Eastside Road, November 14, 2011—I AM ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT a cookbook I bought last week: My Calabria, by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher. Of course I'm completely programmed to like it: it's by an Italian-born woman who grew up in Oakland, where her parents had settled after World War II, having brought not only their cuisine but their vegetable seeds with them. The family reminds me of Lindsey's father's family. It's about cooking from the garden, and from a peasant past.
Then too, the book's co-written by a woman I like a lot who worked her shifts at Chez Panisse. I think I recognize some of her input, but the book's more than that: the principal author's voice is present in every sentence.
I could hardly wait to cook from it, but I waited until today, when I tried four recipes. The heart of the meal was pasta, home-made pasta — nothing could have been easier: a cup of flour, a little more than a quarter-cup of water, some time, my two hands, and a rolling pin. Oh: and a sharp knife and a straightedge: you see the result at the left.
The vegetable was sweet Italian peppers, cooked so easily, but with such an interesting and delicious twist: you cut the stem and core out of the pepper, leave it whole, ribs and seeds still inside, put an anchovy inside, and fry it in olive oil, over high heat.
I strayed from Costantino's recipe for Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, adapting it to the meal that was taking shape, and using the lagani I'd just made — a sort of fettucine — instead of spaghetti. No point in cleaning out the skillet I've just used for the peppers, I thought, and sliced a couple of cloves of garlic thin, and a couple of tiny sweet tomatoes, and the stipulated hot peppers into the same, sweet-pepper-and-anchovy flavored skillet, cooked them just a minute or two, and then put the cooked, drained lagani in the skillet.
Meanwhile Lindsey had cooked up some little carrots and spring onions (spring, in November?) that had from a neighbor's truck garden; that's what you see at the bottom of the plate. It was a delicious dinner, and the salad matched it: wild arugula from my garden, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Oh yes: I said I tried four recipes. The fourth was marinated eggplants. They're still marinating; maybe I can describe them tomorrow or next day…
Arneis, Tintero (Langhe), 2009 (a very favorite white, fresh, crisp, light-bodied but full of flavor)