Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Black Rice from Venus, The Goddess Of Love

This is a whole grain black rice from Piemonte called il riso nero Venere. Claiming to be the original black aromatic rice- it’s not actually a traditional Italian variety, but rather a relatively new cross-bred hybrid named after Venus, the Goddess of Love.

More interestingly, it wasn’t even created by an Italian but by a Chinese researcher seeking to adapt a traditional Chinese rice which had, until the 19th century, been cultivated exclusively for the Emperor and noble class.

As far as I can tell it is only available for purchase at Eataly in NYC. I have never seen it otherwise, but this is not a claim we have been everywhere. I have tried other Asian black rices before and find them very fragrant, nutty, and filling. This one is pretty much the same, and my favorite- partial hull, turns the water and any other ingredients purple,  and takes up to 40 minutes, or more to cook. Then it is still chewy with a nutty flavor.

Make it according to the directions- boil in water for 30 to 40 minutes, serve with main course. No stock, no seasonings, and throw out the water. The website says the water has nutrients, so throw it out? I decided to treat it like a cross between how I was taught to cook Spanish rice by my South American friend, and how I was taught to make risotto.

I used 1/2 ratio on rice and water, but slowly added stock as it simmered. But first...start off like you would a risotto (it will not be creamy as a risotto). Saute onions in oil, add rice (to pop open hull, and let moisture in as it cooks); add seasonings, and stir before you add the first cup of chicken or beef stock, or any stock you desire.

Cooking time came down to 27 minutes on medium-high. Came out beautiful! Three times the charm, because I used this method above and treated it like a biryani rice, an Indian rice. Add chopped red onion, tomatoes, and cilantro just before done.

I have made five dishes, including a rice pudding from this ingredient and will report soon.

When did I purchase this rice? This past summer at Eataly when we feasted at il Pesce

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eataly in NYC- Il Pesce

Hubby still talks about Mario Batali's crudo (Italian version of sashimi- raw fish) experience many years ago at Esca, a southern Italian seafood trattoria in NYC. Crudo (means 'raw' in Italian) is a raw fish dish dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and citrus juice such as lemon juice and sometimes vinegar.

If you like tartare, sashimi, or crudo, you will love Mario Batali's Eataly- Il Pesce. Just one of many great places to eat in this unique market. We had five versions of crudo, cooked shark, and a platter of prosciutto and cheeses with jams, figs and other wonderful  selections. We also had a bottle of Chardonnay and Sauvignon blend I have ever had. Crisp, golden and raisiny, wonderful nose and finish for a hot summer day. This wine went well with the charcuterie board and the crudo trio plates.

My sister is not quite the eating adventurer as I am, but she enjoyed the environment, wine and especially the bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Where are to food shots? Sorry but we had been walking around NYC all morning and were very hungry!

We visited Eataly on a Sunday afternoon and found it to be packed with others like us, hungry and curious. I am sure like most NYC markets and restaurants it will continue to be a phenomenon in the foodie world, so just cast your eyes on a seat and wait...its worth it.

It is also hard to say what was our favorite, but the crudo with orange and watermelon was very good. Oh and the shark was nice. But I agree with Mary, the wine was wonderful. There are so many place to try in Eataly, and the oyster selection in Il Pesce was calling my name... we will be going back. The wine store has a few bottles of the Vespa Bianco waiting for us!

Check out Eataly for yourself HERE...

I will be making some unique dishes with ingredients we purchased from Eataly soon, one rice ingredient is not to go unnoticed...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Bake Goat Cheese Ricotta Cheesecake

Each year for hubby's birthday I have to come up with new ideas to blow him away. This year I decided instead of a cake, or even a whole cheesecake- I would make him individual Ricotta Cheesecakes.

But...yes, there is always a but isn't there? My sister has been in town and we have been on the go, so much so, I found myself with a serious illness the week of his birthday. Antibiotics in hand I still felt tired, so I decided to make a no bake/no egg cheesecake to make it an easy celebration. Its been years since I made one of these recipes, but I know if done right, they are good.

He loves blueberries, and we live in Jersey, the blueberry capital. I found them for 99 cents a quart! So I had lots of them to cook with this week. They made their way onto wild caught salmon and many other things. Oh okay, here is what I did with the birthday dessert...

I needed a crust, so I took 1 cup of cinnamon life cereal, 5 bite size Reese's peanut butter cups (he loves them!), and 3 tablespoons of melted butter and hand crushed it together. Place it in the bottom of dessert dishes.

I looked up no bake recipes, and what!?!, I found Tomatoes On The Vine recipe at the top of Google! Ha! Good for you Velva! But I wanted a no bake/no egg version. I knew from memory it was powder sugar, lemon something, and the cheese, but felt I needed some confidence from a recipe. Turns out I was right on...1 pint of ricotta cheese, 1/2 package of cream cheese (my own decision, over gelatin for firmness), the zest of one lemon, squeeze of half lemon, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Blend in the food processor or use a little chopper twice until smooth. Taste for confidence purposes, and spoon on top of crust.

Take one or more cups of blueberries and cook with two tablespoons of orange juice and 1/2 cup of powder sugar until thickens. I spooned some on top of crust before adding cheesecake mixture and then some on top. Chill for two or more hours. Makes two large desserts or four smaller ones. I was told by the time we ate dinner, the desserts were way too big to consume, so smaller glasses can be used.

How did the crust taste with the cheesecake and blueberries? I have to say that I out did myself on this one!

I have made another version of this, individual Margarita Goat-Ricotta Cheese Cakes...with a chocolate chocolate drop cookie crust.

They went great with a Pakistan and Indian meal I made for another chef friend of mine. I used a new hybrid of black rice, and will post soon. For this version, replace lemon with lime, add a splash of tequila, up the powder sugar aunty, and add goat cheese instead of cream cheese. This version will be a creamier and should sit out for at least 15 minutes before serving. Add a berry kabob for garnish.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Memories of Spain Seeping Back In- Dining

I noticed my cable had a few repeat programs of Anthony Bourdain in Spain and knew hubby would love to watch. Just in case he visited a restaurant or area we did, and he did. El Bulli and Mugaritz. It was like we had returned watching Bourdain walk the steps up to the restaurants, and into the kitchen. He even sat next to the table we had sat, and brought a few great tastes we had experienced to his lips. I love that man. Wouldn't it be great to sit down with him and those chefs. It would to me.

It's really not fair to pin point only two restaurants in Spain as being the best, because the whole country is full of wonderful dining experiences.

Now granite my husband has tried to get us in to El Bulli, his whole basis for a trip to Spain for the past six years and we finally got on the list for September, last year. We planned a three week trip with my son to Spain, and the Basque region of France/Spain. Even Bourdain feels Spain exceeds France in being the culinary travel experience of a lifetime. After visiting Barcelona we headed toward El Bulli. It meant going out of our way a bit, but I was driving, so what was another curve in the road.

The rolling hills, and a few flat areas of Spain are just beautiful. I made a few videos of our driving and train trip across this beautiful country to document our trip. Olive trees and vineyards dot and dash most of the country side. I even began to contemplate brining my own olives as many of the people do. We had them at each hotel with a cocktail before heading off to dinner. Yes, on to the food!

After reading other posts and watching last nights repeat episode of Anthony Bourdain at El Bulli, and him being shown a few secrets, we decided that Spherical Olives, bubbles, lots of bubbles, and some kind of Sponge Cake are a few of Adria's favorites to re-create. Why? Because you seem them in many of the photos on the Bourdain episode, and we experienced them as well. Actually at both El Bulli and Mugaritz, two similar eating experiences, but very different dining environments, style wise.

The chef of Mugaritz, Andoni Aduriz apprenticed under Adria before opening this re-vamped kitchen/restaurant/old farmhouse (fire took out kitchen in 2010). Very similar to El Bulli's practice they are only opened April to December, because they are doing research for their menu. The gather local and organically available ingredients, as well as grow anything in their gardens you cannot find at markets up to an hour away, so that customers may experience some of the best flavor combinations recreated.

(Our menu was laid out before us as we toured the kitchen at Mugaritz)

The reservation at Mugaritz was almost made too last minute, as well as hotel accommodations, and we discovered it was around the same time as the San Sabastion Film Festival. Late dinner and slim picken's on sleeping arrangements, but we managed. This also meant celebrities would be all over the place, and they were. When we were greeted at the door they saw my rather large new camera and asked that I please be mindful of customers, rather celebraties due to a film festival week, which meant no photos of the restaurant after seating. 

How can one eat over twenty courses in one sitting? My husband and son had no problem, I just have a small taste and pass it over to them. Chef Adria feels if you eat too slow you will tire (said so in Bourdain video), so I try and keep up with my dining companions. One of the most unique dishes was this carpaccio. They ask us to guess what it is. One of Adria's similar fooleries also, as he uses tuna belly to simulate a smoked jamon- this is watermelon, which tastes like a jamon. We knew the flavors, but it was hard to tell, until they told us what it really was.You simply think your eating meat.

The dish above is a carpaccio of mushroom, which you think is another meat, maybe even a sweet bread of some sort. There is so much, you barely remember them all, but I do know it was good. The wines were also 'so good'!

This dish above looked somewhat like powder sugar, and a few jokes hit the table about what it might could be (thanks to my son and husband), but once your spoon cracked through, obviously there was a surprise underneath in a hidden bottom of the plate. Someone had a sense of humor in the kitchen.

Can it be what you think it is? Or is it dessert? Your brain cannot wrap itself around what they set before you.

Even as you observe them preparing items as Adria carefully watches, you cannot tell what is before them.

Green olives and foam are a few of Adria's favorites that carry over into his apprentices kitchens (as well as one we dined at in Madrid). I tried making foam, and it does takes some skill.

Toward the end of the meals you get a lighter side of desserts which are always my favorite- meringue cookies (to slip into your pocket for the in hotel room cocktail before bed).

(El Bulli dining room was decorated in traditional upscale european style- the serving dishes were not, the restaurant employ's an engineer to design them.)

At the time El Bulli was a Michelin 3-star restaurant near the town of Roses, Catalonia, Spain, run by chef Ferran AdriĆ . The small restaurant overlooked Cala Montjoi, a bay on Catalonia's Costa Brava, and has been described as "the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet", and does a great deal of work on molecular gastronomy. The restaurant has now closed as of July 30, 2011, to reopen as a creativity center (aka school, under private foundation) in 2014. I am sure Adria will find some way to let a rare few back in to taste the students creations.

Okay we also slipped in a photo of a celebrity (below), which the staff was watching us like a hawk the whole time, my camera case got a stool of its own next to me during the meal. Paul Giomani along with some Spanish film celebrities, and we were told one was the director of his film. I would not have even know he was behind me, but my son saw him first.

Julia Roberts and a few other famous people were spotted on the streets, and seated at the chef's table in El Bulli. It was hard not to gush over the food, the chef's and everything else (Unlike my aunt when we saw Robert de Niro in NYC's le Cirque dining with his wife...another story), but I remained calm.

If you did not make it to El Bulli, then try Mugaritz...if you do not get to either, well, there are so many other Adria understudies opening up great places along the Spanish trail.

I have all the photos posted from Spain on my facebook page (food and other), because there are just too many to share, Thanks! (plus blogger for some reason is giving me trouble with the pics)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Candied Walnuts

I wish the credit to whom I found a similar recipe used (altered by me) could be remembered- sorry, I forgot to bookmark it. So, the recipe below is a combination of my own experiments and what I saw on someones post.

My first batch was more walnuts and less caramel, in which I used with a Tandoori Shrimp Salad, then I altered it a bit more...

After eating this batch I realized they were very similar to a Tex-Mex candy we could purchase after eating at local Dallas, Texas establishment like El Fenix. Chewy goodness to ward off the spice of the meal. Or add some spice to keep the momentum going!

Candied Walnuts

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups whole or chopped walnuts

(Altered- 1/2 cup honey and corn syrup create a more caramel candy you can slice, but play with amounts before trying more).

In non-stick pan and on medium high begin heating mixture, let boil for about four minutes, constantly stirring with plastic or wooden spoon; quickly add baking soda and mixture will begin to foam and then rise; continue to stir for a few seconds; quickly add in walnuts and remove from heat; stir for a few more seconds and let cool for five minutes.

Pour onto parchment paper sprayed with non-stick spray. Spread out flat and evenly. Let cool over night. Do not place in refrigerator until it has completely cooled. Cut into pieces and wrap. Then refrigerate if desired.

May be used as caramel pralines, or separated for salads. I have made many batches and have added chipotle powder for spicy walnuts.