Arancine al Ragu', the Italian Rice Ball with Savory Fillings

January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!

I made half the amount of risotto in the given recipe, and there was plenty for the two of us to have it with dinner the first night.  I made sautéed Ono, otherwise known as Wahoo, with pesto sauce, and served with the risotto, it was excellent.  Even after making the Arancine next day, there is still enough to make more tonight.

Having made extra when I slow cooked some pork tenderloin Sunday, the filling was a given for these little delicacies.  In that pork braise there were also fennel, tomatillos, some lime juice, tomatoes and wine.  So I minced all that up good, adding sautéed onion and toasted, ground fennel seed.  But, you can follow the directions and make it from ground beef as Manu directs.  But, to me this dish is a classic for left-overs.  Left-over risotto and stew of any sort for stuffing.  However, she also provided recipes for vegetarian versions.  So, left-over spinach maybe, but I am transmitting the recipe for meat Arancine as given.  You can get the alternate recipes at the above link.


Blackberry Mochi Cake and Sticky Lemon Cake

Our current Cook the Books Club selection, Baking Cakes in Kigali, by Gaile Parkin, was a wonderful glimpse of life in a distant land and culture, modern-day Rwanda, albeit in a place (University housing) heavily influenced by Western thinking, customs, food, etc., with a resultant struggle by some of the local people to hang on to African traditions. 

In spite of all the horrific experiences endured by many of the characters in Parkin's book, an upbeat and hopeful mood was maintained.  There was humor and flavorful individuals aplenty, encountered by the heroine, Angel Tungaraza, through her home business of catering special occasion cakes.

I thought all the negative references to "white cake" as opposed to the brightly colored frostings on Angel's cakes was particularly funny.  Cake itself is not "African", and the bits of recipe we were given certainly had no claim to outstanding taste.  Similar to The Cake Boss, TV series.  It's all in the design and decoration, rather than any wonderful or distinctive flavor.  But that is quite aside from the chef's artistic outlet and entrepreneurial creativity.

 In case you don't know what's going on here, we read a book selection bimonthly, and then cook something inspired by the work.  For my submission, I was tempted to bake three white cakes, with differing flavors.  About this time last year I made Black Cake, a West Indian specialty, so why not?  One of my very favorites is coconut cake, made with coconut cream and topped with shredded coconut on a fluffy white frosting.  Then the Sticky Lemon Cake, which I'd been wanting to make since reading a Nancy Atherton book which included that recipe, Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea.  Perhaps to be followed by a Butter Mochi Cake.   However, what I ended up with was the Sticky Lemon Cake and a Blackberry Mochi Cake.