December 13 is St. Lucia Day, celebrated in various countries, but perhaps most prominently in Sweden, and Italy, specifically Sicily. In Sicily, the holiday is strongly celebrated in honor of St. Lucia blessing the island with a shipment of wheat after a long famine in the 17th century. Traditionally, the dish eaten on this day in Sicily was cuccia, a sweet or savory boiled wheat berry porridge, which is supposed to be the only form of wheat eaten on the day. However, to current palates, this is perhaps not the most exciting dish. In modern-day Palermo the most popular Saint Lucia food is now arancine! Arancine are delicious deep-fried rice balls filled with cheese and/or meat ragu that are popular year round in Sicily. In Palermo in particular, arancine is eaten with gusto on St. Lucia’s Day, and conveniently these rice-based treats do not contain much wheat (though they are typically breaded). In Palermo, too, the dish is always spelled arancinE in the plural, and arincinA in the singular, as opposed to arancini (pl) and arancino (singular) in Eastern Sicily and in much of Italy. This year we will be making cuccia, but perhaps next year some arancine would be in order.
Tag Archives: Arancini
After our visit to Next Sicily we have Sicily on the brain. We visited the real Sicily last fall on our honeymoon, and we loved the food there (no surprise). What we especially loved was the abundance of cheap, tasty street food. Palermo in particular is a street food mecca – with fast and delicious morsels being sold from stands or tiny storefronts on almost all corners. When we were headed to Palermo we shortlisted a few types of street food we had to try while there, and fortunately we were not disappointed. We set out right away to start sampling street food, and made a beeline to the markets, where street food is king. Below are the favorite street foods we sampled (and one even we were not brave enough to try). So let’s go to Palermo….
Panelle – Panelle is a riff on a falafel – and is composed of chickpea flour fried up on a hot griddle. It is then served in a pita or eaten alone. One wouldn’t think that this carby concoction would work, but it is actually quite delicious (fans of falafel will approve). We had some handmade Panelle griddled up for us at the bustling Ballarò market, a cool food market with a lot of awesome African stalls.
Crocchè – We dodn’t even realize our Panelle would be coming with a special topping – crocchè- a little fritter made of mashed potatoes and parsley. Think of them as the most delicious tater tots you will ever have. The crocchè are the top layer of the snack below, and panelle is the bottom layer. Don’t forget to add a squeeze of lemon to help cut through all of the starch.
Arancini – The humble arancine is basically a fried dough ball filled with cheese and meat. However, the beauty of the arancine lies in its proper execution. If done wrong, an arancine is a gelatinous mealy blob that settles into a leaden ball in the pit of your stomach. Yes, we’ve had a few of those. However – when done right – the arancine is a warm gooey mess that does not leave you feeling like you ate a cannonball. Let’s just say – we had both varieties for Arancini on our Sicilian adventure. Arancine were found in pretty much every snack shop in Palermo, and one, Bar Touring, even specializes in giant arancini.
Pane cà meusa – Pane cà meusa is for braver stomachs than ours, and this street food dish consists of boiled calf spleen served in a roll. When happening across a pane cà meusa stall, you will usually find a hot bubbling cauldron of spleen. While its sheer popularity leads us to believe it is probably decently good, we would much rather take gelato in a brioche, thanks.
Gelato con Brioche – Saving the best for last, Gelato con Brioche is perhaps the most epic street food we have ever encountered in all of our travels. It is exactly what it sounds like, amazing gelato stuffed in a split brioche roll. Think of it as an ice cream cone carried to its next logical extreme. The first gelato in brioche we had even helped us get over the gruesome sites at the Convento dos Capuccinos in Palermo.