Good evening, Kibitzers!
On my forecast as late as Monday night, there was a “chance” of snow; although it was “slight”, there was still a picture of snowflakes. Alas, by Tuesday morning, conditions had deteriorated to “mostly clear”.
I will just have to enjoy Thinking Fella’s snow photos for now, and keep hoping last year’s extreme snow-drought will not be repeated. I mean, I get that snowstorms are a big disruption and I should be careful what I wish for. But surely just one or two are not too much to ask!
Thanksgiving being over, I was poking around food videos I’d saved, to see what I wanted to make for Christmas, and I realized I hadn’t told you about Giovanna and Kitchen on the Cliff. This is the Kitchen Table, after all, so, time to fix that.
Giovanna Bellia LaMarca is a vigorous Sicilian lady of 84 who presents a YouTube channel, Kitchen on the Cliff, where she teaches the cooking of Sicilian food. The kitchen is indeed on a cliff -- we see the view from it at the beginning of each video, a view of Riverside Church in Manhattan that a) knocks your socks off, and b) locates her in the New Jersey borough of Cliffside Park. (For people as old as I am, this is where Palisades Amusement Park used to be.)
She used to teach art and Italian at Bronx High School of Science (she taught the first computer graphics course offered in the New York City school system!), and has also taught Sicilian cooking at the distinguished Institute of Culinary Education. This is her “about” statement from the channel:
My name is Giovanna Bellia LaMarca and I am here to keep Sicilian recipes alive. I wrote three Italian cookbooks: Sicilian Feasts, The Cooking of Emilia-Romagna: Culinary Treasures of Northern Italy, and the Language and Travel Guide to Sicily. Instead of writing a fourth book, I decided to join the youth on the YouTube platform and make instructional cooking videos instead. Enjoy!
It’s not that she’s making specific things my grandmother made, and she certainly has more technology than my grandmother ever had. It’s that she’s… coming from the same cultural place? She’s doing it the “right” way and putting in the “right” stuff, according to what I was taught. Even the insistence on ITALIAN FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY (which is perfectly right; curly parsley tastes like lawn clippings and should not be sold in food stores. That’s just science.)
This is the first video she made for the channel, for the very tasty better-than-a-sandwich scaccia. [8:11]
This video for penne con cavolfiore (cauliflower) predates the current series, although her tech wizard/granddaughter has framed it up so it fits. I assume it was originally a promo for one of her books. When the pignoli and raisins showed up, that’s when I started nodding vigorously and pressing the ‘subscribe’ button. I have noted before that absolutely everyone with a boat showed up in Sicily at some point in its history, and also that Sicily’s a lot closer to North Africa than to, say, Rome. [5:04]
The yummy and seasonally appropriate tortelli di zucca. (Yes, that is an acorn squash she has, not a butternut. Doesn’t matter.) [13:29]
Pasta alla Norma, named after the opera as she explains, might be one of the best-known Sicilian dishes. You no-eggplant people, you’re missing out! [10:11]
This one’s for side pocket, our anchovy guy! (Anchovies AND sardines — what luck!) Pasta con sarde also shows its Arabic origins. [13:36]
My mom loved arancini, and she never made them because she regarded deep-frying anything as a beyond-the-pale pain in the ass, so I was always scouting prepared ones for her. Giovanna makes them look not that hard, though. Those little arancinotti she has for forming them are pretty cheap on Amazon... [9:20]
Caponata is one of those recipes with lots of different additional things that may get tossed in. I buy a jarred one that adds olives, for instance. This is a good recipe for the foundational dish. (Okay, seriously, no-eggplant people, you should try this.) [8:23]
Okay, desserts! Cassata Siciliana kind of sounds like some kind of fruit, but it’s an awesome Christmas cake. You will see that it’s cannoli-adjacent, but instead of deep-frying shells, you make a tasty sponge cake and blitz it with Marsala. [9:20]
These Christmasy-looking biscotti and anise crescent cookies are both vying for a spot on my holiday baking list. Last year I made waaay too many cookies but come on, these are heritage cookies. [9:33]
Tiramisu is generally presented as a sort of trifle that gets scooped out of a pan. This pretty presentation is the same delicious stuff, but is sliced as a cake. I love her approach with the springform pan. Shoutout to her husband Howard, which was my dad’s name. 🥲 [9:14]
Finally (although goodness knows there are plenty more recipes!), this is a half-hour interview conducted by her granddaughter Francesca. She’s had an interesting life; interesting to me, anyway. I really like her observation that Americans say something is “as good as gold”, but Italians say it’s buono come il pane, “as good as bread”. [35:56]
Two more things: First, George Takei has posted a terrific statement on why he votes Blue. If you don’t want to click through to X to read the whole thing, here is a link to it through the alternative viewer nitter.net (thanks, underTheRadar!) Just… don’t read the replies. You don’t need to see that shit.
HAPPY OFFICIAL BIRTHDAY TO METEOR BLADES!
Wishing you many more!