Market Report: March

March 3, 2010

Fresh from yesterday's trip to the Catania market: fennel, wild asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, eggplants, ricotta salata cheese, freshly-made pasta, a loaf of bread from our favorite panificio, and almond chocolate pastries.

We have friends visiting from the States (friends from our time in Japan) and yesterday I took Beth on a food adventure: the market and the local grocery store. I always head for the markets when we travel and Sicily's market experiences are especially vibrant. It's not just the beautiful, seasonal produce...it's also the lively atmosphere, the people, and the adventure of it all. We started in the pasta shop where we decided to try making Pasta Alla Norma. The pasta lady gave us her recipe suggestions.

We then headed to the bread shop which is always packed even though there aren't any signs designating it as a bread shop. We found out about it last month when eating
at a local seafood restaurant. The bread was so good we had to find the source. The waitress drew a map for us and called ahead to let them know we were coming. When we arrived they greeted us like family and we now have our favorite source for doughy goodness.

From the bread shop, we headed to the row of fruit and veggies vendors. Since we were flying by the seats of our pants and shopping without a recipe, we told the veggie man about our desire to make Pasta Alla Norma. He asked how many people and if we would be making it today or tomorrow. He then proceeded to hand select the tomatoes and eggplants that we would need. After completing our vegetable order, he sent someone with us to the cheese shop down the street and made sure they knew we needed ricotta salata. On the way out of the market, I couldn't resist buying the strawberries that have recently started appearing and fennel that is my new culinary love. Here's an interesting thing: it pays to visit the market with a pregnant woman. Everyone kept giving us food to taste.
And then to the grocery store where I helped Beth pick out some tasty souvenirs. Grocery stores are always my favorite place to shop when we travel and since moving to Sicily it is the source for most of my gift shopping for friends and family in the States. She loaded up on artisan made pasta, packets of Italian hot chocolate,and some of our favorite Italian seasoning mixes. Wish us luck as we attempt to make our first Pasta Alla Norma tonight. Any tips?
likeschocolate said...

How wonderful to have someone walk with you to make sure you have just the right thing. We could use a little of this attitude here in the states.

Sue said...

So lovely! That asparagus looks amazing. I'll bet it's really tender. Yum!

boatbaby said...

You are killing me -- in the best kind of way. That experience sounds magical and perfect and every market should be like that. And those photos -- that asparagus is amazing and the reds in the strawberries and tomatoes!? Perfection! That's it, I am moving to Italy!

Emily said...

oh, i loved this post! very cool, being helped out so much along the way. i can see it like a little film clip in my head. we have asparagus from other countries here right now, but no swiss asparagus yet, so i'm holding out. but it's hard. come on, spring!

Tara said...

Oh, the absolutely perfect outing! What a wonderful day! (And I don't even like shopping or cooking, and it sounds terrific.)
Tara B.

Dana said...

Lucky for us those things make their way up here on the backs of trucks :)

I, too, LOVE spending time in foreign grocery stores. My husband loves it as much as I do -- so at times we get out of control! I can't wait to do it in France soon :)

Martha said...

Great pictures. I used to shop in groceries for gifts. olive oil soaps, spices that come with the grinder as part of the bottle, small sample size bottles of olive oil, and the pretty dish towels

Mom2Isabel said...

Drooling here.
Too bad the computer screen is not a scratch and sniff... although it is in my mind, after those photos.

Publix never looked so boring. : (

At least the RAM Farmers Market is back.

Miss you guys.

Happy Purim.

Love,
Laureen and Isabel

Haitian-American Family of Three said...

Those photos are so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I'm envious.

Jan

Nancy said...

Oh my goodness, the strawberries--but that wild asparagus is something else! It must be so fun to go to market there.

The asparagus reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver's book (Animal Vegetable Miracle) and her father marking asparagus clumps so they could harvest wild asparagus near the road.

kristin said...

all that fresh produce! makes me yearn all the more for spring. the winter fruits and vegetables we get here have long ago bored me...

Theresa said...

I love shopping on the streets in Europe! Come say hi and see what we did!

Juniper said...

Really lovely photos of your local market, and the produce! Pasta Norma is one of our favourite dishes and the norma pizza at our favourite pizza spot (run by a Sicilian family) is always ordered. Chocolate almond pastries sounds fantastic!!

the little travelers said...

The strangest thing about living on Kauai is the "farmer's markets!' Shockingly poor selection. This is the tropics for goodness sakes. Last week the only mangos there were Mexican ones purchased at Costco and were selling for $3 a piece. (3 times what they sell for at Costco down the road) wah....
That market looks incredible!!!

Amy Whitley said...

This seems so wonderful! Makes me long for my farmer's market to be open (but even then, it won't come close to comparing!

Dominique said...

This looks like a great time. Like you, I love shopping at markets and grocery stores for "souvenirs"...I always tend to bring back some cool condiment, spice, or little munchie from every trip

Dominique said...

This looks like a great time. Like you, I love shopping at markets and grocery stores for "souvenirs"...I always tend to bring back some cool condiment, spice, or little munchie from every trip

jessiev said...

i want to shop there. that asparagus looks incredible. and such colors!! wow!!

lisa said...

Beautiful pictures of beautiful produce!!! Im so jealous. I just recently found a co-op type place here where I've started getting produce. Nathan has been on a big gardening kick (something I know very little about) and am debating on where to plant our field....did you grow anything while you lived here?

Monna said...

You have made my morning (and also filled me with longing) with these gorgeous shots of your local Sicilian market. I SO miss the markets in Barcelona... and the way that fresh food is so central to the lives of Europeans.

Amie from Ciao Bambino said...

Gorgeous photos! I always associate travel with exploring markets.

aimee said...

what a dream! how i'd love to do my shopping this way - it might possibly make me enjoy cooking. even though i don't know anything else, big box american grocery stores just frighten me.

Jocelyn said...

Can't type.

Too busy swooning...

SVV said...

I used to live in Aci Castello and would spend lots of time in old Catania, trolling the market for fresh food. I dearly miss it so thanks for this post! My favorite is the marinated mushroom guy that has the huge ladle and a smile offering samples. I'd make the BEST pasta salad with fixings from that market.

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