Cucina Paradiso: The Heavenly Food of Sicily
Clifford A. Wright, Author Simon & Schuster $24.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-76926-0
Researched by Middle East scholar and food enthusiast Wright, this fascinating volume clarifies the mystifying distinction between the cooking of Sicily and other regions of Italy. The reason for the distinction – as he convincingly presents it – was the medieval conquest of Sicily by Arabs whose “culture remained there intact for four hundred years.” According to Wright, the Arabs are responsible for, among other things, the creation of the Sicilian “one-pot” meal, a “fondness for stuffed foods.. shared by the Sicilians,” and the introduction of rice, of which “some food writers even argue that the famous Risotto alla Milanese is an Arab-Sicilian invention transplanted north.” The resulting collection of recipes reflects Sicily’s exotic heritage and includes a mint-infused, Arab-style penne, grilled beef rolls with pecorino, currants and pine nuts and watermelon pudding studded with semisweet chocolate bits, pistachios and candied orange peel. This suggestive study of “the food Sicilians call cucina arabo-sicula” decorously removes another delicious layer of Italy’s riches.