It's hard to flip through Made in Sicily without thinking of it as an island-specific version of Bocca, one of our favorite books last year. And not simply due to the style of the recipes and book layout. Like Bocca, this is the work of a top London chef dishing up his tribute to his family's classic Italian fare — here, Giorgio Locatelli of Locanda Locatelli.
Apparently we simply need to move to London to find that seppioline ripiene (cuttlefish stuffed with breadcrumbs, capers and anchovies), spaghetti con gamberi e pistachio (spaghetti with shrimp and pistachios), and sorbetto ai fichi d'India (prickly pear sorbet) that we're craving. Prickly pear in Sicily? According to Locatelli, “Sicilians love prickly pears … [which were] brought to Sicily from South America.” Now we know. But we were supposed to be talking about Made in Sicily.
This is Locatelli's second book, a sequel to Made In Italy, which a press release notes sold 100,000 copies (!) — a shocking number as this is a cookbook, not a novel with cinematic potential, and the author is not a television celebrity but simply a darn good chef.
The recipes in Made in Sicily are straightforward and ingredient-driven in the way that Italians — or Italians living in London — have perfected. That also means you can't get away with subpar anchovies in that salsetta di mandorle e acciughe (almond and anchovy pesto), nor do you want to use anything but the best fresh ricotta in that torta di bietole e ricotta (baked Swiss chard and ricotta). These are the sort of meals that teeter between memorable and ho-hum depending on a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Here, that works just fine. Especially when you're flipping through those gorgeous photos of sesame seed- and pistachio-speckled torrone, a stunning chocolate-pistachio tart (pistachio sponge cake topped with a scoop of pistachio gelato in a pool of ricotta cream sauce dotted with candied fruit), or the deconstructed cassata from Locanda Locatelli pastry chef Ivan Icra Salicru. (Yes, it's best to be on good terms with pistachios before you make many of the desserts here.)
That “Dolci” chapter, in fact, is one of the best-looking roundups of Italian desserts in a nonpastry-specific cookbook we've seen in some time.
In the chapter introduction, Locatelli attributes Sicily's passion for pasticcerias (pastry shops) and the elaborate pastries you'll find inside to a kid-in-a-candy-store local vibe:
I think the sweetest tooth in the whole of Italy is to be found in Sicily. Whereas in the simplicity of the savory cooking there is always a sense of harking back to cucina povera — literally the cooking of poverty, when whatever ingredients you had needed to be used cleverly — when it comes to the pastry, no! Everyone goes crazy.
On that note, it seems as good a time as any to offer up Locatelli's limoncello gelato recipe, with the caveat that the Sicilian gusto for desserts seems evident in those metric-system conversions as well (the book was first published in the U.K. late last year). Based on scanning the quantity of ingredients, surely the recipe yields two pints, not two gallons? Not that we'd mind a couple of post-dinner gallons.
Gelato al Limoncello
From: Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli.
Makes: Two gallons, per the book (two pints?).
Note: Locatelli prefers to use dextrose (glucose) in ice cream rather than table sugar, because he says dextrose has a less sweet flavor that allows the natural flavors to come through (dextrose is available at many health food shops and online). He says the invert sugar eliminates the hard crystals that often form when table sugar is frozen. If you don't want to use the invert sugar, you can substitute regular table sugar.
2 ¼ cups whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whipping cream
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon milk powder
Scant ½ cup dextrose
¼ cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons invert sugar
5 egg yolks
½ cup limoncello
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Hand blend the milk, cream, milk powder and dextrose until smooth, then put into a pan and bring to 105 F. Whisk in the sugars and the egg yolks. Bring up to 185 F, take off the heat, then cool as quickly as you can and put into the fridge, so you don't encourage bacteria.
2. When cold, mix in the limoncello and lemon juice. Put into the fridge for 6 to 12 hours. Put the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to instructions.
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