Tuesday, May 17, 2011

calabria, calabria dinner, my calabria
Discovering Calabria – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party

Inspired this past weekend, by the recent gift of a new Calabrese cookbook, my friends and I prepared an authentic Southern Italian feast. The setting was beautifully simple, complete with herbs, flowers and citrus fruits from our gardens. For the menu, we adapted seven recipes from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher, with outstanding results.

We enjoyed exploring this lesser known regional cuisine, learning about the remote and somewhat mysterious Calabria as we constructed our menu. Dusty and hot mountainous regions, steep slopes, and narrow coastlines all contribute to the uniqueness that is La Cucina Calabrese.

We served esoteric Italian wines with the meal, wines that paired well with the simple yet robust Calabrese cuisine. Unfortunately we had difficulty locating wine specifically from Calabria, but we certainly were not disappointed with the fabulous bottles that graced our table. And we enjoyed Gino’s locally famous homemade limoncello to cap off the affair.

Unlike most of our dinner parties, the dishes were served family style. There was plenty of conviviality and great food & drink, as we experienced Southern Italy via Southern California.

table setting

MENU

OLIVES
green and black olives with fennel seed, garlic, lemon, hot pepper

MELANZANE ALL’INSALATA
eggplant salad with garlic, mint, and hot peppers
served over romaine with ceci beans and ricotta salata

VRUOCCULI CA’ SAVUZUIZZA
hot italian fennel sausage with broccoli rabe
with raisins and pignoli

BRANZINO SOTTO SALE
whole salt-baked mediterranean sea bass, flown in fresh daily

SALMORIGLIO
olive oil-lemon-garlic herb sauce with red chiles for the fish

RISOTTO CON LE COZZE
risotto with fresh mussels, saffron, tomato

WINES
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2005
Ruffino Modus Tuscany 2007

CHINULILLE
fried sweet ravioli with ricotta and kumquat, powdered sugar
espresso

LIMONCELLO
di Gino

OLIVES
green and black olives with fennel seed, garlic, lemon, hot pepper

Olive Marinade

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 t. toasted fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 red jalapeño chiles, sliced
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • lemon juice to taste

Combine all ingredients, toss with olives. We served the olives as an appetizer with breadsticks.

italian eggplant

MELANZANE ALL’INSALATA
eggplant salad with garlic, mint, and hot peppers
served over romaine with ceci beans and ricotta salata

Slice Italian eggplants lengthwise leaving the cap intact to hold them together. Place in a large pot with plenty of water. Bring to a boil. Add salt and cover. Boil for about 5 minutes until the eggplant are tender. Remove to a rack and let dry for one hour.

Meanwhile make the dressing by combining the following ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 hot red/green peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 c. fresh mint, thinly sliced
  • 2 t. kosher salt

Place the eggplant in a baking dish.
Pour the dressing over the eggplant, cover, let marinate for 24 hours at room temperature.

eggplant salad

We served the marinated eggplant over quartered romaine lettuce with ceci beans. Pour extra dressing from the baking dish over the salad, top with crumbled ricotta salata.

eggplant salad

broccoli rabe

VRUOCCULI CA’ SAVUZUIZZA
hot italian fennel sausage with broccoli rabe
with raisins and pignoli

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, and raisins.
Sauté for a couple minutes.

broccoli rabe

Add a generous splash of white wine, let it reduce briefly, then add a bunch of trimmed broccoli rabe. Cover and cook until the broccoli rabe is wilted and tender.

broccoli rabe

Add salt and toasted pinenuts to the broccoli rabe.
We served this in a large bowl topped with grilled Hot Italian sausages.

branzino salmoriglio

BRANZINO SOTTO SALE
whole salt-baked mediterranean sea bass, flown in fresh daily

SALMORIGLIO
olive oil-lemon-garlic herb sauce with red chiles for the fish

branzino sotto sale

Of all the dishes that evening this one was my favorite. I’m a huge fan of branzino and happy to add the salt-baked method to my repertoire. It is easy to do, creates quite a presentation, with spectacular results. I wrote about the process here this past Sunday.

black mussels

RISOTTO CON LE COZZE
risotto with fresh mussels, saffron, tomato

Sauté a couple chopped garlic cloves and chopped parsley in about 2 T. olive oil. Add a can of diced tomatoes and 1 t. each of red chile flakes and sea salt. After a minute or two add 1/2 c. dry white wine and 2 lbs. cleaned fresh mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels open, about two minutes. Remove mussels to a separate bowl.

making risotto

Meanwhile heat 1 quart of vegetable broth in a separate pot.  And heat 3 T. olive oil in a heavy 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add 1 finely chopped onion and cook in the oil until softened. Add 2 c. arborio rice, stir to coat all the individual grains, then add the tomato mixture.

Grind a generous pinch of saffron threads using a mortar and pestle and add to the rice mixture. Stirring continuously, add one ladleful of hot vegetable broth at a time as it is absorbed until the rice is al dente and creamy in texture. 

risotto con le Cozze, risotto with fresh mussels

Remove about half the mussels from their shells and fold them into the risotto. Finally add the remaining mussels with their shells and serve with parsley garnish.

italian wines

WINES

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007

Varietal: Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolino
Characteristics: Vino Nobile is garnet red in color with aromas of violets. The wine is lively and fruity with flavors of dried berry, black cherry and spice.

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2005

Varietal: Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero
Characteristics: Aromas of licorice, black currant, marzapan and spice. With flavors of spice, chocolate and plum.

Ruffino Modus Tuscany 2007

Varietal: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Characteristics: Complex and modern with cherry and red berry aromas. Smooth supple texture with hints of mint and and blackberry flavors. And our favorite.

fresh ricotta

CHINULILLE
fried sweet ravioli with ricotta and kumquat, powdered sugar

chinulille

We started with fresh ricotta from our local Italian market (A-1 Deli on 8th St., San Pedro) which is far superior to store-bought. It has a drier consistency and is much more flavorful. To 1 1/2 c. of ricotta add the following ingredients and mix gently:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • grated zest 1 lemon
  • grated zest 1 orange
  • 1 T. orange liqueur
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. salt

Place about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture in the center of a wonton skin. Place about a teaspoon of kumquat marmalade atop the ricotta. Using your finger, wet the edges of the wonton wrapper with a small amount of water. Fold the wrapper on a diagonal and seal using the tines of a fork.

fried ravioli

Fry ravioli in hot peanut oil until puffed and golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

chinulille, sweet wonton ravioli, ricotta ravioli

Serve chinulille with vanilla bean ice cream and powdered sugar and a mint leaf garnish.

limoncello

This feast was a great introduction to the food of Calabria. We were extremely impressed with all the dishes and now we’re hooked! We did adapt the recipes to suit our tastes and availability of product so we encourage you to seek out the book for the exact ingredients and techniques. My Calabria is a delightful cookbook – full of authentic recipes, traditions, and history of this relatively undiscovered region. Brava Signora Costantino!

…and everyone left with doggie bags…

To my dear friends and fabulous cooks: Father Adam, Tori and Tom -
Extending a special thank you for your enthusiasm to try new cuisines,
all the lovely gifts, wines and cheeses, and most importantly your friendship!
Grazie  & buono appetito!

32 comments • Filed in: Entertaining, Wine

32 Responses to “La Cucina Calabrese – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party”

  1. Lois says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog and especially this menu – one of my favourite books – we had a delicious braised chicken dish from it tonight – love Calabrian food

    Lois, Brighton, UK

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  3. Hi LL,
    I am loving this cookbook, it is perfect for summer! Such a nice read too.
    Happy Memorial Day!
    Stacey

  4. Cara says:

    My favorite dish in this post is that incredible eggplant. I need to make that soon! But who am I kidding – I love the sweet and savory combination of the broccoli rabe dish too. I make pretty much the same thing but with spinach; the rabe sounds much heartier though. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sandra says:

    Quite a visual feast as well. Your parties seem so relaxing and fun.

  6. Simona says:

    Your parties are always great events. The gorgeous photos made us participate in the bounty of the table.

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  8. sippitysup says:

    You know… we live so close. I am going to have to come to one of your dinner parties someday! GREG

  9. Christine says:

    This would be a good cookbook for my collection. I read cookbooks like novels. Also love your pics.

  10. Claudia says:

    I’be been staring at the book for awhile. Do I really need another Italian cookbook? (I have to sneak them into the house!) But the post convinced me I do. The blog entry alone transported me to Calabria. From those spicy olives through that sea bass (which will grace my table one of these days) to the salad… and then the fried ricotta ravioli – my fresh ricotta is never dry enough though. I’m going to go back now and stare at the photos.

  11. What a stunning feast…and oh that eggplant, gorgeous! Southern Italian cuisine is truly a delight for the senses .

  12. Joan Nova says:

    Definitely my kind of menu! Beautiful execution and setting…as usual.

  13. Adora's Box says:

    What a fantastic meal! I would not know which to eat first if I was there. I love the eggplants, the broccoli rabe (never tried that) and most of all the sweet ravioli.

    • Lori Lynn says:

      Hi Adora – well, definitely have the ravioli last :)
      This time we served the dishes all at once (except dessert), but I usually plate the food. Family style worked well for these dishes.
      Thanks for your comment.
      LL

  14. Melissa says:

    Everything looks amazing. I especially love the table setting and the happy smiles on your guests faces. I would love to have a themed dinner party like yours. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures:)

    • Lori Lynn says:

      Hi Melissa- we are into themed dinners. Some included: Porchetta Party, A Tribute to Jackie O, Frida Kahlo Dinner, Gourmet Retro Party, The Lusty Month of May, a Taste of Korea and many more!
      LL

  15. Lazaro says:

    A feast for the eyes, taste buds and senses. Amazing. Perfectly thought out and executed.

    Bravo

  16. purabi naha says:

    I liked reading this post of yours. You are really a good photographer!

  17. Ciaochowlinda says:

    I love that cookbook – not just the recipes but the history and stories too. you served up a delicious dinner. with every course, I was dreaming of being back in Calabria.

  18. I love doing cuisine themed dinner events, and southern Italy is a favorite place of mine (I take groups on culinary trips to Puglia). Must give your menu a try – thanks for sharing!

  19. Marie says:

    LL, I recently met a blogger friend here in chicago and guess what she gave me? My Calabria!
    I’ve been eager to make many of the recipes, now after seeing your beautiful post I’m all gung-ho! Especially that sweet ravioli, oh my!

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