Cooking Under the Etna Cloud

The third morning we woke up to more rain. I’m beginning to wonder if the name of this place, House of Camellia, doesn’t mean something more. As I mentioned before, there is a beautiful old camellia on the front porch, but every where I know camellias grow well is gray and rainy – the Pacific North West, Great Britain…. Sicily should not be the ideal climate for this stunning specimen. Are we living under a perpetual rain cloud?

This morning we drove around to the other side of Mt. Etna – we live on the side facing the Mediterranean – hoping again for a change in weather and perhaps to find an interesting market. We didn’t find much in the towns of Adrano, Bronte or Randazzo.

By now all the gray crumbling architecture is blending with the gray foggy weather and everything just runs together. All this gray is really dampening my mood. But we found a little bit of light, figuratively, not literally. In the small town of Passopisciaro, on the north side of Mt. Etna, was a little enoteca that had some interesting wines and a funny little man who didn’t know how to work the cash register. He cheerfully explained everything as if we understood Italian. Actually, I did understand his explanation – his brother normally works in the shop not him. He also had the Bronte pistachios I had been looking for and he threw in a corccante al pistacchio (a nut brittle type treat) just to be nice.

Across the street we found a butcher shop and managed to ask for steak, there was none in the counter case, and he also had the rabbit and black olives we were looking for.  Here he is chopping our fresh rabbit into pieces.

For the other things we needed we went back to Riposto and bought a couple of cheeses, a ricotta salata al forno (a hard ricotta that is dried in the oven) and a pepper pecorino that I saw sitting on the counter. The shopkeeper was very accommodating, making sure I was getting the right kind of ricotta salata for what I wanted to do with it – that is, I wanted to grate it over pasta and not eat it fresh – and selling me just a small piece.

My Italian is really going downhill fast. Just two weeks ago I felt that I had learned so much and could explain what I needed to explain. When Don first arrived I really was processing thoughts in Italian. Now I can barely explain what kind of cheese I want. My thoughts have completely reverted back to English. Saying a few words to buy groceries and reading a few recipes is in no way enough to maintain a language. This is why immigrants so often have difficulty learning the language of their adopted country. If your home life is in your native language, you really don’t have to say much in your new language to do what you need to do on a daily basis.

The weather cleared a little in the late afternoon, meaning it was just cloudy and not rainy or foggy, and we went down to the beach. As you can imagine with all the weather systems passing through, the surf was quite rough and beautiful.  Not many people out. My mother will be proud of me that I got my feet wet in the Mediterranean but in the process managed to accidently soak my pants; now how am I ever going to get them dry again?

We cooked our lovely rabbit in a simple tomato and Marsala sauce. We were supposed to use Marsala wine but Don had the brilliant idea to use the wine our hosts had left for us, a homemade sweet Marsala type wine. The results were fabulous, a rich tasty broth, tender white meat served over pasta. (Click on rabbit for the recipe.)

The wine, one of the bottles we had bought that same morning, was my favorite of the trip, Donmichele by Tenute Moganazzi, spicy and tannic like the Cavanera by Firriato, from two nights ago, but less minerally. According to the label this is a single vineyard production of mostly Nerello Mascalesse grapes with just touch of Nerello Cappuccio. (Actually to be designated an Etna Rosso the wines have to be at least 80% Nerello Mascalesse.) With such a small production it will probably be difficult to find outside of Sicily, but I will try.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.

3 thoughts

  1. Hello!

    Thanks for blogging about your trip. We shall be following in your footsteps in April next year and are also thinking about renting the Casa della Camellia. However, we like a lot of privacy when on holiday and we just wanted to ask you how close the owners live to the casa as this is not very clear. And any general thoughts on the house? Feel free to mail me at my email address.

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the comment. The owners do live next door but there is quite a bit of space between the houses as the cottage really is in a lemon grove. While the owners are quite nice, we rarely saw them. I don’t know how familiar you are with Sicily. This area near Catania is quite populated, but the house itself is off a more secluded road. It is pretty much as advertised except for sleeps 7. Really best for a couple with a maximum of two children. I would ask if the place is heated. When we were there the weather was still warm, wet but warm. April might be cooler. Except for our unfortunately weather situation, we enjoyed the place very much.

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