Cookbooks I Love: My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South.


It is hard to believe that the authoritative book My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South is a first book for author Rosetta Constantino, a Calabrian native from the village of Verbicaro.

Rosetta now lives in the San Franciso area, and has collaborated with food writer Janet Fletcher on this lovely, soul-satisfying book. Like many  cookbooks that guide us on an exploration of  the culture and place as well as the food and cuisine, My Calabria introduces us to the cucina povera of this rural region of southern Italy. With a friendly style and the knowledge of a local, Rosetta introduces us to tidbits of culture, local festivals, important regional foodstuffs, and a way of life that is sharply focused on kitchen tasks, food, and seasonally prepared dishes.

I discovered a wonderful review of My Calabria on the blog: The Travelers Lunchbox. This delightful food and travel blog is written by Melissa Kronenthal, a talented writer and photographer. (Sadly, but hopefully temporarily, Melissa seems to have stopped posting to her blogs. This has been one of my favorite blogs and I am a big fan of Melissa’s work.)

Click on this link to read Melissa’s entire review of My Calabria.

I am quoting a portion of what she wrote here: “The heart of this book, though, is its recipes. It’s by no means a comprehensive work nor does it try to be; instead Rosetta has distilled the collection to reflect what makes Calabrian food different and unique, and to explain the what, why and how so that we can really understand the food. Above all her recipes introduce us to the simplicity of Calabrian food and the tremendous respect placed on both quality and thrift. Vegetables are celebrated in dozens of different forms, including fried, stuffed, marinated and folded inside pitta, the local cheeseless double-crusted pizza; animal parts you or I might throw away here feature in succulent dishes like braciole di cotenne, braised pork-skin rolls; and nothing but flour, water and a deft technique are used to make dromësat, a couscous-like specialty of the ancient Arbëresh community. The building blocks of Calabrian cuisine are well-covered too, things like the local hot fennel sausage, home-canned tomato sauce and rustic, chewy pane calabrese.”

This earthy recipe is very southern Italian in feeling, and the preparation of the tomatoes, olives and capers is something akin to combinations that my Grandmother used over the year with various fish dishes. The green olives and the salt-packed capers are both essential to the flavor and spirit of this dish – please do not substitute black olives or capers packed in vinegar.

Pesce Spada Alla Ghiotta

( Swordfish with Olives and Capers )

This dish matches meaty swordfish steaks with a rustic, briny sauce of tomatoes, olives and capers.

  • 4 swordfish steaks, about 6 ounces each and 3/8 ” thick, skin removed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes, drained and minced
  • 1/2 cup large green olives (such as cerignola), pitted and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sals-packed capers, soaked and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Season swordfish with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over high heat. Working in two batches, add swordfish and cook, flipping once, until golden brown and medium rare, about 3 minutes. Transfer swordfish to plate, leaving oil in skillet.

2. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and the chile flakes and cook, stirring, until tomatoes soften and release some of their juices, about 5 minutes.

3. Return swordfish steaks to skillet, nestling them in the sauce, and all parsley and lemon juice; cook until fish is cooked through. To serve, transfer swordfish to platter and spoon sauce over top.