When we were in Sicily a few years ago, I fell in love with the countryside, the mosaics, the temples, the salt, the olive oil, the food, and the wine. Half of my Italian family originated from Sicily so I am particularly fascinated with this little island and its inhabitants.
If you are not Italian you may not understand the differences between Sicily and Italy. Even the language is a bit different. This video gives you a quick example: Italian versus Sicilian Language Differences.
One of my favorite days in Taormina was to take a cooking class from Massimo. His recipes were from his nonna. Nonna cooked on Sunday for the family and there were 20 people who came to dinner. So all of Massimo’s recipes made enough for 20 people. Makes sense. However, that does pose a challenge if you don’t have 20 people to feed when making any of Massimo’s recipes.
Massimo’s restaurant where the cooking classes took place.
Caponata Sicilian style – made from cooking class.
Massimo’s English was good enough for teaching his cooking classes, but his recipes showed some language discrepancies that I just adore when I read them. This one is particularly entertaining – “don’t movie the vegetables” and “when you finish every-think chop fin…” To be fair, if I was translating any of my recipes to Italian (without Google translate) they would be much funnier than this – if even comprehendible. He altered the caponata recipe to serve five instead of 20 – thank goodness.
A few notes from my 2013 travel journal about this class:
I loved hearing about how Massimo (our chef) learned to cook from his grandmother. How Sunday was always a day at the grandmother’s house for dinner and everybody cooked many dishes of food. He said by doing these classes he shares his grandmother with all of us. It almost made me cry – it was so sweet.
After the macaroni we made caponata which is a vegetable dish made with eggplant, zucchini, onions, celery and red peppers. He was very careful to explain why you cook the vegetables in different pans with new oil each time, so as not to take on the flavor of the other vegetables. He also had us use regular oil, not olive oil at this point. He wanted the flavors of the vegetables to come out first. Once the vegetables were cooked to golden, we drained them and cooked the onions and celery with pine nuts, raisins, olives & capers in olive oil and added the other vegetables to that mix once they were properly sautéed. You could almost taste the flavors by the aroma they were creating.
A few pictures from the class:
The vegetables were so large, they almost looked fake.
The cooking class was out in the garden area of the restaurant.
Massimo the chef, restaurant owner, and instructor. Here is making macaroni with another student.
You can see we are working our way through cooking all the vegetables.
Here is my version of caponata that I made at home.