First of all: Happy Labor Day to all my American friends!
Today I want to talk about a staple in Italian cuisine: rice. Here in Italy, rice is used almost as frequently as pasta, in the almighty risotto. Arborio rice is probably the most famous, but there is a lesser known cousin that is worth taking the time to mention. The darker and more mysterious riso nero. It is is black by nature and has a rich history. It is known here as Riso Venere, but is called by many other names.
It was originally cultivated in China until the XIX century and was only consumed by the Emperor and his court, giving rise to the name “Rice of the Emperor”. This elite rice made its way into Italy and is now cultivated here in the northern regions. The Italians call this rice “Riso Venere” or Venus’ Rice after the goddess of love, desire and fertility because legend boasts that this rice holds aphrodisiac powers giving rise to yet another name: the “Forbidden Rice”.
The grains turn a deep purple-ish black as they cook due to their high anthocyanin content. In fact they contain one of the highest anthocyanin contents found in food. These anthocyanins provide rich and precious antioxidants (like those found in blueberries). It is also rich in iron, and as it is whole-grain, it has a lower glycemic index.
This delicious, elegant and aromatic rice can be prepared in many ways. Risotto, pilaf, arroz negro, you name it. My personal favorite is to prepare it fresh with pesto, peas and fresh tomatoes. Instead of basil, I add arugula to the pesto every so often for its rich and earthy flavors. But a classic pesto is equally as delicious.
Had you eaten black rice before? Was it worthy of being called a food of the gods?
Author: Ali @ Sustainable Psyche
My name is Ali. I am an American living in Italy. I am passionate about delicious food that is also ethical, healthy and sustainable. I love pasta and pizza, traveling, horseback riding and exploring the vibrant city of Milan that I call home.
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