Pane Cunzato, the seasoned bread from Sicily & Salina
If I can’t travel to Salina because of covid, then I might as well have Salina come to me ! And then bring Salina to you !
I am on a two-month visit to my friends & family in Belgium to interrupt an almost 7-month lockdown in Argentina. One of the striking differences between the two countries is the openness of their economies.
Belgium, home to the capital of Europe Brussels, is one of the most open economies in the world. Name a product and you’ll find it here. Argentina on the other hand is one of the closest economies on the planet.
Tartar Sauce that made me sick, thank god it wasn’t covid !
Gourmet food in Belgium is high on the agenda. After my visit to Ghent first and whilst preparing my article on famous caper sauces, I wanted to try out the tartar sauce and the steak tartare at CUIT, part of CRU in Overijse, near Brussels.
So last Sunday my mom, my daughter and I drove there through an idyllic countryside to reach a beautifully restored 19th century farm. The farm houses a fresh food market and a food court, operated by the Colruyt group, best known for its retail activities, but active as well in wholesale, export, technique and automation.
Simple but small dishes, meant for sharing.
Thanks to the arrival of CUIT, you do not have to wait until home to taste the products of Cru. The eatery is located in a side house of the farm where the fresh market is located and can be reached via a separate entrance, with a terrace in the courtyard.
You can join for breakfast, lunch or aperitif. There is no menu with fixed dishes, but rather suggestions which guests can combine and share with each other. Up to 40 people can sit at the long, authentic tables.
The opening hours of CUIT run parallel to those of the fresh market CRU.
The food court CUIT does not offer a fixed menu, so I was a bit disappointed the steak tartare was not on the list. I ordered fish served with their homemade tartar sauce in stead. Little did I know that three hours later, right after watching Nadal win his 13th title at the French open, I would fall ill. Since I am not afraid of falling ill with covid, I felt no reason to panic, tough I really felt quite miserable. Twenty-four hours later, with my Sunday lunch at CUIT’s well digested, I felt 100% ok again. I know now my body didn’t do well on the sauce. But luckily it wasn’t covid !
I got my hands on the Salina capers !
I do not regret my visit to CRU at all! Colruyt did such a great job in renovating and converting the old farm into a modern luxury fresh food market. I love the fact they carry a whole range of local gourmet products and specialty food from abroad.
I bought two 100g jars of slow food Salina capers ( I should have bought more ! ).
Contrary to commercial capers, these Caravaglio capers do not contain additives: only salt ( 20% ) and capers ( 80%) are used.
I paid 4,9 € per jar, when you consider the hard labor, the uniqueness & quality of the product, the packaging and transportation to reach Belgium from Salina, that’s a bargain.
I am convinced we have to learn how to pay tribute & be willing to pay the value of true food. When I read the financial losses the CRU-group is making, I once more realized how big that challenge is.
To me, these Salina capers are so precious I am NOT going to consume them while I am here ( in Belgium ). I will proudly carry them the whole way back to Argentina where I will definitely use them in my delicious cooking for my friends. ( so be on the look out for recipes & pictures )
Intervallum: Limburg pear apple syrup
One of my sweetest childhood memories is pancakes with pear apple syrup. The most popular brand, ‘Sirop de Liège’, is still around. But the artisanal version is hard to find. Here at CRU, I bought a rare to find artisanal pear apple syrop from Borgloon.
Read the amazing story of this almost extinct Limburg delicacy here.
The Moment Suprême: Il Pane Cunzato di Sicilia and Salina
As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily may well be a continent all unto itself. Many civilizations have converged here and shaped a culture that’s unlike any other in Europe. But beyond its rugged natural beauty and rich, centuries-old history, Sicily may be best defined by its culinary landscape, buoyed by an abundance of quality ingredients and time-honored traditions.
The “cunzato” bread is all but one of its culinary expressions.
"An explosion of genuine flavors: freshly baked bread, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, anchovies, cheese and mouth watering."
In a quickly prepared meal we find ourselves in a Sicilian story of humble origins. Inside the bread are all the scents of Sicily, from the land to the sea.
Each province, municipality and even village has its own recipe. It is said that the traditional recipe is that of the cunzato bread from Scopello, a small tourist village in the province of Trapani, an almost mandatory destination for tourists for its breathtaking views and charm of the past.
When we say cunzato bread it is automatic for the Palermitans to think of that of Scopello. So here’s how they prepare it in the small hamlet of Castellammare del Golfo.
Loaf of 500 gr of homemade bread 6 Ripe tomatoes 250 gr Sicilian Primosale 150 gr Anchovies in oil Extra virgin olive oil as needed Salt, pepper and oregano to taste
Wash the tomatoes and slice them finely. Cut the primo sale cheese into thin slices. Heat the bread in the oven for a few minutes. Once hot, cut it in half and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Add plenty of extra virgin olive oil and put the cheese and tomato on top. After having drained the anchovies well, add them and close the bread.
A little secret: if you press lightly with your hands, the bread absorbs all the juices and flavors of the topping. Don't let it cool too much before eating it, warm bread is delicious.
The Salina Variant of the recipe
The pane cunzato from Salina is very different from what you eat in the rest of Sicily. It is not a sandwich but a thick slice of toasted bread seasoned with extra virgin olive oil in abundance and a filling with products that the island offers: cherry tomatoes, capers, anchovies , eggplants, peppers, ricotta, tuna, mozzarella, herbs like basil or mint, sun-dried tomatoes. The addition of capers is where the Salina pane cunzato differs from the one in the rest of Sicily.
Bread is a sacred tradition ! The table is not “cunzata” if there is no bread. And in the summer, bread becomes a quick way to eat without having to “quariate” in the kitchen. Pane cunzato is a quick and easy recipe. It is prepared in the morning and eaten with a sea view.
The encounter between the authenticity of the ingredients and the Sicilian landscape makes everything unique. A poor meal that carries within it all the wealth of the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean.
Where to taste the authentic cunzato bread in Salina?
The most famous pane cunzato on the Salina island is Bar Alfredo’s in Lingua. You cannot visit the island without making a stop there.
Bar Alfredo opened in 1968 by Alfredo ( whom else ) but it is run today by his two sons, one of them being the chef Pietro Olivieri. One of the specialties tourists and locals enjoy is a giant toast, seasoned with natural but fresh ingredients, typically savory.
The menu at Bar Alfredo features 9 varieties: Caprese, Caprese with tuna, Aeolian, Mixed, Salina, Alfredo, Punta Lingua, Briantinu, Vegansalina.
And finally, it must be completed with its legendary granita!
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