Sunday, 8 June 2008

Ducky's culinary school: foodgasms.

I was in Florence and spent some time in the central market on the top floor where all the vegetables are, stumbling around in a state of quasi-estatic sensory overload. Mostly because of a fresh porcini stand. I bought fresh porcini, which are butter-melty and frankly, have a taste and smell that falls into the sex category. It would have been criminal to do too much to such a lovely and complex taste, so I just heated them through in some olive oil and salt, and put them on some fresh bread and ate. I also cooked up this little flowered zucchini on the side (just oil, salt, pepper and a bit of garlic). And maybe slumped into my chair making little noises of happiness. Of course, the next day, I went back to the market and bought some dried porcini to take home.

Now, usually, dried mushrooms don't smell like much when you open the bag. This smelled like much. Suddenly I understood why one might need a warning on a plastic bag telling you not to stick your head in it. One night, I rehydrated a few of the mushrooms, and put them on spaghetti with truffles and just a bit of parsley (Yes, I bought truffles packed in oil on this trip. Because life is too short not to) and parsley. Oh. My. Goodness. And then last night Spanky and I went down to Leith for an night of risotto. Hilarity ensued, but that was mostly due to the conversation.

Mushroom risotto: If you are lucky enough to get your hands on mushrooms this good, for the love of sweet Jeebus, don't do too much to them. Brown rice in olive oil, heated until is smells nutty and then doused with a good cup of dry white wine. Simmered and stirred in the mushroom water. Meanwhile, the rehydrated mushrooms were heated up in a little oil, a tiny clove of garlic, some wine, and a green onion. When the rice is done, mix, and add salt and a smidge of black pepper. Perhaps a little more olive oil. If you have more delicate mushrooms, use white rice.

Strawberry risotto: Take thinly sliced red onion and a clove of garlic and add it to olive oil in a pan before heating the oil. Turn the heat on low and cook until the onion is translucent. Add white rice and a tiny bit of cumin and some salt. When the rice is also translucent, add a healthy two or three shots of saffron gin (or gin and saffron. vermouth would also work), then hot water. Do the usual risotto thing. Meanwhile, reduce some balsamic vinegar (somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup for 1.5 cups of rice going into the risotto). When the rice is done, stir in the reduced vinegar, about 3 cups of sliced strawberries, at least half a cup of fresh basil, and black pepper.

Take both of these, and serve them with green salad to good friends. Eat slowly. Laugh a lot.

perfect music: snippets of Bach, sung by a choir boy and an angel, interrupted by helpless laughter and drinks.


medici said...

oh, these risottos were so delicious! and they were pretty, too. the mushrooms alone might get me to italy to luxuriate in the smell. they truly were luxury fungi. the scottish strawberries were small and just right, like the rest of the country. my kitchen is still a mess, though. oh well. great times are often messy. what can you do?

veggiekatie said...

Wow, those risottos look amazing! I've never heard of a strawberry risotto before; that sounds wonderful!!

By the way, I really like your blog; I love your suggestions of music along with the food!

sinead said...

strawberries make fabulous savory foods. they go especially well with asparagus. oh yum. i'm getting hungry just thinking about it.