A couple weeks ago, as you may recall, I got to cook a dinner for some folks from Kitchen Surfing and 30ish friends and colleagues. It was Mr. Ganz who first recommended I check out Kitchen Surfing. He pointed me in the direction of their well-kept Tumblr, and I was instantly hooked. The concept makes so much sense – Create a stockpile of chefs, events, experiences in intimate settings, and let people enjoy food the way it’s meant to be eaten, together.
Thanks to my friend Lianna, Caitlin Kilcoin of YRichmond (and general awesomeness,) and Max Siegal from Kitchen Surfing, I got to cook dinner for the first ever Richmond Kitchen Surfing Meet Up! When I found out I could do whatever I wanted with a $15 price point, I knew instantly that I wanted to explore the flavors of Calabria. Maybe it was the Calabrese salami I was snacking on at the time, maybe a sign from god. Either way, I was thankful to have a specific focus.
I wanted to keep plating simple (super simple, as it ended up being family style,) but I also wanted to give myself some challenges. I decided to make both sausage and pasta for the main course – a sausage and ricotta -stuffed ravioli with a fennel tomato sauce. The dish reflects my overall culinary sensibility – rustic but with attention to technique and flavor. I wanted the first and third courses to provide balance to the rich flavors of the pasta. I began the meal with simple antipasti – spicy marinated eggplant and peperonata with goat cheese focaccia. For dessert, I celebrated a fruit that calls Calabria home (and doesn’t find its way onto many plates,) the bergamot.
I’ll be posting the recipes for the ravioli and dessert in the upcoming weeks, but first thing’s first, antpasti!
Try this on everything – burgers, baguettes, a spoon.
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 assorted red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1⁄4″
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1⁄2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add peppers, garlic, onions, and salt, and cook for several minutes. Add 1 cup water, and stir to dislodge any tasty bits. Cook, partially covered, on a low setting, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary, until peppers are completely soft, about 1 hour. Stir in vinegar, and taste for seasoning; adjust as necessary
Spicy Marinated Eggplant
This is basically Victoria’s father Domenico’s recipe, which means it’s REALLY Southern Italian and thus spicy and bright and in yo face.
4 Thai Eggplant (Ok, so this part is not Italian – I chose the skinny, thinner-skinned eggplant for presentation purposes)
1 1/2 cups Red Wine Vinegar
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Magic Sprinkles*
1 handful Fresh Basil, chopped
1 handful Fresh Mint, chopped
Olive Oil (the good stuff)
Cut the eggplant in approximately 1/2 inch slices. Salt thoroughly and drain in a colander for at least two hours. Squeeze the eggplant to get rid of the excess water (Osmosis is SO COOL.) If the skin of your eggplant is thin enough, and if you salt and squeeze thoroughly enough, you don’t have to cook the eggplant at all. If that’s not the case, and you’re worried about texture, just throw the eggplant slices on a sheet tray with a thin layer of olive oil, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, then proceed to the next step.
In a large bowl, combine the eggplant and remaining ingredients. You want just enough vinegar to cover the eggplant. Let the eggplant sit overnight, and continue to enjoy until it’s gone…which will be quicker than you might think.
* If you don’t have magic sprinkles (pity,) you can make your own by combining
1 cup dried parsley flakes
½ cup dried garlic
¼ cup crushed red pepper
¼ cup kosher salt
Or, you can simply use a combination of dried oregano and crushed red pepper. It’s a flexible recipe, meant to suit your tastes…unless your tastes run toward the bland. Then you’re out of luck.
Serve with crusty bread and cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.
Stay tuned for Sausage & Ricotta Ravioli and Almond-Bergamot Cake with Citrus Crema…
And here’s some more coverage of the evening: