14 December 2006

Rice and Veggie

Vinaigrettes made with balsamic vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle-infused vinegar, fig vinegar, quince vinegar...... you name it, I've tried it. Well, almost. Sadly, my family has gotten terribly tired of these salad dressings, especially when I tried comparing the subtle flavours of the various vinegars through vinaigrettes by making a whole range of them for just one dinner.

Thankfully (for my family), I had gotten tired of them as well and was searching for a different kind of salad. Enough of leafy greens or bitter (but nice) reds. A certain Sesame Chicken and Noodle Salad in The Cook's Book, contributed by Christine Manfield, attracted me enough (food porn WORKS) to make me stop, drink in the picture and savour the recipe. I attempted the salad but chose to substitute the noodles with julienned carrots in light of the risotto I was preparing as well.

It was exactly what I was looking for - aromatic, refreshing, piquant and slightly spicy.

In fact, it was a great prelude to my very simple main course of risotto served with a garlic and saffron aioli. This was taken from a recipe by Anderson Ho in Menu Degustation, of a squid ink risotto served with saffron aioli. Omitting the squid ink in order to accomodate a friend with a rather conservative palate, I created a plain risotto perfumed by the lightest hint of lemon zest. Both risotto and aioli complimented each other, but the aioli might be a little too strong on the garlic for people who are not fans (like me) of that pale yellow bulb. Otherwise, the tangy yet earthy flavour of the aioli helped relieve some of the risotto's weight on the palate.

Sesame Dressing for Salad (of Shredded Chicken, Noodles and Cucumbers)
Adapted from The Cook's Book
Makes about 180ml of salad dressing

3 tbspn sesame seeds
1/4 Sichuan peppercorns, dry-roasted and ground
4 garlic cloves
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp chilli paste or sambal
2 tbspn vegetable oil
2 tbspn light soy sauce
1 tbspn fish sauce
1 tbspn Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbspn Chinese black vinegar
1 tbspn caster sugar
100 ml chicken stock

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Spoon dressing over salad and serve.

Saffron Aioli
For 200g Risotto

1 g saffron
20ml white wine vinegar
20g peeled and finely chopped garlic
2 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
200ml olive oil

Soak saffron in vinegar to bleach for 30 minutes.
Remove saffron and keep aside.
Whisk vinegar with garlic, egg yolk and dijon mustard together vigorously.
Add saffron.
Pour in olive oil by the trickle to incorporate.
Season to taste.
Garnish risotto with a dollop of aioli and shaved parmesan cheese.

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