Hey friends!! Hope you guys followed along while I was in Sicily!! I’ve saved every detail in my highlights (over on Instagram) but I’m also going to write up a few posts…starting with this one today on 5 Things to Eat in Palermo!
I wasn’t sure how to document everything I saw here on the blog (video is so much easier!!) but I decided to split up the trip and I’m starting with Palermo!! Many people travelling to Sicily don’t spend a lot of time in Palermo but, for me, it was a great starting point!
Palermo is the capital of the Italian island of Sicily. The Palermo Cathedral, built in the12th-century, houses royal tombs, while the huge neoclassical Teatro Massimo (where all the operas are performed) are stunning to see. Busy markets include the central Ballarò street market and the Vucciria, near the port…bustling with people and the food that bring Sicily to life!!
Like all of Sicily, there are little side streets packed with cute little shops like this puppet maker:
Although I don’t think I have to convince you to visit Sicily, I may have to guide you to find the foods you need to have while you’re there!! Now, this post is about Palermo, but many of these foods are found throughout Sicily! So let’s start here…
5 Things to Eat in Palermo
What is caponata?? Caponata is one of Sicily’s essential dishes. Pronounced ka·puh·naa·tuh, it is a vegetarian eggplant salad–more like a relish, really–made of eggplant, onions, bell pepper, celery and tomatoes with briny olives and capers. The secret to this dish is the beautiful sauce better known as agrodolce – which I’ll tell you about later!! And, although I like it warm, it should really be served cold or at room temperature!
These delicious little morsels are Italian rice balls that are stuffed, coated with breadcrumbs and usually fried … and definitely a staple of Sicilian cuisine. Most arancini are filled with either sugo (meat sauce), peas, cheese or ham. The shape of most arancini that some from Sicily are cone shaped, inspired by Mount Etna, the volcano that calls Sicily her home!
Here is my recipe…give it a try!!
- Sarde a Beccafico
Sarde a beccafico are butterflied sardines stuffed with a mix of breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisins and herbs, then rolled up and baked in between fresh bay leaves. Is there anything more heavenly-sounding than that?
The dish is named after a peculiar bird, the beccafico. It feeds on wild figs and used to be hunted and consumed by the Sicilian aristocracy. The beccafico was replaced in this dish by sardines, the tails of which resemble that of the bird.
Although there are many different recipes for this, this one from Great Italian Chefs is pretty typical to the area of Palermo (and I found these at one of the many food markets in Palermo!!)
It may seems weird to say that you will find vegetables in Sicily but people who visit all parts of Italy find it full of beautiful food – pizza, pasta, pastries – but many restaurants may or may not serve vegetable-heavy dishes (I’ve even noticed this in my travels). However, in Sicily, vegetables are plentiful! And many have so many flavour combinations that are connected to middle eastern cuisine and the depth of flavour is unique to this part of Italy!
- Pistachio Gelato
Although gelato literally means “ice cream” in Italian, there are a few key differences between the two. Gelato and ice cream are both made from dairy and sugar, but gelato uses more milk and less cream. During production, gelato also incorporates less air than ice cream and gets churned at a slower rate. As a result, gelato typically has a denser, silkier texture than ice cream.
Gelato is also commonly served at a slightly warmer temperature, giving it a more intense flavour. And, of course, if you’re in Palermo, you need to have pistachio gelato!! The Bronte pistachio (Bronte being a village that is close to the base of Mount Etna) is called the ‘green gold’ of Sicily and you have to try one when you’re there!!
Agrodolce is an Italian sauce with a sticky consistency. Its name is Italian for “sour” (agro) and “sweet” (dolce). A classic agrodolce recipe contains reduced honey or sugar, vinegar and a mixture of dried fruits, such as golden raisins, red onion, or currants The vinegar you use to make agrodolce impacts the flavor of the sauce. In Sicily, red wine vinegar is the most classic vinegar for agrodolce, although white wine vinegar works as well. Balsamic vinegar adds more sweetness, while cider vinegar adds fruitier notes. I’ve made a simple recipe for it below but you can change it up to suit your tastes!
So, there you have it….5 Things (plus one secret sauce) to Eat in Palermo! There will be other post with the other delicacies found in Sicily to come in the coming weeks but, for now, let this whet your appetite!
Italian Agrodolce Sauce
- 2 chiles thinly sliced (optional)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons raisins chopped
- Meanwhile, bring chiles, vinegars, honey and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer until syrupy, about 8–10 minutes (be careful to watch over this carefully as the honey can cause it to burn easily.
- Drizzle over your favourite roasted vegetables or grilled meats. It is also a part of many Italian dishes like caponata!