Sunday, July 10, 2011

July Recipe of the Month - Pasta con le Sarde - The Sicilian's Passion (Sharon Kendrick)


This pasta dish is a traditional dish in Sicily. In Sharon Kendrick’s The Sicilian’s Passion, his lover Kate cooks it for him when he comes to her home in London and she’s faced with telling the man she loves and adores that she’s pregnant.

Giovanni Calverri is hard, ruthless and somewhat a “brute” and in the end I loved him.




Pasta with Sardines: Pasta con le Sarde
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali and the Food Network. I love Mario and he hails from Seattle where I reside.



Ingredients

2 pounds fennel bulbs, greens removed and reserved, bulb cut into sticks
3 pounds whole fresh sardines
Semolina flour, for coating
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons dried currants or raisins, soaked and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 saffron strands or 1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
1 pound dried bucatini

Directions

In a hot skillet, add olive oil and saute fennel until caramelized.

Remove the heads of the sardines and pull out the backbones and entrails. Select a few sardines, for garnish. Chop the rest of the sardines for the sauce, set aside. Season the sardines for garnish, to taste with salt and pepper, and coat them with the semolina flour. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to smoke, cook each flour-coated sardine until a light golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sardines from the pan and set them aside to drain on a paper towel.

In the skillet with the caramelized fennel, add the onions, currants, tomatoes, pine nuts and saffron. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce briefly to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Add the reserved sardines and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sardines have broken into pieces and are thoroughly mixed into the sauce, about 10 to15 minutes. If the sauce appears too thick at this point, add a little of the pasta cooking water.

Bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a rolling boil. Add the bucatini and cook until tender but still al dente. Drain the cooked pasta into a large serving bowl, add 3/4 of the sauce and stir to combine. Top with the remaining sauce and the fried sardines. This pasta tastes best if allowed to sit for several minutes, soaking up the flavors of the sauce, before it is served. Keep the pasta covered during this waiting period, then garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

The History of the dish from Sicilian Cooking

The Pasta con Sarde is a traditional Sicilian dish that is made all over the island, using the same ingredients and differing in the various ways it is prepared. It is mostly often cooked from February to the end of May, because the wild fennels are tender and abundant in this period and the sardines are fished in large quantities.

In Palermo this dish is called Pasta di San Giuseppe and it is a tradition to cook the Pasta con Sarde on March 19, when Saint Joseph is celebrated.

Somehow the ancient custom to prepare special food to offer to the gods has been passed on to present time with a variation that instead of the pagan priest receiving the food, we eat and enjoy them with our family and friends.

The legend relates that due to an exceptional drought, Saint Joseph was begged to cause rain so the crops would grow and avoid that people would die of famine. When the rain came, to thank the Saint, a feast day was dedicated for his celebration and the ceremonious “Tavola di San Giuseppe”, Saint’s Joseph Table, was instituted

The tavola consisted of a collection of food harvested around March 19. If it was set outside, in the court yard it was open to anybody or if it was set inside the house, it was limited to family and friends. If San Joseph was asked a favor and he granted it, the gratitude was shown by promising to repeat the Tavola celebration for a certain number of years.

The food on the table varies from town to town, but the bread of Saint Joseph and the pasta with wild fennels, salted or fresh sardines and breadcrumbs, are unfailingly on hand, along with assorted fried vegetables in pastetta, caponatina, fruits and vegetables in season. Usually no meat dishes are offered but the table is full of desserts according to the local production. Again, unfailingly on hand the sfingi di San Giuseppe along with bucciddati, pastries and cookies.

The Pasta con Sarde is made up with the local, ordinary and available ingredients. The unconventional blend of different flavors and aromas, the color and smell of saffron makes this exceptional pasta a favorite dish among the gourmets and food lovers.




Description:

An Italian affair to remember…

It was just plain old physical attraction. That didn't mean it was any "big love" or anything, did it? Kate was just mistress to a very passionate Sicilian man, Giovanni Calverri.

And sex was all it was ever supposed to be. Until the day when everything changed. When fate forced them to put their steamy arrangement on hold—and think about what they really had together…

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