For the love of agrodolce

it might not be as sexy as apple crumble or cookies, but it is Sicilian, so look out!

I read somewhere, a while back, that Americans don’t love sweet and sour foods. In fact, I believe the wording was a bit more harsh, something along the lines of “Americans find sweet and sour foods unappealing”. This was particularly distressful to me because I had not only predicted the imminent rise in popularity on the American food scene of Sicilian cuisine, which is frequently sweet and sour, but it was also disheartening because I had already selected the name for my restaurant that would capitalize on this certain trend, Agrodolce. Don’t take it. It’s mine. I’ll know if you open a restaurant with that name that you stole it from me. And I’m sure there are no other Agrodolce restaurants anywhere, by the way. Agrodolce is Italian, from “agro”, meaning sour, bitter, or vinegary, and “dolce” meaning sweet, and I’m not sure what the problem is with the rest of you Americans (presuming only Americans are reading – apologies if you’re a sweet-and-sour-loving non-American), but sweet and sour is damned good. Take for instance the sweet and sour butternut squash we had with our leftover short ribs and leftover polenta last night. Who loves leftovers? Who? That’s right. No one. Oh, but JR and I loved our leftovers. And why? Because of the sweet and tangy butternut squash. You have all of the ingredients you need to make it in your pantry, so no excuses. Get yourself a butternut squash and whip up a batch of this tart, cinnamon-y goodness tonight. Or at least this weekend.

Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash


    Adapted from Clarissa Hyman's Cucina Siciliana, which has all manner of other wonderful recipes chock full of unexpected flavors; lemon meatballs, pancetta and peas with mint, pistachio crusted lamb chops (ok, so pistachio + lamb chops does not = cheap, but even if your investments are tanking and you won't retire until you're 95 - which is to say "dead" - you may want to splurge once in a while, right? I'd say yes. Especially in that case.)
  • One 3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper


  1. A confession before moving on. I had no mint. I do, however, have a small forest of wild oregano growing in parts of my garden that I am unable to regain control over, so I used oregano. Mint is better, but oregano will do.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic cloves. Working in batches, cook the sliced butternut until it is well browned on the edges, turning frequently. Remove the butternut from the pan and place into a serving bowl or platter. Discard the garlic.
  3. Reduce heat slightly to avoid splattering as you add the ingredients for the sauce. Slowly add the vinegar to the pan. Then, sprinkle the sugar into the pan, along with the cinnamon. Add mint. Salt to taste, and add crushed red pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to combine the flavors, then pour over the butternut squash. Serves 4.
  4. Hyman instructs that you leave the squash to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours. I think you can eat this shortly after it's made, so approaching room temperature or at room temperature, and then enjoy the leftovers cold another time. This dish would be great with pork, roasted chicken, beef short ribs (of course), or, if your family is agrodolce-inclined, as a side at Thanksgiving.

Dinner tonight: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family-style macaroni and cheese with a salad of garden romaine, and sauteed Oakdale Farms mini-eggplant. Estimated cost for two: $7.10. The cheese is the most expensive item. I used leftover cheese from the trip to Vermont, being sure that I had 20 ounces, though it was not in the proportion of cheddar to Gruyere that is called for in the recipe. No problem. Just be sure that you get a sharp cheese, like a Grafton 4-year aged cheddar so that you have a good cheesy flavor. It’s not worth the effort to make it from scratch if it doesn’t taste better than the blue box variety. So the cheese was about $12.00, the pasta was $2.79 (and yes, you can get a box of elbow mac for less, I agree), milk and butter were 2.01, flour was about 10 cents, breadcrumbs around 50 cents, and I have the very last of my garden tomatoes to top the dish, so the total for 6-8 servings is $17.40. The romaine is from the garden, so thirty cents (because that’s what it cost in the flat of plants per plant), and the eggplant was around a dollar.

One Comment to For the love of agrodolce

  1. Sarah says:

    ina garten’s macaroni and cheese is heaven in cheese and pasta form…i have never made because i am a failed cook, but have eaten someone else’s and it was to die for – hope you enjoyed!

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