On December 21, 2009, I will launch Rice Pasta Couscous in Europe with a presentation and reading at the legendary Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris. I am honored to be returning and can think of no better place to present my latest book.
There is a piece of mine in the new issue of Virtuoso Life magazine on Valencian paella - the original slow food. It’s a dish that’s worth the wait. Or rather, if you don’t have to wait, it’s not worth it.
You can read it here in a digital version. (If the link doesn’t work, try this: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/virtuosolife/20090708/#/130/OnePage)
I am on the road right now in northern Italy, on assignment in the rice fields of the Po River valley – roughly between Milan and the mountains of Piedmont. That means I’ve been eating lots of risotto. But where there are rice fields there are frogs and I’ve been eating a lot of those, too.
Yesterday I had lunch with Countess Rosetta Clara Cavalli d’Olivola and her son Paolo of Principato di Lucedio – not just one of the finest rice farms in northern Italy but also the oldest (I wrote about them in Rice Pasta Couscous). We went to a small trattoria called La Bucunà in Fontanetto Po and had frogs with onions in a rich vinegar sauce and then a stunning risotto with Barolo and sausage.
Back at Lucedio, Paolo had one of the older women who live on the farm show me how to catch frogs. Using an old cane pole with a piece of prosciutto tied to a 4-foot-long piece of string, she bobbled it on the surface of a slow-moving ditch that edges a rice field and made clicking noises with her mouth. When a frog took the big wad of prosciutto in its mouth she yanked it up. The surprised frog came flying out of the water and through the air and she was able to catch it in her hand.
Well, most of them. Those she missed had us flaying around trying to grab before they could leap back into the water.
She put them in a cotton pouch tied to her waist and took them back to the farm, where they would be prepared for dinner.
I will begin posting some “recipes in progress” here. The first is from Morocco – I have been asked for it a dozen times since mentioning it here. Mostly, though, the recipes will be from closer to home, as I work on my new book The Country Cooking of Spain.
Moroccan Carrot and Cumin Salad
This “salad” is often eaten as an appetizer alongside herbed olives and even small cheese-filled triangular cheese- or onion-stuffed phyllo pastries called rghaifs. The carrots are best served chilled with toothpicks to prod.
8 ounces carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt. Add the carrots and boil until just tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a basin with cold water. Transfer the carrots with a slotted spoon to the cold water to stop any further cooking. Once they have cooled, remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Spread out on absorbent paper towels to dry.
In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, season with the cumin, paprika, and pepper, and add the sugar. Cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add half of the lemon juice and dust with the parsley. Turn carrots over to evenly coat.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
Just before serving, squeeze the remaining lemon juice over top and turn over to evenly coat. Serve chilled.
All recipes are copyright Jeff Koehler 2009 and may not be reproduced without his written permission.
For those that can’t get the hard copy of Metropolitan Magazine, check out the on-line link to the piece about my favorite place to eat rice in Barcelona, El Vell Sarrià. Don’t miss my cameo at the end.