Recently, Williams Sonoma Art Director Kathleen Korb took a trip to Sicily with our food development team to research the cuisine and design of the region. Here’s a glimpse into a day on their journey in Palermo, Sicily.
While in Sicily, our goal was simple: to eat everything possible. So we attacked it with a two-day approach. First we spent a lively day shopping the markets and cooking with a Sicilian chef, and another day we followed a prolific street food guide, eating our way through the streets of Palermo.
With both days beginning at Mercato il Capo, the oldest outdoor market in Palermo, it quickly become clear that that the daily markets are the epicenter of all things food and community: a gathering place where locals come for a coffee, conversation and a bite to eat, as well as buy their groceries.
Not only fresh food, but handmade foods, like salted capers, anchovies and sundried tomatoes are available at the daily markets.
Every vendor has a specialty, be it produce, seafood or even artisanal cookware. The seafood offerings at the market are abundant and straight from the sea.
Our day with chef Vincenzo Clemente of Ristorante Cincin was as much of a cultural and food inquisition as it was a cooking lesson. Shopping with a local was a great way to meet some of the cast of characters that make up the market.
After shopping the market, we retreated to Ristorante Cincin and transformed our ingredients into classic Sicilian dishes. Pistachios are abundant and inexpensive in Sicily, and happen to make a fine pesto.
In addition to a crash course in traditional Sicilian cooking, we also began to see that cooking is a lifestyle in Sicily: Time is not a factor in most cooking, because the act of cooking is as integral a part of the pleasure as enjoying the results with family and friends.
After an incredible day in the kitchen, it was time to switch gears hit the streets. We were in excellent—and very witty—hands with Marco Romeo, a food expert in Palermo and the owner of the street food tour company Streaty.
Inexpensive, traditional and generally fried, many of the typical street foods are the dishes that define Sicilian cuisine, like arancini (a fried rice ball stuffed with meat and peas) and fried sardines. A typical street food setup in the market includes lots of delicious fried snacks.
Beneath the pretty towels at one food cart was braised and fried veal spleen and lung, often made into a sandwich called pani ca’ medusa.
Our verdict? This recipe probably won’t be appearing in the Williams Sonoma catalog, but trying something new is always a good idea.
Everyday life in Sicily revolves around a profound love and enjoyment of food and cooking. Having the opportunity to connected with locals, shop the markets and cook traditional dishes side-by-side was the perfect way to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Sicilian cuisine and the important role it plays in Sicilian culture.
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