Learn how to make Emilitsa's Rizogalo, a classic citrus rice pudding.
1/2 cup medium grain rice
? 2 cups half-and-half 2 cups heavy cream eight large egg yolks
? 3/4 cup granulated sugar grated rind of one navel orange
grated rind of one lemon ground cinnamon for finishing
By Margarita Martinez | Friday, September 27, 2013
One might say that a visit to Portland is not complete without a Maine lobster roll along the waterfront. As a fervent lover of lobster rolls, I whole-heartedly agree and yet I can't imagine visiting Portland without taking in all of the unique independently-owned businesses. What I love most about beautiful Portland, ME, besides the waterfront and ample seafood, is the city's DIY attitude. The Portland community is incredibly supportive of original and creative small businesses. There are scarcely any chain stores present on, and the streets off of Commercial Street. Instead, there are lots of unique places to shop for clothing and accessories, “Gorgeous Gelato,” fine art, freshly caught seafood, and other locally sourced commodities. Even the local food markets all seem to offer locally-produced specialty items, local produce, and, in one case, an incubator kitchen for local potential restaurant owners to test out their concepts on a hungry audience. I am talking a lot about food, huh? Well, that's no surprise, because Portland is such a foodie destination! The city has an amazing year-round farmers' market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and an incredible array of fabulous restaurants that take advantage of Portland's abundant seafood and locally-grown food.
One such restaurant is Emilitsa, where I got to go behind the scenes. Emilitsa serves scrumptious upscale Greek comfort food. The restaurant was opened about five years ago by two brothers, John and Chef Demos Regas, whose parents owned a restaurant in Minnesota. After years of pursuing other careers, the brothers Regas decided they could no longer resist the pull of serving Greek cuisine after being disappointed with the Greek eateries they encountered in New England. However, they did something different with their restaurant in Portland. The brothers decided to craft their menu around the recipes of their mother Emilitsa with artful preparation and the best possible ingredients. Continuing the familial culinary legacy is Chef Regas's son Niko, who has come back to New England to cook in his father's kitchen after years of culinary training and working in upscale restaurants around the country. Chef Demos Regas's face beams with pride when he talks about his son.
Now, if you have read this blog before, you know how much I LOVE small plates, which is why I LOVE going to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eateries where the culture is all about enjoying lots of different dishes before moving on to the entree. Greek cuisine is no exception. We started out with one of my favorite Greek mezethes, Melitzanosalata, or smoked eggplant dip. I live in an apartment and do not have access to a grill and was very appreciative to learn Chef Regas's tip for roasting whole eggplant over a stovetop flame (hint: this baking tool makes roasting vegetables over the flame a far less messy experience).
He made sure to serve the melitzanosalata with some delicious crusty bread from a bakery down the street. Another concept Chef Regas introduced to me on my visit was the idea of “Philoxenia.” This Greek word encapsulates the Greek notion of hospitality. It goes back to the small town way of life where no one is a stranger for long, for if you pass by someone's home, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you will be invited in to sit around a table and partake in the many dishes that your host will be serving. Now that is my idea of hospitality.
By Margarita Martinez | Wednesday, September 25, 2013
In this episode of Neighborhood Kitchens we showcase Japanese cuisine, from very affordable food court noodle shops to some of the best sushi around.
In our travels, I first visited University Hall in Porter Square in Cambridge. On the Lesley University campus there is a food court, open to the public, where one can get sushi and lots of other Japanese dishes including tempura, noodle soups, and adzuki bean sweet buns. The food stalls are set up in a way that makes you feel that you have been transported to a food court in Japan. Lunch at University Hall, also known as the Porter Exchange, is extremely filling and affordable. For under $10, I enjoyed shrimp tempura over soba noodles and vegetables in a delicious savory broth. It is no wonder that University Hall has become a destination for college students and nearby employees to get Japanese cuisine.
After filling up on noodles and shrimp, I met Chef Ting Yen of Oishii for something completely different. First, he took me to Stavis Seafoods, where he was picking up a 400-pound tuna. Obviously, this was not my average fish shopping experience! At the fish pier, Chef Yen's fish monger, Manny, educated me in what to look for in an excellent fish. He had a long hollow needle that he stuck into the fish in order to get a sample. Our tuna was particularly fatty, which indicated that it would be extremely good to eat. Let me tell you, when Chef Yen and I made our yellowtail maki sushi, he slipped me a few slices of the tuna and it was out of this world. Buttery, rich, and definitely something to savor on a special occasion.
After the fish pier visit, I witnessed the butchering of the enormous tuna Chef Yen picked up. The process required five people, a hammer, a butcher knife, a three-foot-long blade, and Chef Yen standing up on top of the table to get the right amount of leverage. What may sound like a violent process was actually done with the utmost respect to the fish. I felt as if I was witnessing a tradition and skill that had been passed down for generations. I love how Chef Yen says, “We talk to the fish.”
In addition to witnessing the filleting of the almost 400-pound tuna, I received an education in Japanese cooking while visiting with Chef Yen. He schooled me on how to properly roll sushi with flare and he taught me three crucial elements in Japanese cuisine. One, always use the freshest and best ingredients, as evidenced by our fish pier visit and his restaurant's rice and seaweed. Two, find the umami flavor in every dish, which I learned while preparing the sweet miso sauce for our grilled black cod dish. And three, pay special attention to presentation. All of these elements fuel Chef Yen's immense creativity in the kitchen, yet presentation is where Chef Yen really gets to be a mad artist and scientist. Take a look at his coconut sphere dessert! This is not a dish you can attempt at home, unless you happen to have liquid nitrogen on hand in your kitchen, in which case spherical desserts can be a regular occurrence on your home menu.
While the coconut sphere is not a traditional Japanese dessert, and is in fact inspired by the Catalan Spanish chef Ferran Adria, Chef Yen is taking inspiration from the Japanese idea of culinary presentation and is merging it with Japanese and Western ingredients to develop an amazing treat that is candy to the eyes and taste buds. I had a blast in his kitchen using a torch, creating spheres with balloons and gas, and learning what ingredients give you that wonderful umami taste. I won't soon forget my true culinary adventure, based in the Japanese tradition, with Chef Ting Yen.
By Margarita Martinez | Monday, September 16, 2013
I loved hanging out with the Li siblings during our Mei Mei Street Kitchen episode. Mei, Andy, and Irene are so much fun to be around. I've never seen a bunch of siblings having such a great time while working together. Every piece of signage on the truck has a clever twist (check out the ever-changing tip jar situation, where your tip will determine who will win a duel, i.e. Dumbledore vs. Voldemort). They have spontaneous truck-wide dance moves (mainly limited to the upper body as it would be pretty dangerous to work your running man in a 4-foot kitchen space with five other co-workers). However, the zany and laugh-happy attitude of the Lis should not be mistaken for a lacking work ethic.
The Li siblings work hard and take their business seriously. It takes many hours of prepping, planning, coordinating, social networking, and serving to make a food truck and new restaurant successful.
By Patricia Alvarado Nuñez | Friday, August 23, 2013
Neighborhood Kitchens will be back with NEW episodes on Saturday, September 21...
Mei Mei Street Kitchen (NEW))
In this episode of Neighborhood Kitchens, host Margarita Martínez heads to SOWA open market, New England‘s largest outdoor weekly bazaar, where she meets Margaret, Andy and Irene Li, the siblings behind the popular food truck Mei Mei Street Kitchen. Food trucks first hit the streets of Boston about two years ago, with just over a dozen options. Now there's a fleet of 56 trucks that deliver a mind boggling mix of cuisines and cultures to neighborhoods and street corners of Boston. At Mei Mei Street Kitchen, Margarita experiences food truck madness and learns how to prepare some of Mei Mei Street Kitchen’s best-sellers: kale salad, fiddlehead fern tempura, scallion pancake sandwich and sweet and sour pork.
In this episode of Neighborhood Kitchens, host Margarita Martínez learns about the high-end art of Japanese cuisine. She stops at the Shops in Porter Square to experience what many call "a little slice of Tokyo” and visits Chef Yen’s kitchen at Oishii to get a few secrets about his famous cooking. Margarita tags along with Chef Yen and visits Stavis Seafoods where she learns how to choose the right tuna for the perfect sushi. Read More
Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.
Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44
About the Authors
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.
Patricia Alvarado Nuñez Patricia Alvarado Nuñez is an award-winning producer creating Latino and multicultural programming for WGBH and La Plaza. (She cooks, too!)
On the Go
In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!