Archive for December, 2010

22
Dec

Roman Barley Risotto

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in course, dinner/lunch, Food, historical, non-vegetarian, Recipe

I just wrote this up for a friend, so I might as well post it here while I’m at it. Having first tried this dish at one of my Roman Cooking Workshops, this has since become my favorite way to cook barley.

“Wash and crush barley which has been soaking since the previous day. Put on the fire. When it boils add sufficient oil, a small bouquet of dill, dry onion, savory, and leg of pork. Let all this cook with the barley for flavor. Add fresh coriander and salt pounded together, and bring to the boil. When it has boiled well remove the bouquet and transfer the barley to another saucepan, taking care that it does not stick to the pan and burn. Cream well, and strain into a pan over the leg of pork so that it is well covered. Pound pepper, lovage, a little dried pennyroyal, cumin, and dried seseli. Moisten with honey, vinegar, defrutum, and liquamen, and pour into the pan over the leg pork. Cook over a slow fire.” (Apicius IV, IV, 1)

But I did make some changed. For one, no matter how much I love that a leg of pork is an incidental ingredient in this barley recipe, I just don’t have those lying around. I do, however, have a steady supply in my freezer of cubes of leftover roasted pork shoulder (it’s a thing – my mother likes this particular roast, but they suck at eating leftovers).

Also, gruel just sounds like prison food, and I’ve yet to find a congee I like. So I made it with a slow addition of liquid so that it was tender and pleasing but not drippy.

Roman Barley Risotto

Soak barley overnight.

In a nonstick pan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sautee some onions and minced stems of parsley and cilantro (I got that trip from the DVD extras of Bend It Like Beckham).

Heat up some stock

When the onion is translucent, drain the barley and add it to the pan. Add some stock.

Bind together a bundle of fresh dill, drop it into the pan and sprinkle in some dried onion flakes, savoury (and/or thyme), and as much roast pork leftovers as looks tasty.

Let cook until the stock has been absorbed, and then add more stock.

Mince cilantro leaves and stir them together with 3/4 teaspoon salt (more or less – this dish can take a lot of salt), crushing and juicing the leaves. I found that the dish could absorb quite a lot of cilantro, so go wild. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley – but the addition of green was a great choice.

Season the barley with the salt and cilantro, stir, taste. How’s the salt level? How’s the texture? Does it need to cook more? Feel free to have another addition of stock. Also, how’s the dill flavor? I might have been tempted to mince in some of the dill, too. If it’s strong enough, go ahead and discard the dill. Note the ingredient seseli in the original recipe – could totally be referring to dill fronds, carrot fronds, parsley, anise, caraway, or even fennel)

Grind cumin and black pepper and add to taste. I was generous with the pepper but more moderate with the cumin, so it would be a background note.

If you don’t have lovage, you can substitute celery or margoram (or skip).

And then once the barley is fully cooked and creamy, you’re finishing by mixing in honey, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, maneschewitz wine (defrutum is young wine that has been boiled down to only 1/3 the volume of the original), and liquamen/fish sauce.

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15
Dec

Homemade ricotta experiments

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in experiments, Food, friendly, gluten free, Recipe

I came back from Italy with a new appreciation for ricotta — it was soft and pudding-like for breakfast with a hint of sweet; it was in rich discus cakes filled with ricotta and chunks of chocolate; it was served in a simple dish of freshly made fettuccine, ricotta, and black pepper, which was one of my favorite meals of the trip.

And I’d always read that ricotta was one of the easiest cheeses to make – no rennet required.

The very next farmers’ market, I set out to get some of the best milk possible. The farmers selling pasteurized milk were out, so I purchased a half gallon of local raw cow’s milk.

Then I read up on various instructions.

Especially useful was this comparison of various acids and draining times.

I settled on heating 4 cups of milk to 180F (on the high end of the 165-185F range, but reading a blog on food poisoning has made me nervous about raw milk) with 3 teaspoons of distilled white vinegar and a pinch each of salt and sugar.

Now here’s the interesting part – I made this recipe almost exactly the same twice and had very different results.

Ricotta

First Iteration
I mixed together the 4 cups of milk and 2 teaspoons of vinegar, slowly raised the temperature (electric range with dial on 4 of 12).

By 160F, I had pebble-sized curds, but it didn’t separate further. I waited until 180F, when an enzyme might or might not be an broken down, and then added the last teaspoon.

(salt and sugar added around the 165F point, when I was fiddling and eager for something to happen)

Beautiful separate occurred, and I drained promptly.

Results were just like ricotta cheese available in containers in stores and not the magical stuff of Italy. All in all a success, but worth playing with more.

Second Iteration
(made two days later, if age of the milk might be a factor)

This time, I heated the milk first without mixing in other ingredients. Same rate of heating.

Salt and sugar still went in around 165F.

All of the vinegar, however, was slowly poured at 180F. Again, all three teaspoons were needed before separation occurred.

Resulting texture, however, was much more in the squeaky cheese curd family. This is not ricotta, and I have no idea what’s different.

I turned down the heat as soon as it hit 180F, so it shouldn’t have spent significantly more time at temperature, and it didn’t go higher.

I’m baffled.

Both had the same yield: roughly half a pint.

OTOH, I am so making lasagne later this week and trying the ricotta for a middle layer and the second batch instead of mozzerella (or in addition to).

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