There was quite the international ‘feel’ at our flat for the football World Cup final match. My Swedish niece and her partner were staying with us, our new Portuguese upstairs neighbours came along, as did new friends Kate from England and partner Gary from New York, ‘old’ friend Susy also from England, ‘old’ friend Alison from New Zealand and very very ‘old’ neighbour, Carla, a childhood friend. Oldies and Newies all got on very well, as beers and glasses of wine and port flowed.
The only 100% Italians were my husband, Alison’s partner and Carla. That’s Frascati for you: it’s sort of ‘expat-y’ without being expat cliquey. Or at least, this is how I experience it since I am both a local yokel (my mother is from Frascati) and a ‘foreigner’ (my father was Swedish and my stepfather was Scottish).
I was working that Sunday morning till about 3 p.m. so asked everyone to kindly contribute something to a potluck buffet. The whole idea came about in dribs and last minute drabs so there was no time to plan as such. The theme was “easy”, anything to make life simple. The atmosphere: casual.
Once France won and we grudgingly conceded that it was indeed the best team and deserved to win, we carried on celebrating – what would have been the point otherwise?
It ended up with us listening to all kinds of music and even indulging in dancing … the kind of dancing our children would find most embarrassing to witness but which, I am sure, they grudgingly concede makes us super-cool parents too … yes? no? Whatever.
Carla’s mother made this super jam tart for us, how sweet (I am never very good in the dessert department).
And it was a beautiful balmy July evening with a sky that sported a crescent moon making some kind of astral contact with a star or planet (Venus?).
I decided that since it was hot and we were going to eat buffet-style, a nice summery “insalata di riso” would be a good idea. A room-temperature ‘insalata di riso’ (a rice salad that is no relation whatsoever to a risotto) is an Italian staple that is often rendered inedible by lazy people who buy ready-made sauces for the rice that might even include pseudo-German cocktail sausage and worse. For that reason, I never did like them. It was my mother in law, Maria, who introduced me to the pea, cuttle fish and lemon combination many summers ago, and that’s the one I stick to. This time I used squid and prawns. Here’s how I made it.
1.I cooked the rice as per the packet instructions in plenty of water with plenty of salt in it as well as half a lemon. Once cooked I drained it and ran it under the tap.
2. I then transferred the slightly cooled rice to a tub full of cold water and left it there for a couple of minutes, to cool down completely and to prevent it from overcooking and going flabby on us.
3. I then drained it again and just left it whilst I got on with the rest of the recipe.
4. There was the easy peasy (pun intended to the nth degree) job of cooking the frozen peas for a couple of minutes and then draining them.
5. And there was the task of cooking frozen prawns in plenty of salted simmering water for only a couple of minutes.
6. What did take relatively long was cooking the squid. I apologise, I have no photos. But basically all I did was place the defrosted squid in a pressure cooker, add salt and half a lemon, and let it cook for 20 minutes. I left the squid to cool in this water before proceeding to slicing it up.
7. Adding taste to the rice. The taste is mostly made up of olive oil, lemon juice and lime juice. And salt, of course.
8. I thought that a little bit of both lemon and lime zest would jazz things up a bit too.
9. And so the seasoning begins. Add the olive oil, the juices and pinches of salt, and use your fingers to mix everything together. I seem to remember seasoning the squid and the prawns prior to adding them – that’s definitely a good idea, give them a double whammy.
10. Serve in a large platter and add lemon and lime wedges.
I must add that this is a somewhat ‘delicate’ insalata … people who like more definite tastes might be tempted to add Tabasco or pepper or chilli flakes, which would sort of mar the whole point of this dish. It’s supposed to be a little ‘bland’. That’s what makes it refreshing on a hot summer’s day. That’s what the lime and lemon juice are for. But, each to his own taste naturally …
Here is a link to a previous insalata di riso I made, goodness me!, six years ago: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/rice-salad-with-cuttle-fish-and-peas/