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To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything. – Goethe

Italians are apparently great lovers, but the closest I ever came to experiencing the heat of an Italian was my daily encounter with a tall, goofy, mustached guy in his tight sweater. He’d approach my best friend and I as we walked down the cobblestone main road back to our little rented apartment, our arms filled with whatever the outdoor market had to offer that day — veggies, tomatoes, bread, olives — and usually an English language newspaper. He’d suddenly appear out of a doorway, amble over ever so nonchalantly, and mutter the same cheesy pick-up line: “So, what are you reading in the newspaper today?” We’d smile politely and continue along the way.

The year was 1977, the town Taormina, Sicily. I never did melt in his hot embrace, but I did surrender to the austere beauty of the town perched on a craggy cliff high above the Mediterranean. We had heard “seaside” when we first heard Taormina mentioned, not realizing it would be hundreds of steps down to the seashore. But those steps we grew to love, and we walked down daily. It was a cold December when we arrived, but Sicily was still bathed in light. Weary from our European travels, we were delighted to make out a “For Rent” sign posted outside a house. We used hand gestures and choppy Italian to communicate with the grandma and grandpa who joyfully rented it out to us for the month, and our daily excursions to the market, Greek ruins, and the sea began. We spent Christmas there, witnessing the celebration on the piazza and the big Christmas parade. We sat on stone steps outside the kitchen of the only nightlife, a supper club, where we’d click our fingers to the jazz rhythm wafting out from within – we were students, and couldn’t afford the cover charge. And of course, we enjoyed our predictable hot Italian. I was certain I’d be back next year.

Vegano Italiano 2016 in Puglia

Forty years later, I’m finally going back to Sicily! And this time, I’m taking some of you with me! The trip down memory lane will be wrought with new discoveries this coming October when I’ll lead my third Vegano Italiano tour. Two years ago, a small group of us got a glimpse into the heart of Italy when we spent a week in the Cilento region of Southern Italy, an area that almost seemed frozen in time. Last year, a slightly larger group enjoyed the varied treasures of Puglia in the heel of Italy. And this year, we’ll set off for the island where I left my heart as a student. Forty years is a little longer than I expected, but I’m more excited than ever.

Vegano Italiano – a joint effort of Green Earth Travel and Tierno Tours – takes small groups on intimate excursions to wondrous places in Southern Italy that are largely hidden to the average tourist. The past two years, we visited the castle home of a living duke, a beach with everything — pristine sand, aquamarine waters, stunning caves – lacking only tourists, a cooking experience with the “mamas” that had even the guys laughing and having fun, and amazing meals in restaurants off the beaten track you’d probably not find in Small Planet or Frommer’s. Vegano Italiano takes us into what I think of as the real Italy, showing us the true cultural gems – the way Italians live and love and work.

We witnessed the passion of a 3rd generation baker as he lovingly described different kinds of ancient wheat and how they go into his bread; we became rapt churchgoers at the sermon of wines conducted by an impeccably dressed winemaker who got us all to believe in the truth of the vine. We were in Italy, and we knew it not for the sights, but the passion of its people, and how it expressed itself in the flavors of the food, wine, language, and culture.

Sicily will be another opportunity to go deep into the country’s heart. In fact, the further south you go in Italy, the deeper you go into the heart of Italy. The scenes in the classic film by Giuseppe Tornatore, Cinema Paradiso, depict this well –even as the protagonist becomes a cool and successful Roman producer, in the end, he is Sicilian to the core. So, you’ve been to Tuscany, Venice, Milan, maybe even Rome. Now let’s go to Italy.

We’ll of course start in Taormina, and then head off to visit Mt. Etna, a living volcano. On the island of Ortigia, we’ll have a vegan meal created by a Michelin-starred chef and learn how to bake Sicilian bread. We’ll visit the chocolate museum in Modica and learn about its history. We’ll hike through ancient ruins, visit the marketplace, relax over a café in a piazza. The highlight of each day will be the sumptuous meals we share together as we talk and laugh and form friendships. And did I mention the wine? Yes, there’s some of that to go around, too.

Vegano Italiano is a culinary tour – yes, it’s all about the food! In Southern Italy, it’s not a stretch to make sure that it’s vegan, because the majority of the diet has been plant-based for centuries. We’ll try regional dishes made with beans, grains, and vegetables that aren’t on typical Italian restaurant menus in the US, and I promise, it just won’t stop. Somewhere between all of the excursions and meals, I’ll sneak in a few cooking classes as well, and we’ll even have time to shop and cook together. I might even bring some special cheese to share!

This tour is open to only 22 people. Some of the spots are already taken by returning guests – for a few, this will be their third tour. The word I’ve used in the past to describe these trips is just “magical.” I’d love to share the magic with you this year. To learn more about it, you can contact Donna at Green Earth Travel (donna@greenearthtravel.com) or see more details at https://vegantravelclub.com/tours/sicily/. This 7-night, 8-day trip runs from October 7 to 14, 2017. Yes, exactly 40 years from when I first went to Italy, I get to return – and I hope you can come with me!

Who knows – maybe we’ll see the guy with the cheesy pick-up line.


Print Recipe
Orecchiette
While in Puglia, Italy for our Vegano Italiano 2016 tour, we learned how to make this classic specialty from the "Mamas". A beautiful educational cooking experience that had even the guys laughing and everyone having a great time plus enjoying the fruits of our labor.
Votes: 4
Rating: 3.75
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Votes: 4
Rating: 3.75
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Put flour in a food processor. Put the lid on the food processor, turn it on, and slowly pour the hot water through the spout. The mixture will first look like cornmeal, then form tiny little balls whirling around the work bowl and, finally, after a couple of minutes, form a big ball in the middle. Let it go for another 30 seconds to knead the dough, then turn it off.
  2. Remove the dough. It will be quite warm and pliable. Cut the dough into quarters. Take one of your pieces and on a clean, dry surface roll the dough into a snake. Once the dough is about 1-inch diameter cut a little bit off the end. You’ll need to use a wooding cutting board for the following step. Taka a butter knife and using the non-sharp edge begin to press from one end of the piece and roll it down to the other end of the dough. (the sharp edge of the knife faces you). Pick up the piece with your hands and using your thumb press into the dough to flip it inside out. It will form a little ridge around the perimeter. Watch the demonstration from our former Facebook Live video below (start at about 21:00).
  3. Get a large pot of salted water boiling (about 8 cups), then cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes, until perfectly al dente. Using the sauce of your choice, toss al dente pasta in a pan with sauce and heat for another minute. Turn heat off. Optionally, fold in some VeganMozz into the pan, serve and eat right away!
Recipe Notes

To store the pasta, toss the uncooked pasta with a little semolina or flour to prevent sticking, then wrap in plastic wrap or put in a covered container and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

Watch how to make Orecchiette  from our former Facebook Live video:

 


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Recipe by Jenny Bradley

This recipe was developed by the very talented professional baker, Jenny Bradley, to highlight the versatility of our Fresh VeganMozz! Quickly whip up one of these subs by using pre-made vegan meatballs now found at most grocery stores or make the classic Italian Meatball recipe in The Homemade Vegan Pantry in advance to add a little rustic homemade warmth.

 

Print Recipe
Mozzarella, Pickled Onion and Arugula Meatball subs
Votes: 5
Rating: 3.4
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
sandwiches
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
sandwiches
Votes: 5
Rating: 3.4
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Pickled Onions
  1. Boil three cups of water. Thinly slice red onion and place in strainer in the sink. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1/4 tsp salt and 1 cup red wine vinegar. Once water comes to a boil, gently pour over onions, as this all lightly cook them. Transfer onions to red wine vinegar and salt mixture. Let sit for a half hour at room temperature. All of the onions don’t need to be covered with vinegar; fold them into the liquid with spatula or spoon about every 10 minutes. Drain after 30 minutes and refrigerate any leftover onion. It will keep for about 2 weeks.
Meatball Sub
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a pot large enough to fit entire package of vegan meatballs without crowding them, heat to medium high drizzle with olive oil, and add meatballs. Add 3/4 - 1 jar of marinara, turn heat to medium and cover until meatballs are cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes. Gently stir occasionally.
  3. If hoagies are not already cut, slice in half, lengthwise. Thinly slice Miyoko’s Fresh Mozzarella, and even distribute among the four top halves of your bread. Toast all bread, until mozzarella is melted and bread is lightly browned, about 7 - 10 minutes
  4. Remove from oven, let cook slightly. Place a layer of pickled onion on the bottom halves, followed by 3/4 cup arugula each, and then ladle marinara and approximately 3 meatballs on top of arugula. Place top half of bread with melted cheese atop and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Photo by Jenny Bradley

Watch how these subs are made:

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February 14, 2017

Falling Under the Sicilian Spell

While in Puglia, Italy for our Vegano Italiano 2016 tour, we learned how to make this classic specialty from the “Mamas”. Learn how to make this beautiful ear shaped pasta. Simply add your favorite sauce. 

January 17, 2017

Smokey Sweet Potato Boats

These sweet potato boats are a sweet and savory balance of healthy decadence! Filled with whole foods and topped with a melty smoky cheese sauce made from our Aged English Smoked Farmhouse.

January 4, 2017

Well-Crafted Macaroni and Cheese Mix

There’s no shame in saying it— we’ve all had macaroni and cheese
 out of the box. But there’s no need to buy it, because you can make the instant cheese sauce mix yourself in just a few minutes!

January 3, 2017

Golden Turmeric Rice with Smoked Farmhouse

Friend of Miyoko’s Kitchen, Lani Muelrath, is an award-winning, nationally recognized presenter and speaker who brings a passion about the plant-based, vegan, active, mindful living to the stage. Lani shares her simple yet completely satisfying recipe for Golden Turmeric Rice topped with a little smoky Aged English Smoked Farmhouse vegan cheese.

December 30, 2016

Florentine Cookies

Florentines are a beautiful and delicious thin lacy cookie made with almonds held together with caramelized sugar and then drizzled with chocolate. They are incredibly easy gluten-free cookie to make and perfect for the holidays or even a New Years Eve celebration!

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