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Enna is a province in Sicily, Italy. It is located in the center of the island and is the only province in Sicily without a seacoast,yet it possesses the greatest number of ponds and lakes.. The capital city sits on a high elevation giving a gorgeous view of the region.There are many castles, cathedrals, churches and interesting archeological areas, 8 lakes, many nature reserves and forests within the province.

Some of the interesting sites in Enna are:

  • Villa Romana del Casale, a huge ancient Roman “villa”, where there are many well-preserved Roman mosaics.
  • Morgantina, an ancient town in the province, whose  important archeological discoveries are housed in many large museums around the world.
  • Torre Pisana, a very large tower that provides an extensive panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
  • Lake Pergusa has a forest inside a wildlife reserve, where thousands of rare birds can be found.
  • The Autodromo di Pergusa is the most important racing circuit of Southern Italy. It hosts international competitions, such as Formula One, Formula 3000, and the Ferrari Party with Michael.
  • Schumacher and other champions.
  • Built in 2009, Regalbuto is a popular theme park in the area.

Enna’s cuisine is characterized by simple dishes that reflect an agricultural and sheep farming community. Vegetables, oranges, lemons, eggs and cheese are used in many local recipes.

Pastas with mashed beans, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplants or tomatoes are common. Wild asparagus are a great local favorite and so are bitter chicory and wild fennel. Black Lentils from Leonforte, near Enna are well-known and used quite often in Sicilian cooking.

Baked or grilled pork, lamb or goat meat and strong cheeses complete the typical menu.

Cookies stuffed with dried figs, honey, fruit candy and roasted almonds along with a glass of limoncello, fare typical holiday celebrations.

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enna4Quite famous is Piacentinu, a cooked, semi-hard cheese. It is round in shape and available in various ages. Traditionally, it is made in the province of Enna, Sicily, using whole sheep’s milk, pepper and saffron. Since the 1100s, piacentino has been known for its saffron color. Ruggero the Norman (1095-1154), the king of Sicily, asked local cheese-makers to make this cheese with saffron because he believed that spice caused an uplifting, anti-depressing effect. Pepper, a rare and precious spice at the time, was also added to the cheese because it was a popular ingredient in the Sicilian Court. Today, this cheese is still made using whole, raw milk from sheep that graze primarily on veccia, a leguminous weed found in and around Enna. The plant gives the cheese its distinct flavor.

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The milk, together with sheep or goat rennet, is heated to 140 degrees F and then whole black peppercorns and saffron are added. Once a mass has formed, the cheese is left to cool in its whey. The cheese is ready after a week. A wheel of piacentino is usually 14 to 16 inches in diameter and weighs between 13 to 26 lbs. The cheese has a soft rind, a yellow color and a delicate, savory flavor.

Source: (D. PAOLINI, Guida agli itinerari dei formaggi d’Italia, Bologna, Edagricole, 2003)

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Specialties of the Enna Cuisine

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Black Lentils Enna Style

This lentil dish is often served with fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup black lentils, washed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a saucepan with 2 cups of cold water, cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Mix in the vegetables, cover the pan and continue cooking gently until lentils are tender, about 35-40 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

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Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 4 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 2 lemons, one cut in half and the other cut into thin slices
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes in bowl with lemon halves and water.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing by heating the butter with 3 tablespoons of oil in 8-inch skillet. Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add bread crumbs and dried Italian seasoning. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs brown slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open by hitting the chokes upside down on a work surface to spread the leaves open. Fill each with about 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture.

Place each artichoke in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt to water and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over artichokes and place lemon slices on top.  Cover: bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (the size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time). Remove from the heat and serve room temperature.

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Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu

Adapted from “The Southern Italian Table” by Arthur Schwartz

Makes 7 cups

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 12-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Grated cheese for serving

Directions

In a 4 quart saucepan saute the onion in olive oil until wilted.

Add the pork and break up over medium heat until its raw color disappears.

Add the wine and simmer for a few minutes over slightly higher heat.

Add tomato paste and water; stir and bring to a simmer.

Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and sugar. Stir until chocolate melts, reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes.

Serve over pasta with grated cheese.

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Salmoriglio Sauce

Salmoriglio is a Sicilian marinade and sauce that is easy to make and add a great deal of flavor to poultry and fish. Use the recipe below to marinate chicken for up to two days in the refrigerator, shrimp for up to 30 minutes or to pour over grilled fish.

Salmoriglio:

  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 to 5 smashed and chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine lemon juice, garlic and seasonings and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in olive oil for a creamy semi-emulsified sauce for already cooked fish.

For a marinade, combine all the ingredients in a gallon sized plastic zippered bag and shake with chicken or shrimp to combine. Double the recipe to marinate a whole chicken. For a change of flavor, use three tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley instead of or in addition to the oregano.

For Swordfish:

  • 3 to 4 swordfish steaks
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper to taste

Try to get swordfish with the skin on if grilling outdoors; this will help keep the fish from drying out. Rub or brush olive oil on the fish. Oil the grill (use a grill pan or fish basket) or non-stick pan.

Over medium heat, cook the steaks for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the pieces. Salt and pepper after each side is cooked, not before. When the fish is done, it will be opaque and a knife will slide into it easily.

If the fish had skin, remove it after cooking. Drizzle Salmoriglio over the fish; garnish with lemon wedges and flat-leaf parsley if desired.

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Fruit and Animal Shaped Marzipan

This authentic Italian recipe is at least 5 centuries old and originates in Enna, Sicily.

During the Easter season every year, shops sell marzipan figures and fruit decorated in festive colors. They are garnished with colored sweets, foil covered chocolates and red and gold processional flags.

The origins of these elaborate sweets are in the Sicilian convents. Impoverished families enrolled daughters, whom they could not afford to feed or marry, into convents where they knew their daughters would be fed and safe. The nuns produced traditional Easter and Christmas cakes along with brightly decorated fruits. Small wheels were built into the entrance gates to the convents and money was exchanged for the ornately decorated little cakes. The money earned from the bakery supported the nuns and the upkeep of the convents.

2 1/4 pounds shelled almonds, blanched in boiling water
2 1/4 pounds sugar
Water
Cornstarch
Assorted food coloring (paste recommended)

Dry the blanched almonds well in a hot oven if you blanch them yourself. Grind using a mortar and pestle; if you use a food processor, pulse rather than blend so that the almonds are ground but not so fine that they give off their oils.

Dissolve the sugar in a little hot water. Add the ground almonds and simmer over very low heat, stirring constantly until a paste-like mixture comes away easily from the sides of the pan. If you want to color the marzipan, divide it into bowls and color as desired. Paste colors are recommended rather than liquids for strong, true colors. Allow the marzipan to cool enough to handle easily.

Either roll or pat the marzipan onto a cornstarch-dusted surface and cut into shapes or pat into molds that have been dusted with cornstarch. Allow to dry at room temperature until firm.

Source:  2009 All Things Sicilian.

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