I like trips with strong elements. It does half the work for you. This spring I created, along with Linda Sarris, a new short creative program, A Deeper Look-See at the Island of Pantelleria, to introduce an intimate group of guests to the wonders and flavors of Sicily’s “perla nera”.
We cooked together and ate from the richness of the island, mostly Sicilian in nature, but Pantescan in presentation. Arancine, grilled vegetables, caponata, succulent tomato sauces called estratto di pomodorofrom the previous years tomatoes that had been dried and passed through a sieve and again spread out to dry until it becomes a paste. If you have never tried an estratto from a volcanic island, it’s worth the trip. Capers of course in everything.. almost. It’s part of the Pantescan identity. They are known for their small buds carefully cultivated and left to brine under mineral-rich salt. It’s not so easy, as they cure, they must be transferred from barrel to barrel so as not to ferment. Capers from Pantelleria are considered the best in the world. Capers naturally grow out of cracks in the old stone walls, hillsides and so forth, but in Pantelleria they are cultivated low to the ground and harvested continuously from May to September. They also have medicinal properties to learn about. Who knew a caper was an antioxidant, good for circulation and anti-inflammatory?
Flat terrain with zibibbo grapevines dotted the land below the stone dammusi houses. These vines are planted in 1 to 2 ft wells all over the island high in the hills and low near the sea for the famous Passito di Pantelleria, a sweet wine made of potent juice and sun-kissed raisins. Everything on the island was planted low to the ground, even olive tree branches are weighted with rocks and pruned as bushes, looking rather bonsai. All the elements are strong on Pantelleria due to its position in the middle of the Strait of Sicily connecting Italy and north Africa… and it’s volcanic.
If you tune in when on Pantelleria, especially inside a giardino Pantesco, an ancient circular stone wall garden built to protect a single 100-year-old orange or lemon tree from the winds which can be steady and fierce. It feels quite like a temple. The energy is strong and contained. That is what we tried to provide for the guests throughout our spring Deeper Look-See gathering. A potent container for them to relax and listen and let the rest of the world be on the back burner for a change, while we sink into where we are. A primitive context.
Learn more about the next Deeper Look-See. Click here.