Tuesday, December 10, 2019

THE PA MELTING POT - Part 9-1 - SE Europe - Italy - Sicily - Videos too

(Recipes and other links about Sicily below Generic Food Photos)

The PA Melting Pot

A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pennsylvania – 
Part 9 – Southern Europeans - Italians – Sicilians

13% of western Pennsylvania’s population is Italian third only to the Germans and Irish.  The immigrants who came to western Pennsylvania from 1880 up to the breakout of World War I came from southern Italy: Sicily, Calabria, Abruzzi and Campagna.  In this part we will cover the Sicilians who had a large impact on foods in the area.  

Sicily (an autonomous island) is located in the central Mediterranean therefore has a Mediterranean climate (thus growth of citrus fruits, olives, etc.)   Mt Etna, a world famous, still active volcano, provides some of the best wines due to the soil content from the volcanic ash.  

Sicily has a rich culture due to the many peoples who settled there over the years:  Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and English (Bourbons).  All of these cultures affected the unique Sicilian cuisine. 

INFLUENCES: Arab influences on the cuisine are apricotssugarcitrus,  sweet melonsricesaffronraisinsnutmegcloves
pepperpine nuts, and cinnamon (along with fried preparations).  Influences of German cuisine: meat dishes. The Spanish Influences include cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey, tomatoes, etc. Greek influences are fish, olives, broad beans, pistachios, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and fresh vegetables. North African influence is couscous.

Antipasti (or starters) are very important in Italian and Sicilian cuisine. Two very Sicilian antipasti are caponata (eggplant relish) and Gato di patate (cheese and potato pie).  Also unique are Arancine (popular street food) which are fried or baked bread crumb coated rice balls usually filled with meat sauce, tomato sauce, peas, or mozzarella.

Cheeses: Italy has over 300 cheeses 2nd rival to France with over 400. Some Sicilian cheeses are Pecorino (sheep’s milk), Caciocavalla (aged cow’s milk cheese good with stronger red wines), Canestrato (similar to pecorino & served with wine and fruit), Piacentinu (Mt. Etna area sheep’s milk cheese flavored with saffron), Provola (more than one variety made from cow’s milk and comes in bulb shape; has a sharp flavor), Tumo (flavored with peppercorns or other spices & good with ham, wines and fruits) and others.

Fruits: Citrus fruits such as oranges (blood, blonde, ovale, bitter, bell-shaped, Moro, mandarin and others), lemons and limes are plentiful.

Pasta, of course, includes spaghetti ai ricci (spaghetti prepared with sea urchin), Pasta alle sarde (anchovies), Manicotti and the most famous signature dish is Pasta alla Norma (eggplant, oregano, red chili, garlic, basil, herb vinegar, plum tomatoes, pasta, grated cheese).

Secondi or main dish is mainly seafood based opon the availability of seasonal Mediterranean seafood.

Sweets are another specialty; examples include: Cassatas (cake with ricotta icing layered with candied fruit), Frutta Martorana (fruit shaped marzipan), Pignolata (is a Sicilian pastry covered in chocolate & lemon flavored syrup which hardens the pastry), Granita (semi-frozen dessert with flavorings), Sorbet and Italian Ice.

Wines:  reds and whites are top quality because of the Mt. Etna soil and accompany dinner. Dessert wines such as Marsala are popular.  Limoncello (a lemon liqueur) and Amaro Siciliano (herbal drink) are other Sicilian drinks.

The next column will deal with Part 10 – North Central Europeans - Poland

For recipes from 1700s to 1960s and modern day links versions, visit www.ThePAMeltingPot.com.

Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to Western Pennsylvania. She currently resides in North Carolina. Her blog can be found at www.ThePAMeltingPot.com.

Below photos are informational and recipe links



Sicilian Foods' Photos


Meat Pies

Garlic and Oil Spaghetti