This week’s Lenten recipes are courtesy of “Sicily: Culinary Crossroads” by Giuseppe Coria and translated by Gaetano Cipolla. Each of these recipes originated in the area surrounding the beautiful city of Catania, which sits at the foot of Mt. Etna in Sicily.
Lenten Almond Biscuits – recipes originally created for Lent, had the strictest of limitations. All animal-based ingredients were to be avoided, such as lard, eggs and milk. This presented all kinds of issues for bakers – how to bind the ingredients together without the use of eggs or milk while still having a product that was delicious presented a challenge. As the degree of ecclesiastical severity was lessened, the original recipes were altered and usually with greatly improved results. This is one of countless variations for Lenten biscuits.
1 ½ cups flour
4 cups lightly roasted almonds, roughly chopped
5 cups sugar
In a mixing bowl, work together the flour, almonds, sugar and eggs, adding enough water to create a workable dough. Divide the dough and roll out into long rolls about 1 ½” thick. Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet and leave overnight.
The next day, bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and while still hot, slice into rounds. Place the rounds on to baking sheets and return to the oven to cook until done.
Pasta with Squid Ink
This dish features the black ink taken from a squid. There is no doubt that the ink is what gives this dish its distinctive flavor. A comparison between sauces prepared with and without the ink truly shows the difference.
1/4 medium onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs squid, cleaned and cut into pieces
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
ink sacs removed from the squid
1 lb spaghetti
Coat the bottom of a large skillet and gently sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the pieces of the squid, parsley and pepper to taste. After a few minutes add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Add salt to taste. Bring ingredients to a slow boil and continue to simmer for 25 minutes. Add the contents of the ink sacs and stir through thoroughly. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Dress the spaghetti with sauce with the pieces of squid on top and serve.
These rice-filled treats are delicious, but this very old recipe is quite rare to find outside of the area of Catania.
2 cups rice
1 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
In a large pot, boil the rice in milk until cooked, then drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Combine with the sugar and the orange zest. Meanwhile, prepare a dough with the flour and yeast. Once the dough has risen, roll out into very thin sheets and cut out 4” circles. Place a tablespoon of the rice mixture on each. Fold over and seal the edges, maintaining roughly a ball shape. In a heavy bottom pan, deep fry the sfinciteddi in lard until golden and drain on paper towels. Before serving, drizzle with melted honey and a dusting of cinnamon.