Authenticity is propelling today’s best culinary innovation. Customers hanker for an authentic eating experience, one that is tethered to values of provenance, sustainability and product quality. And one that promises an authentic flavor experience. As evidence, take a look at the number of Neopolitan pizzerias that now dot the landscape, each boasting certifications of authenticity in Naples-born method and ingredient list. Or look to street carts, hawking global, democratic, authentic food. Wherever we cast our eye, authenticity underpins today’s best food trends.
One of our favorite regions for authentic flavor exploration? The Mediterranean. Indeed, the chefs at InHarvest braved the Old World recently, seeking out new products, old ways and culinary inspiration from both. When they discovered Nerone Italian Black Rice, or riso nero, as the locals call it, what struck them was how it picked up the local terroir of Italy’s Po Valley. “This heirloom black rice seed has better flavor than the original black rice seed that comes out of China,” says Michael Holleman, InHarvest’s director of culinary development. “We fell in love with its unique flavor and consistency. The farming practices and the local soil has impacted its flavor profile in wonderful ways.”
Whole-grain Nerone Italian Black Rice—offered to U.S. foodservice exclusively from InHarvest’s Limited Supply Boutique—is a medium-grain, heirloom rice organically grown and harvested in northern Italy. When cooked, it boasts an aroma similar to that of freshly baked bread. Its flavor is rich and buttery, with a slightly sweet finish.
Inspiration from the family farm
This heirloom black rice is grown by a family of generations of Italian farmers. “When we visited the farm, it was clear that all of their careful and precise practices, all of their heart and soul was poured into the farm and its bounty,” says Chef Holleman. And while there, the family prepared authentic, simple dishes using Nerone Italian Black Rice. “One of my favorites was a rice bake that the mother prepared for us,” says Jason Ziobrowski, CEC, Corporate Chef, Eastern Region, InHarvest. The dish featured a layer of black rice and a layer of red rice, separated by a delicious layer of sharp local cheese. “It was so simple and had such great flavors,” he says. “That’s the beauty of authentic Italian cookery—it’s simple yet flavorful.” Another highlight was a torta, made with pastry, almonds and black rice. “It was sweet and savory, and again, so simple,” says Chef Ziobrowski.
Chef Jason Ziobrowski, CEC, captures authentic, simple flavors in this stunning Chilled Nerone Italian Black Rice Risotto with Stone Fruits.
3 Tips from Our Chefs
- This is a toothsome rice with a buttery, rich flavor and a slightly sweet finish. It can stand up to flavor, so use heavily scented herbs like rosemary and thyme, and big flavors, like those found in Parmesan, truffles and sun-dried tomatoes.
- The beautifully dense, inky color does leech out, so cook add-in ingredients separately, or introduce them à la minute and stir gently for minimal streaking. To minimize bleeding overall, cook rice, then chill in thin layers on sheet pans for a few hours or overnight in the cooler/walk-in/fridge. This process reduces the moisture coating the grains, which helps retain the original colors of the ingredients in the finished dish.
- The high starch release lends itself well to desserts, quiches and risottos. It also helps with the holding quality of the rice. It won’t break down on you.
3 Ideas for Nerone Italian Black Rice
- Use it as a contrast ingredient. For instance, combine it with Arborio for beautiful plate presentation. Cook the Nerone and the Arbori separately, so the Nerone doesn’t bleed onto the white Arborio. Then swirl them together. The Nerone will bleed a little, leaving colorful streaks through the dish.
- Make a savory pie starring a layer of Nerone Italian Black Rice. Match its earthy flavor with portabella, Parmesan, eggs, goat cheese and coppa.
- Add caramelized butternut squash and crispy pancetta to the Nerone for a hearty, seasonal side dish.