Tuesday, May 18, 2010

VEGETABLE RISOTTO & CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE

OFF TO MARKET WE GO


Our final day in Lyon. We woke up to sunshine pouring in between the cracks in the curtains and rolled out of bed and down to the dining room for breakfast. Over coffee, orange juice and our newspapers, we discussed the only one must-do-today on our list before heading off to Annecy: the market. And not just any market. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the nec plus ultra of this city’s markets, the Mecca for gourmets and gourmands alike. We had seen the rest of the city, the archeology museum and the old Roman ruins, the bourgeois luxury of Centreville, we had eaten in the bouchons and wandered in and out of traboules, we basked in the atmosphere of this old, glorious city and now we had a full morning for discovering Les Halles.


You see, we are market fiends. Wherever we travel, whether small town, country village or cosmopolitan metropolis, we search out the market: sprawling across a paved parking lot, tiny booths gathered in the town square or multi-storied covered complex, we are drawn as moths to a flame. We collect markets as others collect stamps or coins, with the same glee as teens collect autographs, the same satisfaction with which vamps collect broken hearts. While other tourists are sitting in sidewalk cafes or searching out the famous monuments, we, camera in hand, are heading towards the market.

Budapest, Bilbao or Brest, we adore meandering the alleyways, discovering the unusual ingredients, the local specialties. Most of our summer in the tiny, picturesque port town of Le Conquet on the Brittany coast was spent wandering in and out of the noisy market stalls, buying scoops of bigorneaux, bulots, huge, plump crabs right out of the ocean. Throwing in a sweet kouign amann or slices of dense, prune-studded far we had for the perfect meal. The vast three-story Central Market in Budapest, vibrant and full of fabulous treasures, was as exciting an attractions as the gorgeous, jewel box of an Opera House where we heard Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, entranced, or the Old World Tea Salons with their velvet chairs, gilded fixtures, carpeted floors, the rich, thick slices of Dobos Torte and cherry tart eaten amid the ghosts of aristocrats past. Our final day in Bilbao, that glorious city of Basque cuisine and contemporary art, was spent at the Ensanche Market in the old part of town, staring at slices of blood red cured meats, chains of sausages, delicate powdered sugar cookies inviting us from behind their glass windows. Markets. We simply can never get enough.

So is it any wonder that our last, our final morning in the glorious, gastronomic city of Lyon was spent at the Les Halles Paul Bocuse, the wonderful enclosed marketplace? Nothing is left of the original mid-19th century Les Halles des Cordeliers, the covered market built to regroup many of the cities fast-disappearing markets. The modern glass building now the home of just under 60 commerçants and restaurants was finished in the early 70s and has evolved into the haut lieu of la gastronomie lyonnaise, rather surprising when one steps into the glass and cement building. If one doesn’t take too close a look at the stalls, if one only glances around at the basic lines, walls, floors, ceilings, bathrooms, one could easily imagine that one is standing in an average American high school gymnasium!

But begin your voyage… wander up and down the alleys, the multitude of alleys, it seems to go on forever, take that first, quick glance at the elegant glass cases filled with perfect rounds of every imaginable type of cheese sitting in picture-perfect straw baskets, the rows upon rows of marinated vegetables, olives, salads, perfectly aligned sardines glistening in their tiny individual containers, the urchins, shrimps, clams, crabs, the garnet red meats, raw, cured and smoked, stacked up or spread out in mouthwatering temptation, the huge bunches of sausages dangling from shiny aluminum racks like so many ballgowned debutantes waiting for the next dance. And the pastries, luscious, amazingly intricate, graciously decorated pastries sitting proudly, flaunting their beauty, trying to outshine the perfect little chocolates nestled in rows beside them.


I want one of everything! JP pulls me over after our first run through and sits me down on a bar stool and orders us coffees. It is too early for lunch and a snack he won’t hear of! He has his heart set on escargots and he is loathe to ruin his appetite, and as guardian of mine, he will not let me fill up on anything before that plate of steaming, fragrant snails is set before me, the better to savor every single mouthful.


Coffee cup drained, I leave JP to his newspaper purloined from the barman and stroll back and forth between the merchants, snapping pictures, pressing my nose against the panes of glass as I oooh and ahhhh over each luscious delicacy, each perfect pastry, breath in the heady, briny odor of seafood, the pungency of the cheeses, the spicy scent of the sausages. He finally joins me and pulls me away from my overzealous admiration and informs me that we must choose the best place to eat lunch. We walk back and forth between the tiny restaurants hidden behind bars and seafood displays, read menu after menu as he tries to remember what he has read about each spot. We find ourselves in front of La Maison Rousseau, all wood paneling, brass railings and an air of the sea, le marin, about it. It looks promising but it is still too early, no diners with plates piled high with seafood or sipping bowls of steaming bouillabaisse to inform us. But he believes he has heard great things of this restaurant from friends so in we go.


Giggling and excited like kids expecting a surprise, we order our escargots and a glass of chilled white wine apiece. The much-awaited plates are finally placed before us and the heavenly, divine, fragrant garlic-infused steam rises and coils up around our heads making us giddy. Each plump, chewy snail is tucked inside his own golden swirl of a shell, bathing in the rich buttery jus, le beurre d’escargots, the garlicky, parsley green butter created for these babies, a perfect marriage. We delicately scoop out each thick snail careful to avoid being spit on by boiling butter, and slide it onto our tongue. Soft pieces of freshly baked bread are used to soak up more of the golden green liquid and are popped into our mouth. The chilled, slightly pungent bite of the wine is cool respite from the zesty, rich, sinful flavor of the snails. This is truly our idea of decadence!


And what more perfect way to end our wonderful few days in this magical city?

Here are two wonderful recipes, true comfort food in my home, a way to cleanse the system after indulging in richer, heavier more decadent fare. The perfect, flavorful risotto made with a seasonal selection of vegetables, some steamed, some roasted, some sautéed. And finished off with a handful of freshly grated, tangy, salty Parmesan cheese. And follow it with a slice of one of my favorite cakes, a light, tender chocolate sponge cake, the perfect backdrop for a dollop of freshly whipped cream, one perfect scoop of your favorite ice cream or sorbet or simply served with a tumble of berries. Or plain, just as it is, with coffee for breakfast the next day.


VEGETABLE RISOTTO

9 oz (250 g) round rice for risotto, Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli
@ 5 cups (1 ½ l) warm chicken or vegetable stock
2 shallots, finely diced
1 small to medium-sized carrot, trimmed, peeled and finely diced
1 red pepper
1 zucchini
½ bunch thin green asparagus
½ cup of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and patted with a paper towel then sliced into strips
½ tsp chopped dried thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp chopped dried rosemary
2 Tbs freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter or margarine and olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or more to taste + to serve

Trim the asparagus and cook in salted boiling water for 3 – 5 minutes until tender but not mushy. They can be slightly crunchy if you prefer. Drain and rinse under cold water then pat dry. Slice into 1-inch long (2 cm) chunks and set aside.

Trim and seed the red pepper and cut into 6 or 8 chunks and roast in the oven under the grill until charred and tender. Remove from the oven and slip the roasted slices of pepper into a small plastic sandwich bag and leave for just a few minutes: the heat will condense and the moisture will get under the skin and make slipping off the skin easier. Remove from the sandwich bag and, using a sharp paring knife, slip off the skin. Cut the tender pepper “meat” into largish bite- sized pieces. Put aside.

Trim and cut the zucchini into large dice. Place a tablespoon of olive oil and a knob of margarine in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini dice and, tossing often, sauté until browned. Remove from the pan and add about 2 tablespoons butter or margarine and an equal amount of olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the diced shallots and carrot and, tossing and stirring, cook until softened.

Add the rice and stir so all of the rice is coated with oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice is translucent. Add the strips of sun-dried tomatoes. Now begin adding the warm stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring the rice up from the bottom. As soon as the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock, add another 2 ladles and continue cooking, stirring constantly.

After about 15 minutes, add the zucchini and the herbs and continue cooking. After an additional 5 minutes gently stir in the red pepper and the asparagus pieces. Continue to cook until the rice is very tender and creamy, adding more stock as needed until the rice is perfect risotto consistency: creamy not al dente.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in about ½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or more or less to taste. If you like your risotto creamier and richer, simply stir in 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine until melted and well blended.

Serve hot with a bowl of extra grated Parmesan on the side.


This is a year-round dish and you can use any seasonal vegetables. Either pre-roast, sauté or steam your vegetables or add at the beginning of the recipe so they can cook at the same time as the rice.

PERFECT CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE


1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated, preferably at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

In a small bowl, blend the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Separate the eggs. Place the whites in a mixing bowl (plastic is better than glass for beating whites) with either 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or, as I do, a few grains of salt and 1 or 2 drops of lemon juice. Either will stabilize your whites. Set aside.

Put the yolks in a very large mixing bowl. Beat them with an electric beater on high speed for a few minutes until very thick and pale yellow. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating for another couple of minutes. It should be pale and very thick.

Add the dry ingredients to the yolk/sugar mixture, alternating with the cold water and vanilla (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), beating after each addition until blended, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Beat the whites until stiff peaks hold (you can reserve a couple of tablespoons of the sugar and add them gradually to the whites towards the end, after soft peaks start forming. This will really stiffen the whites).

Delicately fold the whites into the cake batter: begin by folding in about a third of the whites in order to lighten the heavy batter so as not to “break” the whites (knock out the air). Then fold in another third, then the final third. Don’t overdo it or, again, you will knock out too much air.

Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (preferably with removable bottom). Bake in the preheated oven for 55 - 60 minutes until set. If you think it is done, if the cake is risen high and seems baked through simply press the top very lightly. If you hear a foamy sound – don’t worry, if your hear or feel that foamy sensation you will know it – simply let the cake bake for another couple of minutes. If the cake is not perfectly baked through it risks falling as it cools. Cool inverted before carefully lifting the center ring out of the pan then loosening and lifting the cake (with help!) off of the bottom and placing on a serving plate.


41 comments:

El said...

I'm definitely with you on the need to seek out markets...one of my favorite reasons to travel. I'm enjoying your photos because they allow me to escape to places that make food a priority. And your recipes look fantastic!

KennyT said...

This kinda market makes me happy and hyper!

Elizabeth Bastos said...

If only our markets looked like France's. Its a feast for the the eyes as well as le ventre.

Nandita said...

You are so right about the markets reflecting local culture and flavours. They are the first places I love to hit too while traveling. I absolutely loved ur choco sponge. My bundt pan does not have a removable base so am I better off doing it in a regular tin? Would love to try this!

Jamie said...

@Nandita - I know someone who made my original vanilla sponge in a large loaf pan and it was beautiful! You may have problems getting it out of a bundt pan so I suggest either a large regular tin or springform. Let me know how it comes out!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Thanks for the beautiful post! I didn't have time to visit Les Halles when I went to Lyon, but next time I'll go there for sure...

A fabulous risoptto and a delicious looking cake!

Cheers,

Rosa

Deeba PAB said...

Oh I love it. I'm a market friend too, and that's usually the first place I'd LIKE to head to when we travel. The kids now know, and always protest! Great photos and enviable markets! Love the cake Jamie ... that sponge is the most perfect one I've seen in a while ... beautiful!

diva said...

this is a great post i'm loving how fluffy and cloudlike the sponge cake is. AND MMMM. snails :D we're hitting up broadway market this saturday a friend and I and i can't wait! x

Asha @ FSK said...

Jamie! You cooked!!!!! :)) and ofcourse you baked :DDD

Debugcooking said...

Oh I love this Risotto...Somehow Italian food is my fav..And yr sponge looks so perfetto...

Cathy said...

I visit the markets wherever I go and love the fantastic one in Budapst. I want to try your beautiful chocolate sponge cake and you've reminded me that I need a new pan with a removable bottom. Love this post.

Sophie said...

Hello Jamie!!

Your risotto looks so tasty & appetizing but I especially love your chocolate cake sponge!! It is just DIVINE looking!!


Tasty!!!

RambingTart said...

Ohhh, I'm a market fiend too, Jamie! :-) LOVE your photos and enthusiasm. I cannot, cannot force myself to eat snails. Not yet. One day. Maybe. :-) But your risotto looks amazing, and I desperately need a slice of cake with my tea this morning. :-)

doggybloggy said...

oooohhh I saw fresh sea urchin...what a great market - I live for markets and I am convinced that markets live for me!

Sari said...

What a lovely risotto, it's my second favourite food right after pasta! :) I like your markets photos. I absolutely love food markets and try to visit them wherever I travel. Food markets in France are the best.

Heather said...

So envy you that amazing market. We have one in our local town but nothing like that. How could you resist buying it all up!? You describe it all so beautifully. Love the risotto and cake. I love more plain cakes - they aren't as rich.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

It still makes me laugh that my uncle who lives in Lyon wrote to me earlier this year, "Lyon is not a gastronomic city". Quite bizarre.

I hope that when we finally go to visit there that we can take them to places like this and prove them wrong.

I'm back online by the way! The past week has been hellish as you know from your recent experience!

heartnsoulcooking said...

GREAT!!! post and I love the the Chocolate sponge cake recipe.
Geri

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Thankyou for taking us along with you on your trip Jamie! And how lovely and airy that sponge looks! Like it would just melt on the tongue! :D

Sarah said...

Would love to find myself a sponser to roam the world's markets (so jealous of eatingasia) :-). French markets are very elegant and organized, but just as colorful and lively.
Your risotto looks delicous.

Tia said...

your cake looks perfect!!!

The Cooking Ninja said...

Great sponge cake :)I have yet to try my hands at it. Love the snails. Yum yum

Anh said...

I am so envious! I have to travel quite a bit to get to a decent market. And all that travel cannot even compare to yours!!

Love the choc cake - it's a chiffon type right? I love it!

Tangled Noodle said...

I could wander this market for days - what an extraordinary array of food! At least, the risotto and sponge cake are accessible. I will daydream about Les Halles as I enjoy these recipes! 8-)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Oh to wonder through the market of the famed chef Paul Bocuse - heavenly. I stopped at the cheeses and lingered a while before realizing there was more. Merci for taking us along. I can understand why you couldn't leave without going to this gorgeous market.
Sam

Jamie said...

@Sam of My carolina Kitchen - Ah, with your love of French markets you would have been a welcome and fun companion!

Barbara Bakes said...

What a fun post. I loved the markets when we visited France and Italy. We don't have anything similar near us. The risotto sounds like a great way to use in season veggies. I haven't had chocolate sponge cake, but I'm sure I'd love it too.

Happy Cook said...

Yeah we too look for markets were ever we are and the good thing is hubby too is intrested which is also a bonus.
I have never made risotto. Looks yumm. My inlaws and hubby loves snails in garlic butter, i make for them twice a year, and watch them enjoying in delight. while i enjoy my mushrooms which is with garlic butter :-)

Eva said...

The chocolate sponge cake looks lovely! And I love your risotto too!

kirbie said...

The chocolate cake looks delicious. I'm definitely going to try out your recipe.

gastroanthropologist said...

The chocolate sponge looks so light and airy! I'm always leaving my other half to his newspaper while I go to enjoy the market. Works out the best, I love to take my time and peruse and we do a final walkthrough together when he's done with the paper. And then he can carry all the goods =).
Not the biggest fan of snails, but those sure look tasty.

tasteofbeirut said...

My favorite time in Istanbul was in the spice bazaar; love markets everywhere, especially in France and Lyon of all cities in France is the one that I would be dying to visit.
Your risotto sounds fabulous and lighter than most; so does the sponge cake!

Cinnamon-Girl said...

The best part of traveling are the markets! I would not of been able to resist over-indulging myself until my tummy couldn't take any more. Your risotto sounds delicious and the sponge cake is lovely.

buffalodick said...

I'd kill for a market like that around here!

Junglefrog said...

O yes, the hussle and buzzle (I am sure I should be writing that differently..lol) of a market is just the best. I am already looking forward to seeing loads of markets in Italy! But then those snails... I have only eaten snails once and probably at a bad restaurant as I just thought they were little pieces of rubber... But the way you describe them I might try them again... at some point.. maybe... That chocolate sponge is fabulous!

Muneeba said...

I ditto that sentiment .. nothing like perusing the markets anywhere u go! Looking at your pics has got me all excited ... I inevitably feel hungry of course .. wish I had that chocolate cake to dig into.

5 Star Foodie said...

The veggie risotto looks fantastic and the chocolate sponge cake is certainly looking as perfect as can be! Yum!

Juno said...

I am very jealous of your ability to make a cake: I'm useless at them. Loved your post about markets.

Chef Dennis said...

what incredible photos!!! It has been way to long since we have been in Europe...i do miss the markets and the people!
thanks for such great recipes and for stirring such wonderful memories!
Cheers
Dennis

Anonymous said...

I tried the cake and it turned out wonderfully. All the kids loved it.....and then the dog ate half!! At least I know I can make it again.

asiangrrl said...

I always love to read what other people enjoy about traveling. The best thing about my trip to Taiwan, hands down, were the night markets. It sounds like you have a similar attitude! Your description of the escargots was sinful. And, your chocolate sponge cake looks scrumptious.

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