Monday, June 20, 2011

Apple Celery Risotto with Ripe Tomato and Carrots

A few years ago I went to England to work on a record for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. The record kept me there from the beginning of July until Christmas, so I was away from Heather for an extended period and grew homesick. One night the late movie on BBC4 was the Blues Brothers, a movie I love, and I settled into my little accommodation to watch it. A few minutes in, seeing shots of Maxwell Street and hearing all the Chicago accents, I started blubbering like a baby. I called Heather and complained of my loneliness and she arranged to come visit me. She came to hang out in the studio and Jimmy and Robert were gracious and friendly with her, and in conversation she mentioned that since I'd been gone she'd been deprived of home cooking and had put on weight. Jimmy Page volunteered that he knew a terrific weight loss diet. His exact words were "I lost a stone in a fortnight. It just melts off you."

Heather, hanging out with Jim and Bob

A stone is 14 pounds and a fortnight is 14 days, so that's quick work. The diet as he described it is a list of prohibitions rather than a menu to choose from. No refined sugar, no wheat or gluten, no mushrooms, yeast or other fungus, nothing fermented unless distilled (beer and wine not okay, distilled booze okay), rice vinegar only, no beans or legumes, no citrus and no dairy (small amounts of non-cow cheese and parmigiano permitted). Heather adopted the Jimmy Page diet and lost a bunch of weight, as advertised. While she was on the diet, I had to adapt to its restrictions when cooking and I'll admit that it improved my versatility and flexibility as a cook. Heather has decided she wants to lose some weight again, so she's back on the JP, and I'll probably be posting a couple of Page-compliant meals as a result. While I'm not interested in "diet food," most of my meals are improvised around what ingredients are available, and this just makes a few things unavailable. While Heather was in her previous JP phase I never felt like the eating suffered as a result.

Risotto is a natural replacement for pasta, so for the first JP meal I settled on that. For a condiment I saw that we had a couple of nice reticulated heirloom tomatoes, some ripe plum tomatoes and a bag of little carrots. I get nervous when I see vegetables in a bag, but Heather loves carrots and there they were. I have mentioned that I'd been using Vegeta for vegetable stock, but I thought I'd use the Jimmy Page diet as an excuse to make a nice vegetable stock and keep it handy for soup and such, so I started a stock pot with an onion and a couple ribs of celery, bay leaves, about an inch of ginger, the trimmings and core of the apple I diced for the risotto and a handful each of parsley and cilantro. After it came to a boil, I added a splash of fish sauce and left it simmering on the stove so it would be hot when I added it to the risotto.

I started the risotto with an apple, some onion and celery, all diced pretty small. I sweated them in olive oil and when they were soft, added the rice and toasted it in the hot oil until it was opaque. The risotto was conventional, I just stirred in stock every few minutes until it was incorporated and the rice had a nice, loose texture. I prefer risotto to be a little wet when served, because it firms up as it cools but shouldn't ever solidify into a lump. It should always have a loose consistency or it feels too heavy to eat*.

While the stock was simmering, I dropped in a plum tomato and heirloom tomato for a few seconds, then peeled them and set them aside. I also put a strainer into the stock to create a reservoir, and poached the little carrots in it while the risotto was underway. When the risotto was done, I plated a ladle of it, then chopped the heirloom tomato and scattered it around the perimeter of the plate. It was quite loose and wet inside*, and the jelly and juice made for a kind of sauce. I sprinkled chopped mint and parsley on the risotto, then split the plum tomato into wedges and used them to dress the middle of the plate, adding the carrots and a little sprig of celery leaf. With a little drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt on the tomatoes, the plate looked nice.

I'm not sure what to think about those little carrots. They came out of a bag*. (v) without fish sauce

*Definitely not what she said.

1 comment:

  1. Creepy and/or cool, I decided to go back on the no-yeast diet just the other day. Officially it's for um, overgrowth of yeast and promotes happy microbial balance (yeah!), but the Jimmy Page diet sounds way more amazing.
    Always on the lookout for great risottos, will be trying this. I'm a celery geek.

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