Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sensational Sicily

Buongiorno! Come and spend a moment in beautiful Sicily, land of volcanoes and beaches, age-old ruins, elaborate churches, amazing food and….my ancestors! I think part of what makes Sicily so fascinating is all the people who conquered it through the years. The Greeks, French, Spaniards, Austrians…did I miss anyone? In the end, all those cultures wove their way into Sicily’s art, food and architecture. There is sooo much to see in Sicily, so I’ll just have to stick with a couple of hot spots.

My Sicily obsession: I’m dying to see Gole Dell’Alcantara (“the throat of Alcantara), a gorge on the Alcantara river formed by lava in ancient times. It looks eerily beautiful and dramatic. Obsession number 2 is the Blue Grotto (pictured), which is actually in Capri, but you can take a boat from Sicily. It’s a sea cave illuminated by sunlight passing through an underwater cavity.

Interesting Sites: Teatro Massimo (Palermo), an architectural masterpieces and one of the larges opera houses in Europe. The Sanctuary of Santa Rosalina (Palermo) is a church built into a cave! There are many Greek ruins in Trapani, but if you’re into ruins, you’ve got to see Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples.
Beaches! Sicily is a beach lover’s paradise! Some of the best are Mondello Lido (close to Palermo) and at the Resort of Montelle (near Messina). Spiaggia Sabie Nere in the Aeolian islands actually has black sand beaches. Another don’t miss is Lido Mazzaro, where you take a 15-minute cable car ride down from the medieval town of Taormina to reach the beach.

Food! If you love seafood, Sicily is the place for you. Surrounded by the Mediterranean and Ionian seas, Sicily turns to the water for many of its famous dishes. Shellfish and squid are particularly prevalent. Other popular ingredients are lemons, artichokes, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, olives, rice and of course, pasta. Sicilians love their foods to be as colorful as they are rich in spices and textures. Here’s one of my favorite recipes:

Sicilian Amaretti Cookies
(Note: Many Italian regions have Amaretti cookie recipes. Some are hard and crunchy, but the Sicilian version is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.)

1 can (8 ounces) almond paste, see note
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large egg whites

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment, grease cookie sheets with butter. Break the almond paste into small pieces and place in mixing bowl with sugar. Work it into small pieces with your fingertips for a few minutes before mixing to achieve the proper texture. Mix on low speed until very fine.
Add egg whites in two additions, mixing well between. Continue mixing the dough until smooth; about 3 to 4 minutes. With a teaspoon mold dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds on baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Dampen paper towel and lightly press the top of each cookie to smooth the surface. Bake 15 minutes or until cookies have risen and are a deep golden color with tiny cracks.
Remove from oven and place baking pan on rack to cool. When cool, gently peel cookies from parchment. If they stick, turn the paper over and wipe the bottom of the parchment with a damp paper towel. If using greased cookie sheets, remove while still warm. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Cook's note: Do not use almond filling, almond paste provides the wonderful, chewy texture.


  1. As long as you promise to post an occasional lo-carb selection, you can now consider yourself a blogger for two. Come join me as well, we do
    Suspense With a Kiss. Glad to meet you Susan.

  2. WOW! And we ate Mexican when I came to town!!

    Shared recently on a blog that my favorite food is pasta. Any size, any shape!!!

    Food is NOT food.

    Blessings for a great blog!!

  3. NO! Don't do this to me. I love to travel but have less money now I have "retired" to write full time. What's worse, I love to eat, but I really need to be more discriminating (as in, I need to lose some weight). But in spite of the dangers from your blog, I'll be interested in reading it.

  4. It sounds so interesting in Sicily! Adding that to my wish list. =]

  5. Look at this!!! Nine followers in one day. You're on a roll and will do fine. This blog's gonna be fun!

  6. Hi Susan,
    The cookies look easy and tasty. I'll just pretend they are low carb, low fat, low everything.
    Margot Justes
    A Hotel in Paris

  7. Okay, you hooked me--the travel addict. Nice combination of adding foods from the area. Best wishes with the new venture online!

    Writer's Wanderings

  8. "MY bags are packed and I am ready to go"