A quick reflection on the word "Sicily" brings up a multitude of visuals and ideas: Italic ocean side paradise beaches; sky scrapped mountaintops; rustic village cliffs; great green fertile Mediterranean fields. And of course, pasta - lots of it - heaped with the freshest tomatoes one can imagine, and the shadow of Al Pacino hunched against the brick stones of Corleone trying to sway the hand of a beautiful Greek girl.
Yet, were one to delve back into the deep history of this island, you'd find out that it's a hodgepodge of cultures intermixed.
A quick peek at it's location reveals a number of things:
Geographically, it's the most southern point of Italy, and it borders (through the Mediterranean Sea) several North African Arab counties .
Why is this important?
Well, due to muslin invasions in the 10th century, Sicily became a medieval Arab province, and this cultural diffusion birthed a cuisine ripe with the spiced foodcraft of an exotic
Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, raisins, saffron, apricots, etc.
Even the language of Sicilian bears Arabic words in its lexicon up to today.
So with this merger of cultures in mind, here's an Arab-Sicilian dish that contains the delicious tangy salty flavors of Italy with the spice bite and complexity of Arab cuisine.
1 pound chicken breast
2 tbsp kalamata olives
1 tsp capers
6 tsp kalamata olive brine
5 cloves garlic
5 dry chili peppers
1 bay leaf
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
2 lemons (zest, and juice)
1) Marinate slices of chicken breast in 6 tsp of olive brine (or enough to coat the chicken), the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon for at least 30 mins
2) Add 2 tbsp olive oil to pot under med-high heat, then add 5 cloves of garlic, cooking until brown.
3) Once browned, add 5 dried peppers (breaking them in half to scatter their seeds), and 1 large bay leaf. Cook for 3 mins.
4) Add the marinated chicken, and cook 5 mins on each side until brown.
5) Add the zest of 1 lemon, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp olives, and 1 tsp capers. Cook for an additional 3 mins.
6) Turn heat off, allow to cool for 2 mins, and then add 1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (It adds flavor, thickens the sauce, has beneficial affects on cholesterol, and adds a great "mouth-feel" to the dish.
I served this with brown basmati rice cooked with cinnamon and raisins, a parsley salad with artichokes, lemon juice, and sliced tomatoes, and Roman beans.