Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eating Potatoes in Sicily

While in Sicily, we had the pleasure of attending the Cucina del Sole Cooking School.  The school is headed up by Eleonora Consoli, a gastronomy journalist. Needless to say, we had a good time.  Put 20+ foodies in the room together (with food, of course) and they have a good time.

It was really a lot of fun learning about Sicilian cuisine.  It's always fun to expand your cooking repertoire.  I came back with a few good recipes that could easily find their way into my own cooking. 

One of the first dishes we made in Sicily was a potato and pistachio casserole.  As it turns out, Sicily grows pistachios.  So they make good use of them in their cuisine.  Most pistachios are grown around the Mount Etna and Bronte areas.  Most pistachios grown in Sicily are consumed in Sicily.  Very little is exported.  Although widely viewed as a snack food, pistachios are well-suited for many recipes requiring nuts.  The next time you have a recipe calling for pine nuts, give pistachios a try and see how you like them.

Potato and Pistachio Casserole

Serves 4.

1½ pounds baking potatoes, such as Russet or Yukon Gold
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons butter, plus additonal for coating the dish
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
½ cup pistachios, finely chopped, divided

1.  Peel  and coarsely chop the potatoes.  Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain.  Place on heat to dry potatoes.  There should be a film on the bottom of the pan. 

2.  Mash potatoes.  Add cheese and butter, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Add eggs once potatoes are cool enough.

3.  Coat a casserole dish with butter.  Add pistachios and coat the dish.  Pour out extra pistachios and reserve for topping.

4.  Place potato mixture in casserole. Top with pistachios.  Bake at 350°F for about 30 to 40 minutes.

According to Ms. Consoli, one can put other ingredients in the middle of this casserole. Some of her suggestions were artichokes, spinach, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, cheese, mushrooms, and hard boiled eggs.  For my version, I added grated zucchini in the middle of the casserole.


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