Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Black Rice Vermicelli Primavera

     A Modern Variation of the Classic Pasta Primavera!
     Pasta Primavera is a New York Italian recipe.  The word "Primavera" refers to spring vegetables.  The original Primavera Sauce was a Besciamella Sauce that was lightly flavored with Parmigiana Cheese.  The vegetables in a Primavera Pasta are cooked al dente.
     I first learned how to make Pasta Primavera while apprenticing with a great Sicilian Chef from New York City.  Way back in those days, Pasta Primavera was fast becoming popular nationwide.  Every chef was serving Pasta Primavera with a Besciamella Sauce back then and this had something to do with why this pasta was so popular.

     As time moved on, many chefs changed the original Pasta Primavera recipe.  When cream sauces were considered to be unhealthy, some chefs served plain pasta with steamed vegetables and called it Primavera.  Some chefs made Primavera with only vegetables sautéed with olive oil and the olive oil was also the sauce that coated the pasta.  Making Pasta Primavera with Tomato Sauce was much easier to do and many chain restaurants offer this version.
     Many modern fine dining chefs make Pasta Primavera almost like the original recipe, but they simmer and reduce heavy cream with Parmigiana Cheese, instead of making Besciamella Sauce ahead of time.  Reducing cream to make a pasta sauce is taboo for many reasons.  Cream basically is fat and reducing cream to make a sauce dramatically increases the level of fat, cholesterol and calories.  A customer that eats Pasta Primavera that is made with a cream reduction will feel so bloated that they probably will skip dessert, which causes lost sales opportunities.  Not only this, food costs rise because cream is a very expensive item.

     Great Italian food is made by well thought out design.  All it takes to make Besciamella is milk that is thickened with a little bit of flour and butter roux.  Besciamella Sauce is a better choice than a cream reduction for a pasta sauce for several good reasons.  Besciamella is lighter on a customer's tummy and the customer will be more likely to order dessert with aperitifs.  Besciamella reduces food cost, while increasing profits.
     Besciamella does require labor time, but a skilled cook can make a perfect batch in less than 40 minutes and the overall cost is still far less than a few pastas that are made with reduced cream.  By classic Italian culinary design, Besciamella is the best choice!

     Today's recipe features pasta noodles that are made with Black Rice Flour.  Black Rice is considered to be a "super grain" in modern times because it is far more nutritious than plan white rice.  Black Rice is a high protein grain that contains no glutens, so it is en vogue in recent years.
     Dried Black Rice Vermicelli is available at Asian food markets.  This pasta looks jet black when it is dry and after cooking it fades to a dark gray color.     
     Besciamella Sauce: 
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.
     Besciamella can be made plain or it can be lightly flavored, depending on what the sauce is used for.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring.
     Stir till the roux becomes a white color with no hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 3/4 cups of milk while stirring with a whisk.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add white pepper and sea salt to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  (The finished volume should be about 1 1/2 cups.)
     Step 5:  Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool.
     Chill the sauce if it is not used immediately.    
     Black Rice Vermicelli: 
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta entrée.  
     Black rice flour vermicelli noodles can be found in Asian food markets.
     Cook 1 portion of black rice vermicelli in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta and set it aside.

     Green Beans:
     Blanch 4 to 5 green beans in boiling salted water till they are al dente.
     Cool the green beans in ice water.
     Cut the green beans into bite size lengths.

     Pearl Onion Preparation:
     This is the best way to prepare pearl onions!
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a small sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 5 whole pearl onions.  (Leave the skin on!)
     Boil the pearl onions, till they are blanched al dente.
     Cool the pearl onions in ice water.
     Step 2:  Minimally trim the root end off of each onion.
     Pinch the untrimmed skin toward the tapered end, to pop the pearl onion out of its own skin. 
     Chill the peeled blanched pearl onions till they are needed.
     Black Rice Vermicelli Primavera: 
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Any combination of vegetables that are available during the spring season can be used to make primavera.The vegetables must be sautéed quickly till they are only cooked al dente.  Then the sauce is added.  The sauce must be heated quickly, so the vegetables retain some crispy bite. 
     It is important to not add too much Parmigiana Cheese.  Prima Vera Sauce should have a delicate flavor!   
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic becomes a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 thin slices of shallot.  (About 1 teaspoon)
     Add 1 cup of a mixture of these vegetables:  
     - petite thin carrot sticks
     - thin sliced celery
     - thin green bell pepper strips
     - thin yellow squash or zucchini strips.  (remove the squash core first)
     Add 1 thin sliced small portobello mushroom.     
     Add 5 or 6 petite broccoli florets.
     Add about 1/5 cup of asparagus tips.  
     Add the reserved blanched green beans.
     Add the reserved pearl onions.
     Add 1/2 of a green onion that is thin bias sliced.
     Step 3:  Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Sauté the vegetables till they are al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of diced fresh plum tomato.
     Add 1 cup of baby spinach leaves.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, so the spinach starts to wilt.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/3 cups of the thin besciamella sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while stirring till the cheese melts.  (Add a splash of milk if the sauce becomes too thick.)
     Step 6:  Add the al dente black rice vermicelli. 
     Toss the pasta, vegetables and sauce together, till the pasta becomes hot.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 7:  Use a chef's carving fork to place the pasta in a shallow wide pasta bowl.
     Try to expose a few pieces of each vegetable on the surface of the pasta.
     Pour any excess sauce over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of minced Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
    Fettuccine is the classic choice of pasta for primavera.  Black rice vermicelli adds a modern healthy touch!  

1 comment:

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