The Sicilian signature
The importance of this pine nuts and raisin in the Sicilian kitchen is hardly estimable. Where some of the most iconic dishes contain them, at the same time simple adding this duo makes a dish immediately Sicilian. Much like a signature does to a painting.
Brought to Sicily through the Arabs around 800 BC, both raisin and pine nuts remained popular until now. How on earth this mix rooted and flourished is a mystery and therefore has many explanations. Some sustain it is all about taste, others claim digestive features are on the basis of the use.
The raisins used in the Sicilian kitchen, especially in savoury dishes, are no bigger than a grain of pepper and balance between sweet and slightly acidic. When soaked in tepid water they tend to swell but loose some of the texture and taste. Do not try to replace the small black seedless raisin with the more common sweet white ones. Apart from chromatic confusion it simply tastes different.
Pine nuts are rather expensive and there is a good reason for this. After removing the nuts from the cone and getting your hands dirty with resin, the nuts have to be cracked open. A painstaking job where dosing strength is fundamental, and considering the weight of a single nut, one tends to be quick: you’ll need to crack about one hundred to obtain twenty grams of nuts. The pine cone is a recurrent object in Sicilian pottery where it represents nothing less than the soul, or the divine element on earth.
The signature is commonly found in the following recipes: Pasta with sardines, Broccolo arriminati, pasta c’anciova and Sicilian breadcrumb pasta. Often added to salads and ‘polpette’. If you are going to dedicate yourself to Sicilian cooking, you should purchase the mix. Even when preparing a hamburger, adding pine nuts and raisins will sign Sicily. Good luck