the first night of "the flying italian", is *SOLD OUT* (and there's even a waiting list!!!!)
today is a glorious day. springtime at its best: blue sky, warm sun, fresh air...
and yes, i still leave in brighton, england, where i hope global warming will bring me soon the beach lifestyle i always longed for but somehow failed to achieve so far. northern italy and southern england are not the best places for that.
so, from the depths of my heart a big shout out to my mate El Nino.
today is also "is my blog burning" day, a day of around the world cooking, from alberto's original idea and hosted this month by globe trotting pim, whose mouth watering thai feasts haunt my culinary dreams.
the theme is "around the world in a bowl of rice".
i am happy with the theme, i like rice. rice is an important staple in the diet of anybody growing up in northern italy: italy is europe's main producer of rice and most of it comes from lombardy, where i am from. lombardy's capital, milan, is the home of risotto.
a risotto recipe would have been a natural choice but today is a glorious summery day which calls for something fresh. the idea of spending part of it in front of simmering pots of stock and risotto just doesn't fit.
what does fit to perfection is a nice refreshing huge bowl of insalata di riso aka rice salad.
one of my favourite dishes ever for its ever changing array of flavours and textures.
there is no recipe, of course. i've never made two identical rice salads because it's a dish that takes advantage of the best of what you have in the cupboard and in the fridge.
there are a few important tips, though:
- use only italian rice varieties as a plump glutinous grain is paramount to the flavour and texture of the salad;
- cook the rice like you would cook pasta, in lots of salted boiling water until al dente and no further;
- as soon as you drain it, rinse it thoroughly under running cold water to stop the cooking process;
- add all the ingredients that you fancy and leave it to rest as long as possible;
- make enough to spare for the following day: a day old rice salad is even better.
in honour of the theme of the day i put the world in my bowl of rice:
greek cheese, italian olives, english pickled onions, thai sweet basil, spanish tinned tuna, sicilian capers plus boiled eggs, fresh peppers, fresh courgettes, more cheese and so on (and on and on)...
a final word of advice: whatever you do, do *not* spoil the intricate and fascinating imbalance of flavours by further dressing your salad with large blobs of mayonnaise.
i do it and i will go to hell for it.
when i turned f**ty, i found myself in walthamstow -of all places! - in a nice little italian restaurant with a greek owner and an english cook. i think it was called "la ruga" or something similar.
the meal was surprisingly good, the guy was very chatty and liked my complimenting his wine list, small but perfectly formed.
when he knew what i was doing he gave me an idea: "why don't you rent out a small café and have your own restaurant for a night?".
"nice idea", i replied. " i will definetely think about it".
and about it i thought, for two years and a bit.
now i am doing it!
i have rented a small café and on the 29th of may i will have my restaurant for a night!
i've called it the flying italian: blink and it's gone.
two set menus to give consistent quality and to minimize the panic.
it has occurred to me though, that maybe some geographically close readers might be interested in giving it a try: if you do, drop me a mail. i offer no discounts (ehi, the price is *low*!) but a priority on booking.
some people (ie:me) have no shame.
when i was a kid and they took me to visit my aunts in the country, one of the first things i did once there was to rush and check out the rabbits' cage.
i was not interested in playing with them, cuddling or whatever... i just wanted to make sure they were growing big and fat.
and big and fat they were!
not much to do apart from munching on salad and leftover vegetables and the occasional burst of reproductive frenzy.
i fed them some more, just in case.
those rabbits were destined to become the main ingredient of some of my most delicious childhood memories. my aunts used to make the definitive comfort food. rabbit casserole with porcini mushrooms served with steamy scalding polenta cooked in a copper pot on the fireplace.
oh to be that young and happy again...
in warmer months they would roast the rabbit with white wine with just a simple green salad on the side. those rabbits had lots of fat so they stayed moist and tender even when roasted. and the smells, have i mentioned them yet?? those smells would sneak out of the kitchen and reach us in the garden where we would stop playing straight away and start fighting for the best seat at the table.
oh to be that young and foolish again...
later on, on a trip to tuscany with a girlfriend i discovered -amongst other things- the heavenly delights of rabbit with olives and coniglio in porchetta ie: rabbit stuffed with a magical concoction of wild fennel, garlic, black pepper, rosemary and god knows what else then roasted to pink perfection..
oh to be that... --ooh SHUT up!
when i moved to the UK i was therefore quite shocked to learn that here rabbits are pets. or pests.
animals to be either cuddled or shot at.
on one hand you cannot eat them because you would make little girls cry, on the other you won't eat them because they are too lean and too gamey.
no wonder i have rabbit cravings. sometimes *serious* rabbit cravings.
my solution to those is fake rabbit with olives.
i take some tasty and safe chicken thighs and take the bone out.
in a frying pan i heat some good olive oil with garlic and mixed olives, destoned and lightly crushed. i like to use those wonderful marinated olives you find in arab shops, especially those with herbs and chili. i cook the chicken skin side down until the skin is crisp then turn it to cook and brown the meat.
when ready i pour the lot including all the juices on to a bed of home made hummous.
would my aunts approve?
I don't know but it sort of reminds me of rabbit and its delicious on its own merits.
the cravings are sorted.
until next time.