Since a good chef never travels far from their roots, it is natural that our own Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School should have an affinity for Sicilian cuisine. In Sicily, geography is the key. This island is surrounded by the Mediterranean, home to thousands of species of fish and shell fish. And they all find their way into the Sicilian kitchen.
Here are a few of Jerry's favorite recipes from the old country.
Pasta with sardines (Pasta con le sarde)
1 lb. long pasta (bucatini, mezza zitti, perciatelli or spaghetti)
1 cup fennel bulb cut into ¼ inch dice
A few tablespoons of fresh fennel fronds
1 lb. fresh sardines, cleaned (heads taken away), descaled & opened flat
1 medium onion finely chopped
5 - 6 salted anchovy fillets
½ cup raisins, soaked in water, drained & patted dry
2 ½ tbsp. pine nuts
¼ cup toasted almonds, chopped
salt & pepper
¼ tsp. saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp. hot water
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. white sugar
extra virgin olive oil
Sauté the onion and fennel bulb in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil. Add the anchovies, crushing them with a fork so that they dissolve in the oil.
Add the sardines, raisins, pine nuts and toasted almonds. Season with salt & pepper.
Cook over a moderate heat for 10 minutes before adding the saffron and fennel fronds. Stir gently to avoid breaking up the fish. Reduce to a low heat heat, cover keep warm. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook following the cooking time suggested in the package reducing it by a minute to make it al dente. Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce. Place the sauced pasta in four large bowls. Mix toasted breadcrumbs & sugar together then sprinkle on the pasta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Sicilian Swordfish Rolls (Involtini di Pesce Spada)
1 ½ pounds evenly thick swordfish steaks, in square shapes if possible
About ¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 ¼ cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs), divided
1 ½ tablespoons currants
1 ½ tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 ½ tablespoons drained bottled capers
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
About 7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, cut into thin wedges
Trim skin from swordfish steaks. Slice them horizontally into thin slices (no thicker than 1/2 in.). Place each slice in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and, using flat side of a mallet or the underside of a small skillet, pound until about 1/4 in. thick. Repeat with remaining slices. Season fish lightly with about 1/2 tsp. salt, stack on a plate, and chill. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup panko, the currants, pine nuts, capers, lemon zest, 1½ tbsp. parsley, ¼ tsp. salt, the chile flakes, and 3 tbsp. oil. Cut swordfish slices into pieces 3 to 4 in. wide. Set out on a work surface and brush tops with some oil, then turn slices over. Working with one slice at a time, sprinkle with 1 to 1½ tbsp. panko filling. Roll up slice, tucking in sides if they're raggedy to make a neat package (some filling will fall out; don't worry about this). Skewer roll closed with toothpicks, pointing them in the same direction so the fish will be easier to turn in the pan. Repeat with remaining fish and filling.
Spread remaining 3/4 cup panko on a plate. Coat each roll with panko, pressing gently so crumbs adhere. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add swordfish rolls and cook, covered turning once, until nicely browned on top and bottom, about 5 minutes (it's okay if they're still a little pink on the sides; they'll continue to cook off the heat). Lift to a platter, twist and then pull out toothpicks. Season lightly with salt and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tbsp. parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.
Orange and Red Onion Compote
4 oranges, peeled and segmented
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fennel fronds, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, season with salt and serve immediately.
Octopus, Shaved Fennel, Citrus & Cured Olives
2 lbs of fresh octopus, cleaned, poached in salted water and chilled in an ice bath
1 lb unsalted butter
2 bulbs fennel
¼ salt cured olives, pitted
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Remove the octopus from the ice bath and drain on paper towels. Slice the octopus into ½ inch thick slices on the bias.
Remove the bottom of the fennel bulb and slice it, as thinly as possible (we like to use a mandolin) until you reach the stalks. Go back through the slices and remove all of the hard core. Pick about 1 cup of the fennel fronds from the stalks and set aside.
Zest the orange and save the zest. Using a paring knife, peel the orange and discard the peels. Careful cut out each orange segment and set them aside. With the remaining orange membranes, squeeze out any juice left and set aside.
Roughly chop the olives.
In a sauce pan set over the lowest heat possible, allow the butter to melt. Add the octopus and cook until the octopus is just warmed through. Turn off the heat and allow the octopus to rest in the butter.
Allow a sauce pan set over medium high to heat up. Add the shaved fennel, the reserved orange zest, orange juice and half the orange segments. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook the mixture until the fennel has just started to wilt and is warm through. Add the remaining orange segments, stir gently and divide the mixture onto 4 plates. Divide the olives evenly on top of the fennel mixture. Place pieces of octopus on top and garnish with the fennel fronds.
Roasted Swordfish Loin atop a ragout of Fava Beans, Cipollini Onions and Tomato
4 – 6-7 OZ. Swordfish Steaks
1 cup fava beans, cooked (or canned if necessary)
12 Cipollini onions, peeled and halved
12 grape tomatoes, halved
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat with enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the Cipollini onions, cut side down evenly in the pan. Allow the onions to cook until the cut side has caramelized and is a beautiful mahogany brown. Add the garlic and stir gently to move the onions and cook the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook until they just start to release their juices. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley and immediately divide onto four plates.
Rub the swordfish generously with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the fish on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven until white and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Place the roasted swordfish on the ragout and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.