I was excited when I heard that we were going to have an event for Gambero Rosso and the 2010 Tre Bicchieri tour in the Private Dining Rooms of Spiaggia on Friday evening. When I travel to Italy, I pick up Gambero Rosso magazine as soon as I arrive. Our sommelier, Steven Alexander set up the event for all the producers from the wine tasting earlier in the day. I wanted to come up with a menu that would be simple, yet creative. I pulled inspiration from my trip to Pantelleria and Sicily earlier this month.
It was ambitous, but I decided to serve new creations. For antipasti, I made a cannellini bean puree with caramelized onions, crunchy bits of guanciale and its fat. I finished the puree with a little balsamic vinegar to add a touch of acidity and sweetness. This was inspired by the small snacks served all over Italy in bars with apperitivi. We smeared the bean puree on crisp crostini and garnished with a fried parsley leaf. Tony loved it and I think we might make it a ravioli filling for an upcoming dish.
I have been craving Insalata Pantesca since I got back. This is the traditional salad from Pantelleria Island. Insalata Pantesca is made from boiled potatoes, olives, red onion, grape tomatoes, and of course capers (Pantelleria’s famed IGP product.) Not just any potato though- the potato I had there was a beautiful gold color, with a creamy texture and a beautiful sweetness. I had never tasted a potato like that before. I called my produce guru and described the potato I had. He thought that it might be a Benji or German butterball variety. He brought me in a case of the German Butterballs especially for this event. I was very happy – the potatoes were pretty close to what I had. Everyone loved the salad! I met a winemaker from Sicily, who commented he was surprised to see this salad here in the US. I exclaimed that I had just traveled there and discovered this delicious salad. We spoke for a while about Sicily- it took me back to the island for a minute! What great feed back-I was proud I could remind them of home!
I knew I wanted to incorporate pork into the menu; it is one of my favorite meats to eat and cook with. It has such amazing diversity. Italian cuisine completely and respectfully embraces the pig (consider the 2 years of TLC Prosciutto di Parma recieves!) I thought it would be delicious to make a stuffing out of Mortadella, fennel, orange, and garlic. Chris (one of our great sous chefs) and I brined the pork loins overnight. Then we stuffed each loin with the mortadella mixture, then crusted one side of the loin, and wrapped them with caul fat. They were seared, roasted and were sliced a la minute in the dining room.
It was great to work on new ideas and have them enjoyed by the very best winemakers in Italy. What a special night and a fun way to continue to bring Italy to Spiaggia! I hope we can do it again.
written by Sarah Grueneberg