Friday, November 12, 2010

Sicilian Street Party with Chef Marcello Valentino

My third visit to Mise En Place brought me face to face with Sicilian chef Marcello Valentino. A chef who led us through the streets of Palermo…introduced us to a menu rich in history…a menu that proudly displayed Sicily’s street food and cous cous.

I took a quick glance at the recipes included in my Mise en Place Kit…just to get an idea of what was up ahead. Chef Valentino, however, gave us much much more. Many in the class pulled out their pads and pens to write down…capture every tidbit of advice…suggestions…neat little pearls of wisdom.

Cous cous was up first. Marcello explained the various ways to cook this ancient dish including a toasted cous cous version that he came up with about 5 years ago…

Next, the classic crocchè (cazzilli), panelle (fried ground chick pea flour), and arancina/arancino (fried rice balls). Recipes presented, then a chance to try it ourselves…If you don’t cook, you don’t eat Romina Sodano (director of Mise En Place) said jokingly.

Sicily has a rich street food culture…full of flavor…full of surprises. One of those surprises came between two pieces of bread, smothered in ricotta cheese. Milza and polmone…spleen and lung. A spleen sandwich. Don’t judge a book by its cover our Sicilian chef said…….It was amazing. The recipe will hit the blog soon.

No lesson at Mise En Place is complete without wine. This week it was Cantine Olivella who paired these dishes with their Katà (100% Catalanesca) and Lacrimanero (Piedirosso, Aglianico, Olivella). These wines were perfect with Marcello’s buffet full of the items that we prepared as well as surprises such as tripe and fishballs.

I sat down, relaxed with a glass of wine and a plateful of Sicily. I talked and laughed with friends. Marcello continued to give more tips, recipe and buffet ideas…I lost count at this point. I glanced over his shoulder, out the window at the wind and pouring rain that hit Naples that evening.

Inside, however, I was warm…comfortable. I was in Sicily, walking through Palermo. I was resting on a bench, on a street corner enjoying my cous cous…my street food…and the company of my new Sicilian friend, Marcello Valentino.

Italian Version

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