Enjoying the sheer immersion of a Mexican food market

Enjoying the sheer immersion of a Mexican food market

Diego Rivera (see last post) wasn't the only one obsessed with Mexican food markets. It's funny that Americans think of Mexico as a place where all the meals are based on dried corn made into a bread (tortillas), dried chiles made into sauces, or dried beans made into burrito fillings. Given their druthers, most Mexicans eat fresh fruits and vegetables as their dietary mainstays. True, they do love to grill and deep-fry some foods, but the key to the Mexican table is fresh food. That could include some pretty exotic stuff. The basket of small gray stuff in the left pane above is huitlacoche—fresh corn infected with what American farmers call ‶corn smut.″ It's a fungus that makes the kernels ooze with an inky, musky...Read More

Making paella Valenciana at home

Paella must be popular worldwide, judging by the recipe we received from the proprietor of Ceramicas Terriols (see below) when we purchased our paella pan. The directions were in a babble of languages, including Chinese and Russian. We can't comment on the clarity of the Chinese and Russian, but the English was, shall we say, tortured. (Sample directions: "When the meat is gilding, the tomato and paprika are thrown well moved till the whole is lightly fried.") Still, we got the gist of it and we wanted to try it when we got home. Since we have to traipse halfway across the city to buy rabbit, we decided to see if chicken thighs would make a good substitute. We can get good periwinkles in our...Read More

Shopping in Valencia for paella tools and ingredients

[caption id="attachment_608" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mercado Central, Valencia"][/caption] After tasting paella at La Pepica (see previous post) , we were able to identify the essential ingredients and seasonings we needed to bring home to recreate the dish. The best place to shop for in Valencia for paella fixings is the soaring Modernista train-shed of the Mercado Central (Tel: 963-829-101., open 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday). It’s one of the largest fresh markets in Spain, perhaps because the area around Valencia is intensively agricultural. The subtropical climate not only permits year-round cultivation of greens and legumes, the swampy lagoons are also home to some of Spain’s most prized rice plantations. You cannot take home the fresh veggies, but you can bring the heirloom rice, the spices, and...Read More

Tips for packing food and wine in a suitcase

When we posted What to buy in an Italian grocery store and What to buy in a Spanish grocery store, we neglected to mention how to get those delicacies home. International airline security restrictions limiting liquids, gels, and pastes (including most soft foods) to 3 ounces in carry-on luggage means entrusting your goodies to the gorillas who slam around checked luggage. Leaving home, we try to fill our checked bags only halfway, taking up the extra space with bubble wrap and really large plastic bags. (A friend once suggested we have a bag fetish.) Hefty One-Zip 2 1/2 gallon bags are ideal. A few 1-gallon sliding zipper plastic bags are also handy. Small items like jars of anchovies, truffle oil, or pistachio butter from Sicily...Read More

Making grilled asparagus risotto

[caption id="attachment_327" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Grilled asparagus risotto"][/caption] Before we bought a pressure cooker, asparagus risotto was one of the few risottos we would bother to make because it’s smoky, luscious, and deeply satisfying. It also pairs nicely with a crisp white wine like a Vermentino from Sardinia. It had become one of our go-to quick dishes, in part because every time we light up the backyard grill, we grill some asparagus, making sure we have enough for dinner and enough left over to chop into salads and to make grilled asparagus risotto. This 2-serving recipe evolved rather radically from the version of non-roasted, non-pressure-cooked asparagus risotto made by Fanny Singer that we found in a 2003 issue of Food & Wine. Cooking time is about...Read More

Learning under pressure

With a gleaming Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker in hand, we were ready to try cooking risotto like a Venetian. There were just a couple of problems. Nobody grows baby artichokes on the Boston Harbor Islands (or anywhere else nearby), and Anna Maria Andreola had been, shall we say, extremely casual about measurements when she’d shown us the basic technique in Venice. So we experimented, using the simplest Italian rice dish of all, risotto milanese. (Basic recipe for four servings: Saute a medium chopped onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil until translucent, while infusing 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock with 1/4 teaspoon of saffron. Add 2 cups arborio rice to the onion pan and toast rice until opaque. Add 1/2 cup white wine and stir...Read More

Seeking pressure at home

[caption id="attachment_292" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Kuhn-Rikon 3.5 liter pressure cooker"][/caption] We love risottos, but always saved them for special occasions because they were so time consuming. But Anna Maria Andreola had demonstrated in her home kitchen in Venice that it was feasible to make great risottos in a pressure cooker in almost no time. We were eager to try it at home. Finding the right pressure cooker wasn’t easy. Most pressure cookers in we saw in Venetian and U.S. kitchenware stores were lightweight, flimsy aluminum pots. Many U.S. shops didn’t carry them at all. “They’re dangerous,” clerks told us. “They explode!” To which we say, “bah” and “humbug.” We’ve been using a venerable Presto pressure canner for years (David bought it in 1970) to process sauces...Read More