Friday, November 11, 2011

Breakfast Italian Style

The picture here is of Caccamo, Sicily, a little hill town about 45 minutes east of Palermo where we once owned a modest home. In addition to it's medieval fairy tale charm, one of my most cherished memories is that of the bar in town where I had my first taste of a pastry known as a Genovese, a fried pastry stuffed with ricotta or pastry cream and unheard of by most people and search engines. The very best were had by us in a bar (read coffee bar that sells alcohol in the afternoon and night) in Palermo the vouchers for which we were given every morning at our hotel, The Oriental, one of the old grand places just a few blocks from the central train station. (Sadly, this classic building is falling into disrepair but it was in it's day a showplace of splendor and Mussolini used to give speeches from a balcony there.) We would make our way down the street every morning the few blocks to a tiny coffee bar and hope for an available table. Inside, the proprietor would take your voucher, ask what coffee drink you preferred and then point to the row of pastries you were allowed to have. It didn't matter that other were off bounds to us as we chose the same delicious Genovese each time, fresh from the fryer, stuffed with sweetened sheep milk ricotta, chunks of chocolate still in the process of melting and dusted with powdered sugar. You would think that something so wonderful would be so easy to find on the internet. However, the best I have come up with (with a few exceptions) is something called a cassateddi, which also shows up in Mary Taylor Simeti's book, Pomp and Sustenance, a book on the history of food in Sicily which also has a recipe for this pastry containing sweetened garbanzo puree.
I will confess that I do not know if there is the difference between the two but I will offer the one for cassateddi that I received on FB from a Sicilian source. Although it doesn't call for it, some little chunks of chocolate could only make this recipe better?


Ingredients for the dough: 500 g flour, 100 g of caster sugar, extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons marsala Ingredients for filling: 400 g ricotta cheese,well-drained cinnamon, sugar,
Powdered (icing) sugar for dusting Preparation: Mix the flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar, Marsala wine, olive oil and a pinch of salt until a paste consistency. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes. Sieve the ricotta into a bowl and stir in remaining sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and the grated rind of one lemon. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut with a 4-inch disc cutter . Fill and fold the dough into little piles of ravioli. Fry in hot vegetable oil, drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

From the hills of Sicily we come back to the shores of the Pacific in the San Francisco Bay Area for a regional dish of eggs, bacon and......oysters! What? I know it sounds like a very unlikely and strange combination but what's not to love about fried oysters? Even for breakfast! And what's more there are a few legends to go with its origin. One story has it that a miner struck it rich, came back into town and ordered the most expensive thing he could think of for breakfast. But my favorite (and the one I subscribe to) is that in Placervile (aka Hangtown because of the executions) those convicted to "dance from the end of a rope" would order this for their last meal to postpone the inevitable for a bit longer as eggs were not plentiful and had to be brought in from afar. Whichever is the true story, this omelet is worth the splurge!
Hangtown Fry

2 eggs
2 strips of bacon, fried to your liking
2 fried oysters
(1 egg, beaten, bread crumbs, oil)
Drain and pat dry the oysters. Dip in beaten egg, dredge in bread crumbs and fry in hot oil for a few minutes on each side.
Add the 2 beaten egg to the pan and fry lifting up the sides of the omelet as it cooks to let the uncooked egg flow under.
Carefully turn the omelet and cook for a few more minutes.
Lay the bacon on top and serve with toast and hot sauce if desired.

The last offering which comes from the Gourmet Cookbook is perfect for a Sunday brunch item. Invite a few more people over with a few more dishes of fresh fruit, rolls and cheese and this would be a great get together. (Make sure someone brings chilled champagne and fresh oj!)

Breakfast Strata

1 1/2 pound breakfast sausage
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 large loaf Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into slices
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Brown sausage in skillet, add mushrooms and onion and saute until done.

In a buttered baking dish, place 1/3 of bread on bottom. Top with 1/2 the sausage and 1/3 of the cheese.
Pour egg mixture over and top with remaining cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
Bake in 350°F preheated oven for 1 hour or until top is brown and bubbly.


  1. My last name is Caccamo! I have been to Sicily when I was a little girl, but never visited Caccamo, Sicily.

    1. I hope you get to visit there someday. I have such wonderful memories of the place and the wonderful people.