Lake Isle Press

Seafood alla Siciliana (Toni Lydecker)

The location of Sicily, surrounded by three seas, explains the importance of fish and other seafood to the island’s unique crossroads cuisine, fed over the centuries by trading, invasions and occupations. SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA: Recipes & Stories From A Living Tradition (Lake Isle Press; $38.00; September 2009) explores a rich tradition that reaches back to the Phoenicians and Greeks, and shares recipes gathered in the kitchens of cooks who continue to make traditional dishes ranging from Palermo’s pasta con le sarde to a Siracusa-style baccala stew, while dipping into the “new Sicilian cooking” forged by talented contemporary chefs. Authentic yet creative, accessible yet inspiring, Toni Lydecker brings the fresh clean flavors of Sicily and its idyllic Mediterranean backdrop from sea to table.

Lydecker takes readers along with her on a Sicilian odyssey in which she explores the island’s fish markets, watches fishermen mend nets, and visits winemakers, olive oil producers, and fish processors. SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA, the first cookbook to explore in depth the rich culinary dimensions of Sicilian seafood, features recipes that burst with authentic flavor and bring to life the island’s eclectic cooking styles—a brilliant mix of Greek, Arab, French, and Spanish influences. Nothing could be simpler or more delicious than a Sicilian-style baked or grilled fish, served with a simple salmoriglio sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and oregano, and this cookbook will show how to put it on the table.
Carefully researched and tested, the recipes in SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA are the result of Lydecker’s extensive travels throughout Sicily. Lydecker learned many of the recipes firsthand from Sicilian home cooks and professional chefs, while some are her own creative riffs on classic Sicilian themes. In the spirit of using the best local ingredients, several recipes give a Sicilian-style spin to ingredients rarely eaten in Sicily—such as softshell crabs—but are readily available along our shores. Lydecker also offers alternatives to Mediterranean fish species and other ingredients, making her recipes practical for any North American kitchen.

With SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA, you’ll eat well, in every way. Seafood Sicilian-style is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet: nutritious yet delicious, light yet satisfying. Lydecker explores a wide spectrum of seafood, including sardines and mackerel that are rich in nutrients, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. With an emphasis on unprocessed, whole foods and olive oil as the primary fat source, Lydecker’s recipes are more than just a diet—they are a means to support a lifestyle based on mindful, healthful eating.
The book offers a wealth of information on the many superb ingredients at the heart of Sicilian cooking, from anchovies and capers preserved in sea salt to extra virgin olive oil. These core ingredients are employed in an astonishing number of ways to make everything from a simple peasant dish to a sophisticated restaurant entrée—all the while evoking the spirit of Sicilian cooking and the essence of the sea. Suitable for a range of cooking levels, you’ll learn a variety of techniques from marinating, grilling, and sautéing, to stewing, soup-making, and steaming in parchment.

SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA offers an astonishing variety of recipes including:
• Spaghetti with Fresh Sardines. Pasta con le sarde is Sicily’s national dish, which, according to legend was created by cooks of a rebellious Greek military captain whose troops had to be fed.
• Fusilli with Fish Ragu. Pasta sauced with a rich-tasting fish ragu is utterly satisfying; unlike a meat ragu, it can be made in less than an hour.
• Risotto alla Marinara. Rice has had a place on the Sicilian table since its introduction by the Arabs. Mussels and clams top a risotto laced with shrimp and cherry tomatoes.
• Baccala Salad with Blood Oranges and Pomegranate Seeds. This easy-to-make dish makes a festive showing on a winter holiday table, when oranges and pomegranates are both in season.
• Seared Tuna with Sweet-Sour Onions. With red onion crowning each tuna steak, it is as pleasing to the eye as to the palate. Like most sweet-sour dishes, the taste improves once the tuna and onions have had a chance to spend time together.
• Sea Bass Baked in a Salt Crust. The experience of packing a fish with moistened salt will seem familiar to anyone who’s spent a day at the beach burying a friend in wet sand. The salt crust not only seasons the fish perfectly, but also seals in moistness and flavor.
• Tuna and Olive Salad Muffalettas. Sicilian immigrants contributed not only olive salad to New Orleans cuisine, but also the muffaletta, originally a kind of bread as likely to be stuffed with seafood as with deli meats and cheese.
• Zucchini-Ricotta “Lasagne.” Ricotta and provolone give this zucchini casserole a mild creaminess without shouting “cheese!” It is especially good with simple dishes such as grilled or baked fish—and can even be served as an antipasto or vegetarian main course.

More than just recipes, SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA offers chapters on the essentials of stocking a Sicilian kitchen; how to buy and prepare fish and seafood; wine and food pairings; and a seafood glossary. SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA will surely establish Toni Lydecker as an authority on Sicilian cuisine and would make the perfect gift for food lovers, introducing them to a exciting new world of culinary adventures that transforms the rich bounty of the sea into the pleasures of the table.

Toni Lydecker is a journalist and cookbook author who specializes in Italian regional cooking. Her articles on food and culinary travel have appeared in many publications including Wine Enthusiast, Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, Health, Plate, Executive Traveler, and The Washington Post. She is the author of Serves One: Simple Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own (Lake Isle Press, 2005). She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


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