31 January 2006

Rosa's Torta al Cioccolato con Ricotta

This recipe is simple and delicious, in an age where complicated desserts steal the limelight! For those who appreciate the taste of a ricotta cream in a dessert, this is for you. I think it is worth the extra effort to find a good supplier of ricotta-- I found one called Centro Formaggio on St. Clair West, and sometimes when I am lucky, the ricotta is still warm! If you happen to have some homemade candied fruit or peels, put it between the layers. This is perfect for visitors or after a special meal.

-8 inch cake pan
-6 eggs
-1 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup sugar
-1 pouch of "lievito Bertollini" (with vanilla)
-1 cup flour

-2 containers (around 500g each) freshest ricotta
-sugar to taste
-vanilla and/or Grand Marnier to taste (optional)

-candied fruit (optional)
-bitter sweet chocolate q.b.
-brewed espresso q.b.

1-Beat the eggs with the sugar and then mix in the oil
2-Add the lievito and the flour, mixing just until smooth
3-Bake in a 350 F oven (moderate) until cake tester comes out clean (about 40- 60 min)
4-When cool, carefully slice cake into 3 layers
5-Cream the ricotta with the sugar until smooth
6-Fill the cake with the ricotta filling, adding candied fruit if desired
7-Melt the chocolate and thin it out using espresso
8-Glaze the top of the cake with the chocolate, letting it run down the sides in rivulets
9-Decorate with candied orange slices for a more elegant presentation

Note: I successfully cut the recipe in half, and baked it in a 6- inch pan with 3 inch sides--it makes a cake fit for the 2- person household.
~Enjoy with strong coffee!

28 January 2006

Ieri Sera in giro: rice balls, calzone and chinotto

Of a friday night, we sometimes take a drive in the city. Last night, after driving through the trendy parts of town (Yorkville, College West, etc) which depress me because of the endless barrage of friday night hipsters, and because of the rush of concrete and corrugation and "in-ness" of downtown, I told A to drive somewhere more rusty. I like driving through working class neighbourhoods and forlorn, boarded up parts of the city, imagining all the living that goes on and all the stories that have ended. We turned into Commisso Bros & Racco Italian Bakery--which is more of a 24 hour hot table/ bakery/Italian convenience store, in a roughed up part of town. A got a fried calzone, I got a butter arancine (fried rice ball) and we shared a bitter chinotto. For dessert, two Baci Perugina! We ate from the paper bags in the car, turned the music up and cruised around--refreshing activities for a friday night!
I don't know if I got drunk from that chinotto, or whether it was all the simple carbohydrates, but in the end, I started acting stupid and singing really loud and giggling, and when we got home, we tucked right into bed (me wearing the softest, most cozy pj shirt ever invented) and had the most restful sleep that we both have had in a while-- maybe 10 whole hours!

The above photo is a picture I got from a Palermitano bakery that makes rice balls---mmmm, you really must try them!

27 January 2006

Night of Baking: Moist Yogurt Cake

Last night I baked orange peel- prune- oatmeal- sunflower seed cookies, and also a yogurt cake the recipe for which I found in an old Bon Appetit. Cookies are addictive and after I glaze the cake with marmalade, I am planning to enjoy a slice with hot coffee and milk over breakfast and a Margaret Laurence book called The Fire-Dwellers. I only discovered M. Laurence recently (and good thing, for she would have made too depressing a read for my already overly melancholy high school years), and though I find myself getting pulled into the story and its excessive human sadness and the miscommunication between husband and wife, I am impressed by the way I am able to live inside the protagonist's mind and follow her train of thought. Her writing style is extremely creative and effective, and results in a page turner that, if one is not careful, will alter one's mood as well! To offset any such effect, try the recipe for this yogurt cake, which will bring the smile back to your face and the warmth back to your kitchen:

Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze
1.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
3 large eggs
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like sunflower)

1/4 cup lemon, orange or grapefruit marmalade

1. Preheat oven to 350" and butter a 8.5 X 4.4 loaf pan
2. Whisk all wet ingredients except the oil together in a large bowl
3. Sift dry ingredients together and then add gradually to wet ingredients
4. With a rubber spatula fold in the oil
5. Pour batter into pan, place pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for
about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean
6. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmould the cake and cool completely
7. Stir marmalade and a drop of water in a pot over medium heat, brush over top of loaf, let
set and serve

ideas: as a sweet breakfast, or with a fruit syrup and whip cream for dessert

26 January 2006

On Persephone's Island

Today I received my new copy of this book in the mail--I decided to order it after I read the library copy over many consecutive winter breakfasts and it lightened my heart. There are four seasons described in the book, from the perspective of a women who lives in Palermo and Alcamo, both close to where Antonio is from. In fact, Antonio's younger brother plays on the Alcamo soccer team...

This book was a dreamy yet substantial read for me because the author is an American women who moved to Sicily after marrying her husband who is from there, and her observations of the place are tender yet ever from the 'outsider's' perspective. I guess that the similarities are also obvious...

I also felt I would be aided by this book to explore more historical ruins and traditional festivals and foods, and different towns (and one particular pastry shop in Erice) when we next go to Sicily this June, and that when I visit different places, this text will be my poetic guide. I would like to write to the author, who in the summer time resides on her farm in Bosco, to ask her if I could visit the gardens and the land that I feel I already know so well! I have to work up the courage...

15 January 2006

Potato and Ricotta Croquette Recipe

These are great to make in a deep fryer (or a deep pan with a thermometer), along with other fried "Sicilian street food" like panelle (chickpea flour fritters), and to serve for a movie night with lots of sea salt and lemon wedges and cold beer, and a big green salad to round out the "meal"! [Picture to follow once my film is processed]


-1 kg/ 2 lb potatoes (preferably old)
-100gms/ 1 cup grated mozzarella or other cheese
-100gms/ 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
-4 eggs
-500gms/ 1 lb ricotta
-chopped parsley
-salt and pepper
-oil for frying


1) Boil the potatoes until tender, then peel and mash
2) In a large bowl, mix the mashed potatoes, grated cheese, salt and pepper, parsley and a handful of the breadcrumbs
3) In another bowl mix the ricotta with salt and some nutmeg
4) On the counter set up a small container with water, a bowl with the beaten eggs, a plate with the breadcrumbs and a sheet of parchment or saran (or a large plate) to place the balls
5) With your hands dampened with the water, make small nests with the potato mixture, put a tiny spoon of the ricotta mixture inside, and seal with the potato mixture to form a ball
6) Dip each ball first in the eggs, then into the breadcrumbs
7) Deep fry the patties in hot oil (about 375 degrees)
8) Sprinkle with sea salt and serve hot with wedges of lemon

14 January 2006

White AM

Cold cold cold
in here
a sneeze and a woolen shoe
let me find you two:

things in here so empty and cold
its hard to think on all those
broken folks
who dont have you
unlocking their doors and walking

Of a morning it is
nice to fill this quiet with such musing

the white sky out the top half of the window
really blusters and smacks us
as we watch;

brittle branches moving around
they have no midday meal to speak of

but punish us only
now out
now in
now out for a ramble
dirty sidewalks white
white things.

Angela's Tiramisu

The perfect tiramisu is composed of the following elements: a texture neither wet nor dry, a sweetness that doesn't overwhelm the flavours of the coffee and mascarpone, a flavour enhanced by the rum (rather than the taste of the rum itself). The addition of whipped cream to the traditional recipe elevates the mascarpone slightly making the dessert more enjoyable in the mouth--less dense. Enjoy!

-1/2 large package of ladyfingers
-3 egg yolks (from fresh eggs)
-3/4 cup- 1 cup cooled brewed espresso (brewed strong)
-250 grams mascarpone (good quality)
-250 ml organic heavy cream/ whipping cream
-4 tsp. sugar
-3 tbsp. dark rum
-cocoa powder
-dark chocolate (sweet/ semi-sweet/ bitter)
-amaretti cookies (handful)

1) With an electric mixer and the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar for 5 minutes
2) Brew the coffee, put in glass/ ceramic container to cool and add the rum
3) Add the mascarpone to the egg-sugar mixture, and mix until uniform but do not over mix
4) With a clean bowl and whisk, whip the heavy cream until thickened and add to the mascarpone mixture by hand, delicately (try not to deflate the cream)
5) In a medium size baking/ serving dish, arrange the lady fingers in the bottom, cutting some to fit around the sides
6) Drizzle with ½ the coffee rum mixture, cover with half the cream mixture and spread evenly, sprinkle cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and crumble some amaretti cookies over the top
7) Repeat steps five and six to form the 2nd layer then cover and allow to rest at least 5 hours or overnight in the fridge before serving

12 January 2006

Smells that a dream emits

Sunglassed and distracted
somehow I make my way here
this cold Saturday morning
fingertips icicles
christmas approaching
past the church
funerary cars parallel parked
pigeons on the wires
ink grey splotches in the
grey brilliant sky
pointing at wisps
of smoke sailing from the chimneys.

Somehow I walk 20 blocks or more
with my mind on candied oranges
and the smells that a dream
emits: warm and syrup
encrusted dried figs and
roasted chestnuts and yolk yellow cake
the hills my legs long for
rising in my chest
the burnt wheat fields
to the night that
standing on the balcony to survey
rolls without end into the sky
and primordial forest
once trespassed
the land of our beginnings

as the ice shorn sidewalk
forces a return to think on
my footing
the blood careens through me
holding the sweet smell of the
sicilian night
I ask the pigeons to achingly
hold their picture blocks

I dream of the hills

Dishcloth days

Tucked into my apron in the thunder
the quiet is being difficult
stringy and impossible to kiss

kiss like the spring
still winter though
I could table the sky with all its right angles and
severe lack of ancient history

bout to start on a batch of baking
to hold back the dark
I’m sleeping through these
dishcloth days

simply to condense things into
millions and thousands and castle fulls of
sweet droplets
bitter though
as though substituting
inadequately for
that other summer tide

New York Solids

o train,
take away
the solid assurance:

one day the flour and cocoa
will be removed from under my nails
a final time

one spring
will be the last.

words will crystallize
particulate devolve

your green eyes
will swim
your hand will,
as bones and breath only,
slide under the pillow

and new york
will be a childhood story

Antonio in Apron: via Piersanti Mattarela

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Old copper cake moulds: Palermo

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Parched country: Sicilia in agosto

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Palermo: la marina

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Mercato Vucciria: Palermo

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Tiramisu with Angela

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From the Branches of a Fig Tree

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Bowl of fresh almonds

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Corleone: Antonio's town

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Claudia: ferragosto at the farm

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The Farm

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Burnt Hills: Central West Sicily

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First grapes: nonno Nino

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White flowers against the brick wall view: Toronto

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Spanish Embassy: Rome

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Birthday flowers: Mom

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A's 25th birthday: sweet wine and olive oil cake

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Solitary breakfast

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