Last Saturday, I treated my parents to a Sicilian dinner with gamberi con la conza, which is a shrimp dish from the Agrigento area topped with a mixture of toasted almonds and breadcrumbs called conza. Conza, which Sheldon Johns explains, is often called a poor man’s cheese. Lest you think this means that it’s second best to cheese, think again. We not only sprinkled the conza liberally on our gamberi (shrimp) but also put heaping spoonfuls directly into our mouths. The satisfyingly crunchy nutty taste was a perfect accompaniment to the simple shrimp dish sautéed in garlic, olive oil, chili powder, and a scant one half cup of dry white wine.
I chose to complement the gamberi con la conza with insalata di arance, a traditional Sicilian salad of oranges, fresh fennel, and roasted olives. The sweetness of the oranges and the crunchiness of the faintly licorice-tasting fennel was a perfect companion to the strong garlic and chili spices of the shrimp. Both dishes were easy to prepare ahead of time, although one must allow time to assemble the components at the last minute.
Gamberi con la conza (Shrimp with conza)
From "Sicily" by Phaidon Press editors
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder