Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bella Sicilia: Parte Terza

Sicilian Lemon Cake

As we made our way to Agrigento, we drove past rows of huge cactus and beautiful tall palm trees, this makes sense given Sicily’s semi-tropical climate. 
Temple of Hera
Temple to Hercules
Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Temples, where incredible archeological remains of Greek temples stand from somewhere between 510 and 430 BC. Here we walked the ancient road that links the Temple of Hera (Zeus’ wife), who represented love, marriage, and fertility, to the Temple of Concordia (“peace”), connected to the magnificent Temple to Hercules (this was the first temple to be constructed here), and finally the Temple to Zeus. 
Temple to Zeus

Antique Cart
Antique Cart
We had lunch that day at the home of a family whose late grandfather is something of a local legend. Raffaele La Scala, was a master builder of ornately carved and painted carts, which were used to haul items such as salt, grapes, and grain. La Scala’s family has a mini-museum of this man’s extraordinary talent at their home, and we were fascinated to  hear his story and see these beautiful works of art. Other than the painting, La Scala hand-built the carts and carved the intricate designs on these pieces which are now collector’s items. 

Ricotta Squares
Let me tell you about the wonderful lunch we had at the La Scala home, which began with delicious little ricotta squares dotted with sweet peas. This was followed closely by a fabulous pasta dish (I’m not ashamed to say I had seconds!) made with diced zucchini, salted ricotta, cherry tomatoes, basil, and mint. Accompanying the pasta was a simple side dish of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano. As they say in Italy, you can never have too many carbs!

Pasta with Zucchini
Sicilian Lemon Cake
The highlight for me, though, was the incredible lemon cake (again, two servings!). Fragrant with fresh lemon juice and zest, a hint of vanilla, and a marvelous texture, I had to have the recipe! I beseeched our trip leader, Alessio, to ask our host (Maria) for the recipe, who graciously complied. As she rattled off the ingredients in Italian, Alessio translated, and I furiously scribbled! Of course, all the measurements were in metrics, which I have since converted. One ingredient they used is called Lievito (a leavening agent), which is what in the US we know as  baking powder. 

I  haven’t made the cake yet so this has not been tested, but am providing the recipe here in case you’d like to give it a try. The directions are rather vague but experienced bakers should be able to make it work. When I make it, I will certainly post the results!

The La Scala family adheres to what my family always believed: one dessert is never enough! After the lemon cake, Maria produced a frozen delight: semi-freddo, chock full of caramelized almonds, sugar, and cream. 

Still to come: 
  • our day at a dairy farm in the idyllic Sicilian countryside making fresh ricotta and baking bread
  • racing through the streets of Modica in vintage Fiats
  • the beautiful seaside village of Ortigia, where I had probably the best spaghetti and clams of my life
  • the gorgeous hillside town of Taormina with its' impressive Greek amphitheatre
  • meeting the sweet donkeys of Mt Etna
  • and, finally, the amazing lunch at Il Duomo in Ragusa
Ciao for now!

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