On this dreary Sunday morning we decided to visit the fish market closest to home at Mt. Etna port in Riposto about six kilometers from the cottage. Of course the way is not well marked, but it is a port after all and you have to run into the Mediterranean at some point.
There were only a few fish mongers at this small market – maybe because it was Sunday – but what a selection of fresh fish! Fresher and more kinds than I’ve ever seen in the States, all with shiny skin and gleaming eyes. The fish monger kept calling out the names of the fish telling me just how great each one was. Yes I know, but just which fish should we choose for our first fish dinner? We decided on an orata (dorado), a fish that grills nicely and at home is expensive, if you can find it. The same kind of fish that we had eaten grilled in Palermo.
We went around to a few other markets in the vicinity to buy vegetables, bread and wine, deciding in the process that we should also make an octopus salad. So we went back to the fish monger to buy our octopus. He was happy to see us back and sell us something else. I wondered if we were really paying local prices.
At a small grocery vegetable shop they had a nice selection of local wines on a table in the back. Don chose an Etna Rosso that he had been wanting to try. Both of the men working at the shop commented on his excellent choice promising him how good it would be. Skeptical me wondered, was it because he had chosen one of the more expensive wines or was the wine really that good? Actually, wine in general is a bargain here compared to the US. At just about any price range you get much more bang for your buck; so why not splurge a little and try some truly great wines?
Lunched on the leftover chicken cacciatore – even better than the night before – the fresh bread we had bought and a fire roasted artichoke we found at one of the markets.
In Ragusa we bought two cookbooks, both in Italian, I Sapori della Cucina Siciliana and Coure di Sicilia, Ricordi e ricette di Regaleali by Anna Tasca Lanza. But looking through the books again after going to the market I realized that these books just don’t have the range of fish dishes I was hoping for.
So many fish to choose from in the market and most of the dishes in the cookbooks are for tuna or swordfish. This was partly my fault as I also realized that Coure di Sicilia, the “heart “ of Sicily, is talking about a specific region, the interior of the island, that is more meat and poultry based. So we bought a new cookbook, La Cucina Siciliana by Alba Allotta with 1000 Sicilian recipes, including drawings of many of the fishes that I had seen at the market.
After a spending a lazy rainy Sunday afternoon reading and catching up on my writing, we cooked our market bounty. Not the best evening for grilling, but the fish came out beautifully thanks to Don’s grill-master skills. The octopus salad was tasty and colorful, still not quite as tender as the octopus we’ve had at restaurants. The lemon zucchini pasta with walnuts was good with the lemon creating a very different flavor profile than we are used to eating with zucchini. (Click on the names of the dishes for the recipes.) The Etna Rosso, Cavanera by Firriato, that Don had bought, turned out to be excellent as promised, a complex wine with rich fruit and spice, tannic and with the classic minerally quality that we’ve noticed in many of the wines.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.