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Rice with beans and dry chestnuts
Traditionally this dish is made with chestnuts, rice a little “astrattu”, super concentrated tomato paste, olive oil, onion and anchovies. It is an old recipe that was prepared in the province of Palermo.
This plain, poor people dish prepared with inexpensive ingredients is very tasty and filling and it is also prepared at Canneto, in the Aeolian island of Lipari, about 25 miles off the coast of Sicily. In the Canneto preparation the cruzziteddi are smashed and hot pepper and wild fennels are added to the recipe.
My mother added to the original recipe the beans and eliminated the anchovies.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse and honored as the guardian of blind people. Santa Lucia is also the protector of the eyes, a reason why this Saint is honored in every town in Sicily.
On December 13, Saint Lucy Day, a rule is observed “no pasta, no bread” the two staple foods in every Sicilian household. Originally this penitence or little sacrifice to fast and not eat bread or pasta was offered to ingratiate Santa Lucia and to get the eyes and sight under her protection.With time Santa Lucia day became a day of celebrations substituting the pasta and bread every possible delicacy. In every Sicilian family as in my paternal home, Saint Lucy was a feast rigorously observed: no bread and no pasta!
My mother and my aunts prepared a large variety of sweets and cooked many special dishes to fill in a traditional menu followed by my family. While my parents were alive and at that time…we had no dietary restriction: we were not overweight, no cholesterol, or any other modern ailments.
The morning started with “cuccia al cioccolatte”, boiled wheat cooked in a chocolate cream, followed with “allessi vugghiuti”, cruzziddi, boiled dry chestnuts with dry figs and carobs. The cruzziddi were cooked in large quantities for the visitors and rice with beans and cruzziteddi was prepared to be served at lunch.
Lunch consisted of this delicious and memorable dish and boiled potatoes.
- Serves: 6
- 1 lb dry chestnuts
- 1 lb dry beans, use your preferred type
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, diluted in a cup of water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Inspect dry beans for any small stones or foreign article, rinse well.
- Soak the beans in a large pot with plenty of water for 36 to 48 hours, changing the water two or three times.
- Inspect dry chestnuts for any small stones or foreign article, rinse well.
- Soak the chestnuts in a large pot with plenty of water for 36 to 48 hours, changing the water two or three times.
- When ready to cook, remove from water with a slotted spoon and peel off any skin still attached to the chestnut.
- In a 6 quart sauce pot, sauté 4 tablespoons of oil and the onions over a medium heat until the onions are light golden in color.
- Add the tomato paste diluted in a cup of water and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the beans and chestnuts and enough water to cover 3 inches above them.
- Bring to a boil then simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- A pot of boiling water has to be kept on the side, because it will be needed in this preparation.
- Add parsley, 1 tablespoons of salt, and the arborio rice.
- Bring to a boil, than lower the heat and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- If soup becomes too dry add some hot water.
- Liquid should be at least 1 inch above the rice at all times.
- When time is up, test for doneness; rice should be soft but not overcooked.
- If needed, add more salt and some freshly grounded black pepper.
- Drizzle and mix in the 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and wait a few minutes before dishing it out.