Posted by: lisetta | November 29, 2010

Riso Venere

Lately I’ve been eating a whole grain black rice from Piemonte called riso venere:

I’ve simply cooked it in my rice cooker, and eaten it with greens and a bit of olive oil. A macrobiotic diet now and then does a body good. Isn’t it beautiful?

Last year at this time, I wrote about wanting to buy Falasco venere rice on my trip to Eataly in Torino. I did, and bought it again at the NYC Eataly which has indeed opened its doors. What is the story behind this delicious grain?

Botticelli's "Nascita de Venere" -- the Birth of Venus

Well, for one thing, it’s not actually a traditional Italian variety, but rather a relatively new cross-bred hybrid named after Venus, the Goddess of Love. I can see that. More interestingly, it wasn’t even created by an Italian but by a Chinese researcher seeking to adapt a traditional Chinese rice which had, until the 19th century, been cultivated exclusively for the Emperor and noble class. Very interesting, indeed!

The company behind this variety of rice, Sardo Piemontese Sementi, puts out a great web site with more information and recipes. I’m quite intrigued by some of the recipes there. One which caught my eye is a pizza dough which replaces water with the cooking liquid from the venere rice. Black pizza dough? Hmm. From the dessert recipes there were rice-stuffed baked apples and a ricotta cake! The main dish recipes were less interesting: rice-stuffed duck breast and fried eggs and Taleggio served on a bed of rice. For now, I’ll stick to eating venere rice in its plainest form. Perhaps once I get a better feel for its flavor I’ll come up with some more interesting uses.


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