A treat from a Calabrian friend in Milan

Last week, I went for dinner at my friend SS. He is from Calabria originally and happened to have just come back from home with some local food – he was so kind to organise a dinner to let us try it!

As starters, we had bread with olive tapenade (a spread consisting of puréed black and green olives and olive oil) , red onion jam and dry tomato sauce. All the spreads were delicious, but I was most impressed by the red Tropea onion jam. It was made with Tropea onion (a special type of onion from Calabria), sugar, apple and mixed spices. The mixed spices tied together the sweetness of the sugar and apples with the acidity of the onions in a thick texture, the result being an unexpected burst of flavour in your mouth. Along with the breads, we also had some dried tomatoes, olives and cheese.

As a primo, we had pasta with basil, pistachio and potatoes, with a touch of chilli. I had heard a lot about this recipe from SS, so I was quite excited to finally try it that night! He mixed wholewheat pasta with durum wheat pasta, which is not very common in Italy – but I appreciated it very much and thought that that choice already made the dish. The concept of this dish was all about mixing different textures, so that’s why starting with such an interesting contrast in the most basic raw material of the dish was a great idea. This combination was mirrored by the potatoes and pistachios: whilst the potatoes had a soft texture, the pistachios were fatty, oily and crunchy. The rather salty pistachios, together with the basil, gave most of the taste to the dish. Especially the perfume of the basil – which I love – spoke of the Mediterranean origin of the dish. The chilli had been cut in tiny pieces and I did have one on my plate (which was better since, as I mentioned in other posts, I am not a great fan of spicy food) but I guess this is almost a mandatory ingredient in food from Calabria.

Overall, a very interesting dish that allowed high-quality ingredients to sparkle in their diversity.

We also had a light secondo, which was a salad with fennel, oranges, soya and pomegranate. Seasoned with olive oil and pepper, this salad is a great idea to finish your meal in a fresh way. You will astonish your friend with the colorful presentation and funky combination of sweet and acidic ingredients.

The dinner was accompanied by a very special red wine: Valle del Crati , 2003. This was a record-hot vintage, so the wines from 2003 are more jammy and baked than usually.

Thank you SS, that night was a real treat!

VO

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