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The original fusion food: Sicilian

Don't confuse the culinary traditions of Sicily with those associated with the rich red sauces of 'Italian food.' A new cookbook from the editors of Phaidon Press reveals Arab and Greek influences found on the sun-soaked Mediterranean island at the tip of Italy's boot.

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I chose to complement the gamberi con la conza with insalata di arance, a traditional Sicilian salad of oranges, fresh fennel, and roasted olives. The sweetness of the oranges and the crunchiness of the faintly licorice-tasting fennel was a perfect companion to the strong garlic and chili spices of the shrimp. Both dishes were easy to prepare ahead of time, although one must allow time to assemble the components at the last minute. 

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Gamberi con la conza  (Shrimp with conza)

From "Sicily" by Phaidon Press editors

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves 6

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

500 grams (l lb. 2 ounces) uncooked peeled prawns (shrimp), deveined

100 milliliters (3-1/2 ounces or scant 1/2 cup) dry white wine

Salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, then add the chilli powder and prawns (shrimp). Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.

2. Drizzle in the wine and cook for 5 minutes, until completely evaporated. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt.

For the conza:

1 tablespoons olive oil

100 grams (3-1/2 ounces or 2 cups) fresh breadcrumbs

1 heaped tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan or skillet. Add all the conza ingredients, season with salt and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from burning. It will be ready when it is golden brown. Serve immediately with the prawns.

Insalata di arance (Orange salad)

3-4 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, fronds reserved

8 oranges

100 grams (3-1/2 ounces or 1 cup) roasted olives

For the dressing:

5 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Reserved fennel fronds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

Salt and pepper

1. First make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, fennel fronds, and fennel seeds (if using), in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Cut off the peel from the oranges, removing all traces of bitter white pith. Cut the flesh into rounds, put them into a large salad bowl and add the fennel and olives. 

3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, mix well and serve immediately.

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