sicilian meatballs and no-knead bread

It´s been more then three weeks since I came back from Sicily and my tan is already fading...I´m afraid the memories would too but I am trying very hard to keep them alive. I have eaten Caprese quite a lot with the fresh Mozarella, the not-quite-as-sweet-as-in-Italy tomatoes and the peppery scent of the basil instantly transferring me back to Sicily. ...all I have to do is to close my eyes. I have also had melon with prosciutto, Penne alla Norma (my way) with the Ragusano I brought back home.

Last weekend I made Tessa Kiros´ Budino di semolina from Twelve and it was very popular with my friends, although the consistency wasn´t really what I expected. Tessa wanted me to cook the budino in bain marin and I just hate that. I don´t have the "real stuff" so I just place a large pan filled with water in the oven and I place the actual pan with the pudding in it. The Silver Spoon suggests that you bake it in the oven without any bain marin, so next time I´ll try the easy way, because I liked the taste very much.

I haven´t mentioned yet, but - of course - I bought a cookbook in Sicily, quite a touristsy one. I am not very fond of these kind of books, but this was the only type of cookbook I found in English.

This weekend I made my first dish from it and it turned out surprizingly well. I made the meatballs in tomato sauce and served it with some no-knead bread that I made for the first time.

Sicilian meatballs in tomato sauce
Polpette al Sugo

500g minced beef
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
1 egg
3 tbsp of chopped parsley
2 spoonfuls of oil
4 toasted rusks (I used 4 small handfulls of ströbröd)
salt, pepper
1/2 cup of flour (I omitted that - too much starch)
1 pinch of cumin

tomato sauce:
4 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled
2 spoonfuls of oil 1 clove of garlic
1 small onion
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 pinches of cumin
1 bay leaf

Prepare the sauce: in a pot, sauté the whole garlic and onion in oil for five minutes, them ermove them and add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, parsley, cumin and salt. Reduce to medium heat for around 15 minutes and keep aside.

In the meantime, crumble the taosted rusks into a large bowl and moisten them with a little warm water. Leave to stand for about half an hour, then press with a fork to eliminate any lumps and add the minced meat, egg, garlic, chopped parsley, cumin ans salt and pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon until perfectly smooth. In the palm of your hand, roll into meatball the size of an apricot, press lightly and flour.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the meatballs for about 15 minutes on a medium heat, turning twice. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and cook on a medium heat for a further 7 minutes. These meatballs may be served either hot or cold.

The no-knead bread (Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman)was great, of course I didn´t succed to 100%, but being a novice bread baker, I was satisfied anyway. I used a way too large Römertopf, so the bread was a bit flat, but rose perfectly and had a wonderful crust. I used 1 1/4 of tsp of salt, which I found too little, it might have been the sea salt I used...I definitely must use more salt next time. And yes, I am going to make this again, as it is a no fuss bread. Umm...did I tell that I also swapped 1 cup of plain flour to Graham flour?

No-Knead Bread
From NYT Dining & Wine

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

So, finaly the bibite (yes, I am showing off a bit ;P), the latte di mandorla. All the time
I was thinking that it was made of ground almonds (and it sort of is), but every recipe I came across was using pasta di mandorla. Since I haven´t bought any in Sicily, I used some Swedish mandelmassa, that should be close to the original. Of course, the Swedish ones are surely not made of Sicilian almonds, also they contain things I could easily live without, so I am still to find a recipe I am satisfied with. Here´s a tutorial video on YouTube that can be usede as inspiration or guiding lines. I suggest you turn down your speakers on your computer if you don´t want that stupid background music to drive you totally crazy...

It is best served sweet and well chilled.
Also, in a previous post I have been telling about the modest owner of Bar Manzoni in Catania, who - in my opinion makes the best latte di mandorla. He learned me a little trick how to recognize good quality latte di mandorla even before tasting it. If the bottle the latte di mandorla is being poured from remains too clear, that means that the beverage is too thin. If it remains white even after being emptied, then it should be OK.

I made the test with my own bottle and here is the result:

pretty good for a beginner ;)


I, too, love keeping my holiday memories alive by cooking that cuisine when I return home, your meal looks delicious, I am very curious about the no-rise bread, I shall try this with my next loaf.
Lulu Barbarian said…
I have some of those same type of touristy cookbooks from Greece, just because I can read them. What's cool, and hopefully this it true of your cookbook as well, the recipes are actually pretty authentic.

I can tell this now that I'm beginning to be able to translate Greek recipes plus using comparisons with Greek friend's recipes.

It kind of makes sense, because it'd be a lot more work to come up with creative recipes for a cookbook than it would be to just transcribe the recipe's that everyone's mama's have always cooked.
vonsachsen said…
Erica, do try the bread some weekend, it is very easy but needs the time to rise. And I would suggest you taste the dough, so that you don´t end up with an unsalty bread...

Lulu, thanks for commenting and also you give me hope;D I would really love to believe that these are authentic recipes and what you say sounds actually very logical.
I love greek food too, I have visited your blog a few times but was a bit "shy" with commenting...I´ll change that:)
Are you learning Greek??????
Norm said…
What a great post vs! I never thought I'd find myself watching an Italian video on YouTube, but I was intrigued by the Almond Milk - I'd never heard of it before (and yes, the music was very badly edited and very irritating!!!). Could you use marzipan do you think?

I'm a big fan of the no-knead bread too - just taken a loaf out of the oven right now actually! I have only ever used white bread flour and I usually add chopped rosemary too as it's my favourite herb. I bake it in a Le Creuset Dutch Oven.
vonsachsen said…
Norm! I´m glad you enjoyed the music on YouTube:D
About using marzipan...mmmm...I´m a bit dubious. Mandelmassa (don´t have an idea what it is called in English) is made of sugar and almonds, while marzipan often contains almonds, sugar, flour, butter, water and sometimes even color paste.

I don´t want to promise much but I might be able to find a recipe for homemade mandelmassa and that would solve my problems too.

Rosemary, hey? Sounds intriguing...and I do envy you (just a tiny bit) your Le Creuset stuff;P
Rhyleysgranny said…
Your photos as always are lovely Von. The meatballs look delicious. I really like the look of those. I also like the look of your No knead bread. This I must try.
Sandy said…
Oh, so delicious looking. What are husks though?
It's so sad to feel a vacation fading away isn't it? Hopefully you can prolong your trip to Sicily through food for a long time to come.
Anna said…
Eva, I bet Sicily was amazing? I would love to go there!
I love that you are trying to keep your holiday memories alive - that's also what I'm trying to do at the moment!
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