What to Eat on Giglio Island
The island’s cuisine is a poor one that reflects the customs and ancient traditions of the population once composed mostly of fishermen and farmers. From vegetable soups to fish, rabbit to gingerbread, among forgotten and rediscovered dishes thanks to the work of island cooperatives and, above all, Slow Food, we have compiled a short list of traditional dishes that you can still find in restaurants today.
Tonnina is a poor dish, made from the meat of the tuna back put in salt. Rediscovered a decade ago thanks to the work of Slow Food, it is served, today, as an appetizer. Once the tuna meat has been rinsed, having soaked it, it is served accompanied by some raw red onion, cut very finely, fresh tomatoes oil and salt.
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Palamita In Oil
Not everyone knows that Giglio, along with Capraia, was one of the Slow Food Palamita Presidia in the Tuscan Archipelago Park. The Palamita, also known as poor man’s tuna, is one of the fish that populate the island’s waters especially during winter. In fact, it was in winter that this fish was consumed.
The fish, is beheaded as soon as it is caught to keep the flesh clear, is cleaned and cut into pieces in the desired size for storage, usually the size of an artichoke or half a lemon (4-5 cm high slices). It is then boiled in salted water with vinegar and lemon for at least one hour. It is then delisted, allowed to drain and dry well for many hours on a dishcloth in a ventilated place, changing the cloth if it gets too wet. Once dried, it is placed in oil in a glass container covered with extra virgin olive oil, peppercorns, bay leaves and chili pepper. After about a week it takes on its aroma and is ready for tasting.
Fish Soup or Cacciucco
Zuppa di Pesce or Cacciucco is a great Tuscan classic belonging to much of the seafood tradition. The fish you will find in the soup may vary from recipe to recipe and also according to the availability of the catch of the day. But it tends to be the original recipe to have: squid, cuttlefish, shellfish, seafood and tomato. Sometimes it can be enriched with redfish, priest fish, or small paranza fish such as mullet, and you name it.
Stuffed Squid Gigliese Style
Of the Gigliese-style squid there are two versions: first stewed with onions, the second stuffed with sauce. The former version is more common to find in restaurants on the island, the latter belongs more to a homemade tradition. The stuffing of the squid is made using the animal’s clutches, chopped, breadcrumbs, two eggs, some parsley de le cheese is added. Once the squids are filled, they are cooked in tomato sauce and a tasty sauce is made from them. Often the stuffed squid is accompanied by polenta thus composing a single dish. Or my grandmother, for example, with the leftover stuffed squid sauce would dress pasta with it. But this is only on special occasions.
The octopus is another of the great kings of island waters anyone can happen upon an octopus even while strolling along the piers of Giglio Porto. Octopus salad is, for sure, a fresh and nutritious dish, just right for summertime. We have more than one version of Octopus Salad as well, some people make it with just Octopus and Potatoes and some people also add some seasonal vegetables such as carrots, zucchini and tomatoes, raw, finely chopped. Once the octopus is boiled, it is cut into small pieces, boiled potatoes, vegetables, garlic, oil, parsley and some salt are added.
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Fish in Scaveccio
This is poor fish that is floured, fried and seasoned with a special sauce made from the oil used for frying to which hot vinegar, raisins, crushed garlic, rosemary and salt are added. Yummy!
Rabbit Gigliese style (or cacciatore)
Rabbit a la gigliese is truly a gem of island cuisine. Difficult to find in restaurants that mainly specialized in fish, a festival is organized in his honor during the September period on the occasion of St. Mamiliano.
After soaking the wild rabbit in water, salt and vinegar for about 2 to 3 hours, the latter is cut into pieces and blanched, gradually draining off the water that forms during cooking. Then, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, onion, tomato are added and allowed to simmer. When the cooking is almost finished di sfuma with wine.
Gigliese pizza is a flatbread stuffed with anchovies and onions. The onions are cooked in the tomato sauce and only at the end of cooking are anchovies added to taste. And, if desired, a few capers. The dough is that of focaccia. Once done you divide it into two balls. Once the first ball of dough is rolled out in the baking dish, spread the sauce evenly over the entire baking dish, and then cover with the leftover portion of dough. It is baked in the oven at 180 degrees.
Panficato is the now best-known dessert on the island. The typical Christmas dessert, today it can be found in bakeries and pastry shops all year round. A dessert packed with many ingredients and many calories and not to be confused with Sienese Panpepato. At the base are dried lily figs that are soaked in wine overnight. After that they are chopped and to the chopped mixture are added: almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, candied orange, cocoa, apple pears soaked in liqueur, raisins, dark chocolate all chopped. A pinch of cinnamon, some flour and some vanilla sugar.
If you are curious to learn more about traditional Giglio cuisine, you can check out our little column
Maregiglio Slow Cooking