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The original fusion food: Sicilian

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Beth Beeman

(Read caption) Gamberi con la conza (shrimp with breadcrumbs) is a shrimp dish from Sicily's Agrigento region. It is topped with a mixture of toasted almonds and Parmesan breadcrumbs.

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Sicily is a long way from California where I live. But one can travel through food and that’s what I did with the new travel-worthy cookbook Sicily from the editors of Phaidon Press Limited.

The book is a compilation of more than 50 recipes with narrative text by noteworthy chef Pamela Sheldon Johns. Recipes are accompanied by gorgeous full-page Edward Park photographs. The preface of "Sicily" provides a short but insightful history into the island explaining that many different cultures have been master to her culinary puzzle. Arab influence can be found in savory couscous dishes and sweets draped with marzipan. A heavy reliance on almonds and toasted sesame seeds also came courtesy of the Arabs. Greek rule brought eggplants, oranges and apricots. The cookbook calls it the original fusion cuisine. I think that’s right. To understand Sicilian history is to understand her food. It should never be called Italian. It is Sicilian.

For the reader, the cookbook is broken up into nine chapters corresponding with the nine Sicilian provinces of Trapani, Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Messina, Enna, Catania, Ragusa, and Siracusa. Ms. Sheldon Johns has crafted an introduction to each section that is followed by traditional mouthwatering recipes. You can read the book straight through or skip around as I did, as a virtual traveler, selecting that area that most interests you first.


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