Red Rice Risotto with Leeks, Mushrooms, Fresh Fava, and Cilantro

South of Arles, in Provence, the legendary wetlands of Camargue produce a superb red long-grain rice. Grown in Europe’s largest delta, the rice tastes incredibly nutty and lends itself to all kinds of dishes, warm or cold. This colorful risotto is vegan, nourishing, and satisfying so it can be a main course or side dish.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

 

PHOTO by Penny De Los Santos

 

Less known than the Italian Arborio or the Spanish Calasparra and Bomba – all medium grain rice – the red long grains of Camargue are easier to cook.  They don’t require constant stirring and retain their shape and bite beautifully. The recipe is simple, and you can use it as the base to create your own variations with seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, or with dried fruits and nuts. 

 

Serves 3-4 (more…)

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Risotto with Greens, Herbs, Garlic, and Lemon

I fondly remember a light and delicious herb-lime risotto I enjoyed one sunny September day some years ago.  I was at La Fenière, the celebrated hotel and restaurant in Loumarin, Provence, and this was one of the dishes chef Reine Sammut’s offered in her Mediterranean olive oil tasting lunch. She served the risotto topped with thin strips of braised cuttlefish, drizzled with a few drops of its deep black ink sauce. The seafood was excellent, but the fragrant, fruity rice was the real revelation to me.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

I didn’t get Sammut’s recipe, just a description, so this is my own rendition of the dish: a simple greens, garlic, herb, and lime risotto that I make often, using any leafy winter or spring greens, and all or some of the herbs on the list, whatever my garden provides. When I don’t have fresh herbs I use the ones I often freeze; unfortunately even good dried herbs will not give the same rich result.

I conclude by folding-in grated Parmesan, which brings out the flavors of the herbs, and very often top the risotto with a 7-minute cooked egg; the deeply-flavored ones from our neighbor’s hens.

You can also serve along with Baked or roasted Fish, or complement the risotto with grilled Halloumi.

 

Serves 4-6 as main course; 6-8 as a side dish

(more…)

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An Eastern Mediterranean Staple: Ksinohondro, Trahana, and Kishk

 This traditional fermented ‘pasta,’ an ancient staple, is made in the summer with coarsely ground grains – wheat or barley – and milk or yogurt.  

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Scroll down to find the basic recipe for the traditional soup or porridge. 

 

The two essential ingredients are transformed into a flavorful and nourishing ‘pasta’ for the winter months. Though I can’t prove it, I have a hunch that early agricultural communities, in different parts of the world, thought up methods to combine and preserve grain and dairy; this is why fermented ‘pasta’ comes in distinct regional variations throughout the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

I wouldn’t suggest that you make your own ksinohondro and/or  kishk if there were good-quality commercial alternatives. In Chania, Crete, women sell wonderful homemade ksinohondro at the weekly farmer’s markets of this beautiful city; but unless you know somebody on the island to buy it for you, this delicious, traditional staple is seldom available elsewhere in Greece. On Lesbos island a similar ‘pasta’ is called ‘trahana’ and is often shaped into cup-like forms.   (more…)

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My Pasticcio

Greek pasticcio (or pastitsio) is a béchamel-topped dish of macaroni mixed with ground meat cooked with onions in a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce, then mixed with cheese, and béchamel. I often use up leftover meat or poultry instead of ground meat for my  pasticcio.  The dishes’ name is Italian (it literally means “a mess”) but pasticcio as such does not exist in Italy, though its roots are in the elaborate timbales, the pastry-enrobed meat-pasta-vegetable pies prepared for special occasions.

 

Read about its origins and get the recipe for the old Pastry-enrobed version.

 

 

Makes 6-8 servings  (more…)

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Pasta with Raw Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Sauce: ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’

There is no better way to showcase the succulent, end-of-summer tomatoes than using them to flavor this simple, yet delicious dish.

 

 

Throughout Italy there are many versions of raw tomato sauces: a similar dish I had published in my Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.  It was more spicy, based in Crudaiola the name used for the sauce in Puglia –the heal of the Italian boot.

Similar sauces are whipped-up all over the Italian south and probably more famous is pesto Trapanese, from the eponymous Sicilian city, which combines almonds, tomatoes, and cheese. I recently came accross this other Sicilian peasant version in Serious Eats: ‘Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera’ which I consider by far the best of the raw tomato sauces; and also the simplest.

 

 

As we read in the recipe’s intro “In the olden days, wandering cart drivers would crisscross the Italian countryside, selling goods, wares, and basic cooking ingredients to the townspeople along the way. When they were hungry, they’d quickly whip up a sauce like this using just the basic ingredients they had on their cart.” One can add cheese, but I found that it is not really needed. I suggest you try it first without.

 

Following the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean tradition I do not blanch and skin, or seed the tomatoes, but simply cut in half and grate them to get their pulp. I always felt that the greenish jelly around the tomato’s seeds is especially delicious, so I don’t want to lose it. (more…)

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