Palermo = Food Heaven

Shocking? Well … that’s Palermo. Raw and direct, southern and loud, fish and meat market in one, black pasta and super sweet desserts. We spent 5 days in Palermo taking in the sun and the southern way of life. Amongst the palazzos and the mix of cultures we also tried some local food and local wine. Not sure where to start… as Italian food, Sicilian in particular is simple, yet amazing. Italians themselves love it and count it amongst their best regional dishes. Who are we to argue with that?

Before taking off to Palermo we did a lit bit of research and found out from like minded travelers and foodies alike where to go, where to eat and which wines to drink. I am proud to say we managed all three, albeit I am not sure we would have survived another day.

Local Sicilian dishes include the pasta con sardine, spaghetti al nero di seppia, the involtini alla palermitana, the arancini and this is only the start. The famous desserts cannoli and cassata, all accompanied by the best Nero d’Avolas ever.

Of course there is fresh fish wherever you look, and eating grilled fish at the street corner has become (or probably always was) a local habit. Which we indulged in as well … (albeit a little bit of pre-warning: ask what it costs before, as prices fluctuate depending on the language you speak!).

In terms of food Palermo is heaven. Temptation is present at every corner. Not to miss is the Vucciria market. You will see things you never thought you would. You will try things you never thought you would. Fish mongers and butchers are sitting side by side, there are fruit and vegetables, bread and spices sold together. The market is an exotic and sometimes frightening mix of colors, noises and smells. You can see some photos I took there on flickr.

Let me share with you one of the more unusual foods we had. The pasta con sardine is simply put pasta and sardines sauce. The spaghetti al nero di sepia are spaghetti with squid ink (similar to black risotto). Yet the involtini alla palermitana, now those were new to me. Basically veal wrapped in cheese and bay leaves. Unusual veal skwers.

Involtini alla Palermitana (serves 4)

16 thin slices of veal (about 10cm x 5cm)
50g grated caciocavallo cheese or other strong cheese
20g very small cubes of caciocavallo or other strong cheese
50g finely chopped ham
50g breadcrumbs
50g raisins and pine kernels
1 onion
olive oil
salt & pepper
bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 200° C
Place some olive oil in a frying pan and when hot gently fry the finely chopped onion. When the onions are soft, add the breadcrumbs, the pine kernels, the raisins, the ham, the grated cheese, the small cubes of cheese salt and pepper.
Stir well until you have a consistent well amalgamated mix.
Spread the slices of veal on a flat surface and add a bit of the filling on each before rolling them up.
Place them on 4 skewers (4 involtini per skewer), with bay leaves and slices of onion dividing each one.
Put the skewers in an oiled baking tray and place in the oven. Cook at 200 °C for 15-20 minutes and turn twice.
Serve with a squirt of lemon juice.

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