sauce. I like the seeds left in and also the skin. If you want to remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half and squeeze the seeds out, then use the pulp. If you want the skin off, plop the whole tomato in boiling water for 10 seconds, remove from the water and peel the skin off effortlessly. If you like it it the way I do, follow the steps below without doing any of these steps above.

Tailor Made Spaghetti

Tailor Made Spaghetti

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In 1958, at the age of 19, my zio Giuseppe Manto (Uncle Joe) parted with Sicily, I recall always hearing about zio Giuseppe, even though I had never met him. When he left I had not been conceived yet, but I heard my parents talk about him as if he had been their child. He had come to live with my parents and my two brothers, when his parents went back to America. During that time my parents had become very fond of him, and loved him as one of their own. He left memories behind that I would be able to identify, once I was able to understand. By 19 years of age he was already a skilled tailor. He had chosen a skill over schooling as it was common at that time. When I did not know him yet, I remember my father’s handsome suits and my brothers classic coats, and my mom’s mid-century style dresses that had been tailor made by him, he had left a mark, a signature in our closets. Uncle Joe left Ribera, his hometown, for a better life abroad and to join his parents who had grown up in the USA, but gone back to Sicily for a period of timez. His parents eventually returned to America where after a few years, they welcomed Joe there, for his first time. Joe worked as a skilled tailor, from job to job for a few years, got his drivers license, saved his money, met Mary and married her. They came to spend their honeymoon in Sicily. A letter arrived notifying my family that they would arrive soon by boat. I remember the excitement and expectation before their arrival. I could not wait to meet them, and once I did, I fell in love with them immediately. Unfortunately, their stay was short or so it seemed to me, and I would not see them again, for several more years. During his years in America, uncle Joe worked hard for his family, he moved to his first nice house, where I came to stay when I came to the US. Than later he moved to a nicer house and finally his little English Manor mansion. His modest tailor business had been successful. This year after a cruise, uncle Joe and aunt Mary came to stay with us as they have done in the past. I always treasure that time. We share stories of the old world, details of lives past, tell jokes and laugh. We take walks, visit places, go shopping, We prepare and eat simple mediterranean foods, pastas, vegetables, nuts and lots of fruits. We relax on the dock and take naps. While aunt Mary sits under the relaxing sun my uncle always takes time to putter around my garden. On one of his visits he lovingly and carefully pruned my fig tree that was not producing any fruit, and soon after, sweet delicious figs began to appear. On this occasion moving a papaya tree became the object of his attention, What a site it was to see Uncle Joe in his white linen vacation pants, and not a drop of dirt on them. He always likes to do things skillfully. I watched him work while he dug a perfectly measured size hole and slipped the roots of the papaya plant in it effortlessly. Neither my husband nor I could have done nearly as good a job if we had used a measuring tape. He made me realized why he has been so successful with his business, his work, his marriage and family, He’s measured his steps just right. He planned and walked a straight line. He makes things uncomplicated. He chose to marry a sensible woman, who always has a smile on her face, and has been supportive of his decisions for almost 50 years. He likes things right and simple. A perfectionist who takes delight and pride in whatever he does, he is kind to people, generous, never selfish, always ready to lend a hand. These are the same qualities as to why his suits and services are sought after. I was able to examine two of his suits tailor made by hand, one stitch at a time, from seams to buttonholes, no machines. With perfection and elegance the suit hangs on the body impeccably. He charges thousands of dollars for these beautiful suits and they are well worth it. Included in that price is getting advise from uncle Joe who with the most genuine Italian accent, tells his costumers “ Yoo godda tink of da famly, Yoo canty spend, alle tis mony on yoo, if yoo not taka care of famly furst.” I love sitting at the table with them and listening to these stories. These stories are what inspired my soul to create the new pasta dish below, that my aunt and uncle came to love. Simple, uncomplicated, easy to make. We savored this dish on a bright, sunny early afternoon, for lunch. I made a fresh baguette which in Sicilian we call “filuni di pani” served it with fresh thinly sliced Dubliner Cheese. YUM! Perfect before drinking our expresso and then taking our traditional afternoon nap. This is my advise to you “ yoo godda tink of da family furst, feed dem da goode stuf” This dish is dedicated to my uncle Joe and aunt Mary. Long live the Italian accent!

Chicken Panino

Chicken Panino

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This chicken panino is a delicious Sicilian twist on a classic sandwich. Basil, green onion and Parmigiano Reggiano complement the tomato sauce tremendously to create one amazing chicken sandwich!

Sicilian Stuffed Butternut Squash

Sicilian Stuffed Butternut Squash

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This story below was taken from a blog I found on the web, while looking for information on squash. Of course the site had nothing to do with the vegetable except that it is used in the contest of the proverb. “Falla comu vó é sempri cucuzza.” Literal translation “Make it any which way, it is always squash”. The moral of this proverb “no matter how you disguise something, serve it, improve it, or change it, it still has the same composition, smell and flavor.” Which can be applied to food or anything else, that sometimes cannot be made or changed for the better. The beauty of proverbs is that they say so much with the use of few words, unlike my explanation. The link below is where I found this story of wisdom. You can visit there for more stories like the one below. Dominic Orlando is the author of the blog http://cucuzza.livejournal.com/ LU TURISTA “MERICANU E LU PISCATURI SICILIANU The Sicilian Fisherman and the American tourist A boat docked in a small Sicilian village. An American tourist complimented a Sicilian fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Pocu tempu,” answered the Sicilian. “Not very long.” “But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The Sicilian explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” “À la mattina sta curcatu tardu, poi mi ni va piscari antichia, iuco cun li figghi mii, e in pomoriggiu fazzu ‘na siesta cun la mugghieri. À la sira, vaiu in villaggiu pir virirri i mii amici, bivemu ‘na pocu bicchieri di vinu, sunamu la chitarra, e cantamu ‘na pocu canzuni. Aiu ‘na vita bona.” the Sicilian responds, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife in the afternoon. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.” The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.” “E doppu chistu?” asked the Sicilian, “And after that?” “With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Palermo, Rome, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.” “E quantu tempu ci bisogna pir fari tuttu chistu?” asked the Sicilian, “How long would that take to do all that?” “Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American. “Vinti cinc’anni! E doppu?” “Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!” “Miliuni? Davveru? E doppu chistu?” asked the Sicilian, “Millions? Really? And after that?” “After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.” The Sicilian fisherman laughed and walked away carrying his fish home. The moral of the story: Sali metticini in ‘na visazza, conzala come vuoi e sempri cucuzza. (see my explanation of proverb, above) In honor of the proverb here’s my stuffed cucuzza recipe. Of course this recipe can be varied according to squash available in your area and time of the year, you can even use Zucchini, Acorn squash, Cucurbita, Cream of the crop, Heart of gold, even large pumpkins that you can serve as a family size tureen in the middle of the table with the stuffing inside. Just cut the top off and use as a cover to the tureen, as in the picture below.

Sicilian Panelle

Sicilian Panelle

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Panelle stands are as popular in Sicily as, hot dog stands, in the US. You can quickly grab a Panini and Panelle as you are walking down the street and hunger pain attacks. But sometimes you will grab a sandwich with panelle just because that’s what you crave. Panelle are an acquired taste, just like japanese sushi is an acquired taste or the middle eastern falafel . If you like chick peas and falafel and if you are a vegetarian, you will surely like these. Like many other dishes, this was a dish, my husband developed a taste for. He did not so much like it on a bun, but found it very tasty with a salad, for example. I mentioned in one of my past posts that one of my goals in life has been to introduce my husband to the pleasures of food. When I met him he had just about 5 to 10 dishes that were tried and successful with him, he repeated the same ones over and over again, without giving any thought to how many more wonderful creations existed, in the world he had not yet explored. I, on the other hand had been exposed to different cultures and culinary experiences and so it was unlikely that I would take a step back to limiting my palate to just a few dishes, and since I was the one controlling the kitchen I made it my goal to help my husband like foods, that before marriage, he would never have tried. I soon realized that, not every ingredient I used, would make my husband jump for joy. It was not because he had never tried it before, but also because he had not developed a taste for it. So I learned to make the particular ingredient in different ways with different presentations, until my husband found the one that he truly enjoyed. Today, after 30 years of marriage we can both agree that I have succeeded in helping him have an open mind about new dishes. It has opened up a great new world of food that he enjoys so much. Food is really one of the best pleasures in life. It would be terrible to deny ourselves the variety it offers! Chick pea flour can be found at Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, some local supermarkets and Health Food stores.

Barbecueing Meat the Sicilian Way

Barbecueing Meat the Sicilian Way

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Here is an excellent lamb dish grilled the sicilian way. For those concerned about the health hazards of charcoal-grilling producing carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), no need to worry. Use leaner meats that drip less fat. Fat, which burns, is the reason for the infusion of smoke that coat your meat. Also turning meat frequently results in fewer HCAs (heterocyclic amines) which is another carcinogen, caused by the charring. Wether you use propane or charcoals, trimming fat, using leaner meats, turning your food frequently on your grill and marinating food in lemon (a Sicilian favorite) will reduce both carcinogens by 90%.

Gianduja Gelato

Gianduja Gelato

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Gelato a lighter less fat content than ice cream. Ultimate chocolate indulgence. Great for Diabetics

Fried Zucchini

Fried Zucchini

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Sicilians eat very little dark meat. Sicily is an arid island, we don’t have much in the way of pastures. Cows are raised primarily for lactation, and production of cheese. Most meat is imported, except for chicken, goat, rabbit and some other wild game. Fish is plenty and so are vegetables. When vegetables are used so extensively, you tend to learn many ways of making it and many more ways to make it look appetizing.

Tomato Vegetable Soup

Tomato Vegetable Soup

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For a 5 year old a mystery is magic! That is how it was for me that beautiful sunny morning when my parents woke me from my sleep and announced that something was waiting for me and all I had to do was to find what was hidden somewhere in the house, What could it be? My little feet ran frantically to every room but where was it? It probably took me 1 minute to make my fast round around the house, but it seemed I had been searching for hours. “Where is it?” I screamed. “Please tell me where? Have you seen it?” I ask my mom and dad. They suggest I might open some doors, perhaps closet doors. So I start my expedition in my room, but it’s not there, then my mom’s room and it’s not there, then every other room until I finally reach my brother’s room and when I open the closet door, there it is…a beautiful bright red bicycle. My first two wheeler with training wheels and red and white tassels hanging from the handles. A shiny silver bell, “ring, ring” as I press it over and over again and smile up at my parents. Similar bike from the 60's I finally received what I have been asking for months. I have seen other kids riding on their bikes and I knew I could love that bicycle and ride it proudly up and down my neighborhood. I begged my parents practically everyday for it, and today was the day my eyes would delight at the sight of that dreamy shiny red bike, my dreamy, shiny red bike. Today was going to be a great day. I could hardly wait to take it out for my first ride. I thanked them once, twice, three times and over again. “Please take me out for a ride, so I can try it”, I bellowed impatiently. I don’t remember how long it took my dad to get ready for the outing. I do remember however, standing behind the bathroom door, all dressed up and ready to go, while my dad was getting ready himself. Even though he had told me already not to keep knocking, otherwise it might take him longer, I routinely, continued to ask if he was ready, until he got out of the bathroom, then I stood in front of him until he got dressed and we were ready to go. He carried my bicycle down 4 flights of stairs. Just outside the doors we walked over to his warehouse where he stored his business merchandise and his tools and there he adjusted the training wheels, so that they would not balance the weight evenly, so as to help me to balance myself on the bike. We lived on a hill, not a steep hill, nevertheless it was a hill. On the way up the hill, with my dad walking behind me, I did so well. I rang the bell on the bike, to catch the attention of some passerby children. I said hello to our neighbors who congratulated me on my beautiful new red bike. Wwe stopped to get ice cream at the grocer’s up the hill, approximately a 10th of a mile from home, then when I finished the ice cream, we began our descend down the hill towards home. Going down the hill was a little more unsteady on my training wheels and I was wobbling to and fro and my dad was pulling me back, trying to slow down the descend, he didn’t want to lose his grip and suggested we’d walk back holding the bicycle next to me. I was not an easy to control child, so I decided to make it a go for myself. Before my dad could reach and pull the bike back by the seat, he’s screaming “stop, stop” but I was already on my most daredevil descend of the hill and until it lasted I got the best fearless ride of my life, at that time. Until a Wolkswagen Beetle parked peacefully on the side of the street gained close proximity to my bike and I panicked, closed my eyes and waited for the impact, while I hear my dad screaming behind me “ Oh, Diu miu!”, plainly translated “Oh, my God!” When I opened my eyes, my dad was picking me up from the road, he’s yelling and looking me over for bruises and cuts and asking me if I’m okay. Of course I was to young to know that if I had had an injury my dad would not have spanked me, so I said I was fine, hence I got a spanking and a scolding, right there in public, where everyone could see. Those were the times that spanking was not abusive, but disciplinary. I knew I deserved it for disobeying my dad, but now I could feel the pain of the impact with the car and more than that the impact of my dad’s hands, and I cried. When I looked over to my bike, it was pretty banged up and I was sad. My new bike was a mess, I cried unconsolably. My dad dusted the dirt off of me with his hands, took my hand, picked up the bike and parked it in his warehouse. Then we walked hand in hand back up the 4 flights of stairs, where my mom lovingly sat me down and consoled me while curing my bruises and cuts, after the alarm I caused her and I cried on her shoulders, being sorry about what had just transpired. She kissed me and kissed my bruises and asked me to keep her company in the kitchen while she prepared my comfort soup, red like my bike, with lots of colorful vegetables and I asked her “ Do you think dad will fix the bike for me?” I knew then I would never see the bike again, that before I would visit my dad’s warehouse, the bike would make it’s way to the bike cemetery. The magic of the day had turned into the all too familiar reality, that my parents would never let me ride a bike again for a very long time.

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    1/12/11

    Theresa111 wrote:

    Hello and Happy New Year Marianna!

    7/23/10

    isicilian wrote:

    You mean Miami or Agrigento?

    7/22/10

    Theresa111 wrote:

    Hello Marianna. When I save some travel money I want to visit your place.

    6/09/10

    mhelhanee wrote:

    Hi! Yeah I read your comment.Didnt know your from HHM family too. Great to know now. Thanks for taking time reading my blog. Hope to keep in touch to you more often...

    5/31/10

    Theresa111 wrote:

    Oh my ... sorry for the obvious typos and misspellings. Warm stories is what I meant to type. and FriedEggs.com Ha!

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