Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tutto Calabria!!!!

Tutto Calabria

Recently, I spent a day at Convivio, and came across this gem. These spicy little peppers are quite sweet and acidic, a little bitter and ridiculously spicy. They (secretly) make their way into many dishes at the restaurant and are, I think, one of a few secret weapons that make Michael White's food so delicious (the others being really good anchovies, olive oil, and cheese).

They come from Tutto Calabria – an Italian company in the business of the Calabrian tradition. Calabria, geographically at the toe of the boot, has historically suffered frequent occupation, crop failures, and economic depression. As a result, they developed the sort of near-future pessimism that leads to a real talent for preservation. Calabrians pickle and preserve everything. They excel in chartcuterie, particularly 'Nduja, a spicy, smoked, spreadable sausage . They love salt cod, anchovies, and a bright-red sardine paste called sardella. In short, they love everything I love.

Calabrians also love chiles, another fortunate upshot of their historic poverty. Unlike pricey, temperamental black peppercorns, the capsicum plant is easy to cultivate in the southern Mediterranean climate. When Columbus returned from the new world with bounties of chile peppers, the capsicum flourished and the trajectory of Calabrian cuisine changed forever. Tutto Calabria represents an extension of this culinary tradition, borne from the hardships of past generations.

The sad irony here is that Tutto Calabria products are expensive and difficult to find. I bought mine at the Italian importer at Chelsea Market, a place I can no longer go until I am gainfully employed. They cost something like $8, but frankly I think they're worth every penny.

Lately, I've been using the chiles in pretty much everything I make. The oil that the chiles are preserved in is good, too. It's like an extra bonus which helps justify the price. They were particularly good in this dish I made the other day:

Farro pasta with anchovies, cauliflower and calabrian chiles. It was freaking intense.

1 comment:

  1. I wanna eat that. Yes, infused oils (i.e. the rest of what's in the jar after the actual product is gone) are a great resource for recession meals. Yum-O.