Aeschylus became sitting on a rock, in all likelihood questioning or writing, in keeping with his habit and mistaking the bald and shining head of the poet for a rock on which to break open his prey, an eagle flying overhead dropped a tortoise. According to legend, the tortoise hit the mark, immediately killing the Greek tragedian who, having lower back to the south coast of Sicily in 453BC, changed into seeking refuge inside the wheat-bearing land of Gela.
The poet Archestratus was also from Gela. Unlike the bald and unlucky Aeschylus, Archestratus’ death turned into not tragic. In truth, pretty the other. A proud glutton, Archestratus became a 4th-century BC Jay Rayner, roaming the Mediterranean consuming and writing humorous didactic poems advising people in which to locate the first-class food, appreciably fish. Fragments of his poems nonetheless exist today, incorporated into The Deipnosophists (The Sophists at Dinner), consistent with creator Mary Taylor Simeti (whose novel, On Persephone’s Island, and books on Sicilian meals I highly recommend). The fragments are a blueprint for cutting-edge cookbooks, advising us, for instance, how to prepare dinner tuna: “Slice it and roast all of it rightly, sprinkling only a little salt, and buttering it with oil.”
These days, references to Gela are much more likely about the looming presence of an oil refinery, or the darkish side of the first-rate tomatoes that grow on this section of hot, salted coast. Guide books no longer best advise you to pressure past Gela, but to speed up and prevent your eyes. For us, Gela is our summer domestic; the now-defunct oil refinery, with its red-and-white chimney, a stripy landmark as we method my partner’s home town for a month of own family, sausages and red mullet cooked on the roof, bread covered with sesame seeds, days by the ocean and watermelons for miles. There’s additionally salmoriglio, a sauce that flavours our summer time and meals, and also one that translates everywhere you can find olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano.
Like so many sauce recipes, you don’t really need one for salmoriglio. However, the concept of proportions might assist. Pound, weigh down or very finely chop a clove or of garlic with a pinch of salt. Add the juice of a lemon (about 100ml), 200ml more-virgin olive oil and a generous pinch of dried oregano. You can also add a pinch of pink chilli or some chopped parsley if you like. You could make it in the blender – in truth, it creates a cloudy sauce with real texture – but I tend to crush the garlic and salt in a mortar, scrape it right into a jar with the oil, lemon and oregano, and shake madly. This also method that leftovers are equipped to be stored inside the fridge.
You can use clean oregano if you desire; the scent of the small leaves remind you that oregano and mint are relatives. Dried, however, is when oregano comes into its very own, with the musty fragrance deepening. I used to discover oregano perfume unpleasantly sturdy – dusty, even. I now understand this changed into as it became forgotten in a drawer for years and years, pulled out and used unknowingly. The flavour of oregano is high-quality introduced out by way of braising, stewing or in the residual heat, that’s why it is sprinkled in or on top of stews, rather than fried. The great oregano is the type in dry bunches: rub a stem among your hands over a sheet of kitchen towel, then keep any left over in a jar, and the bunch in a dry vicinity, however not for too long. Alternatively, you could use clean marjoram.
At the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in the Sicilian geographical region, they serve salmoriglio in a gravy boat to be poured on heat veggies: steamed broccoli, slices of courgette or thousands of steamed veggies. “Pass me that boat of deliciousness,” requested my friend the remaining time we had been at the faculty.
In Gela, I marinate thick slices of aubergine in salmoriglio (or, as my father-in-regulation says, “salamarigghiu”), leaving them for about 20 mins so that they sop up the flavours, earlier than searing them on a ridged grill. I additionally marinate fish (swordfish or cernia) or grill entire fillets on our bandy-legged charcoal grill, then pour over the sauce while nevertheless warm off the grill. Heat is vital for salmoriglio: it wakes up the flavours like an alarm – especially the garlic and oregano, with its musty, peppery perfume, inseparable from the harshly stunning and shrubby Sicilian panorama in which it grows, and tortoises fall.