Few years ago Vito and I stayed for a week in Sicily, spending some time in Taormina, visiting quietly fuming Etna and taking a spin to see some of the Eolian islands. Even though it was the first week in October, the weather was still sweltering during the day only cooling off pleasantly at night. Compared to the "mainland" Italy, Sicily to me always feels so undiscovered, do full of nature's abundance. It seems that the raw elements are in charge and we humans are mere guests allowed to observe.
The same feeling applies to Sicilian cuisine. The ingredients themselves are at the very center of cooking, coming fresh from the sea or land. The less is done to them the more glorious their taste is. This really is very surprising in Sicily, the most simplest ingredients are thrown together and are already delicious without a lot of complicated moves in the kitchen. Just a drizzle of olive oil and a twist of salt and you're done! On our first day there we sat down for a nice lunch, a salad (for me) and a simple pizza with pomodorini and ruccola (for Vito). I eat salads for lunch all the time, but this salad was out of this world. Greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, tuna and a sprinkle of corn, and of course a generous splash of olive oil somehow resulting in an explosion of taste! Vito's equally unpretentious pizza got a drizzle of oil as well and washing it all down with a light white wine, we could not have been happier.
Through out the week over and over we have experienced this phenomenon of delicious ingredients enhanced just with olive oil. Even a basket of bread, which I usually ignore when eating out, would be inhaled immediately with intermittent dunking in a little plate of olive oil and Sicilian salt. We thought about how to bring this "magic" back home with us. Is it even possible? I mean, we can't reproduce the fresh air and sea breeze and sunshine that are so instrumental in making the ingredients taste so good. No, sadly it's not possible at the moment, and neither is a lavish Sicilian summer residence, but there is something we can do to incorporate a big part of Sicilian magic in our cooking... and that is, to use best quality olive oil.
I was searching for a while to find a great source of olive oil and finally came across a company called Nudo-Italia that offers quarterly olive oil delivery straight from grove. And "straight from the grove" is not just a clever tag line, you'll know WHICH grove the oil comes from! Through their "Adopt a tree" program you can actually browse a list of small family operated olive groves that they work with and choose one yourself. When you adopt a tree you receive quarterly delivery of 1st press olive oil. Recently Nudo-Italia added a Sicilian grove called Barone Pastore located on the Trapanese cost. You can read more about it here. And guess what!? You can actually VISIT your tree, and hug it, if that's what you're into. Yes, yes, you can visit the grove and your tree, as well as arrange for a tour of the olive press and learn more about your olive oil and how it's made.
Most of the grove owners also operate Agriturismo, which is a farm stay type bed and breakfast. (Check them out here.) What do you know? Maybe that dream summer residence in Sicily is not so far fetched after all...
Or better yet, take a tour with global neighbor J, of (*sparklingly) to Sicily, back when she was dating her Sicilian husband R, in "Meet Me in Sicily..."
While scheming up a yearly Sicilian getaway, feel free to indulge in Sicilian style living right in your own home. We've been doing just that by taking advantage of the uncharacteristically warm summer here in the Netherlands and grilling up anything that moves, chopping-up anything that's green and dousing it all in Nudo-Italia olive oil. Ahhh... che vita dolce!
Order on their website & world wide delivery costs are already included in the price.
(Grove photos via Nudo-Italia.com)
And I did not forget about the Sicilian salt! Like the Barone Pastore olive grove, the salt is also found on the Trapanese coast, which is said to have the oldest salt marshes of Europe. (In the US purchase HERE, rest of the world HERE.)
• • • WHAT ABOUT YOU? • • •
Do you have an obsession with something from Sicily?
Any delicacies you buy directly from producers?
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