To hear Daniel Lanzilotta talk about food is what I imagine hearing Mozart riff on music must have been like, but with a Bronx accent. Daniel lives to cook, in part because he believes cooking brings people together. He also just really enjoys it. He runs The Mindful Chef, a private chef service headquartered in Stamford. Daniel will cook for you or with you. Either way, some of his passion for eating well is likely to rub off on you.
I chatted with him recently about what works in the kitchen and where he gets his inspiration. I also coaxed a recipe out of him. Its a twist on traditional fried rice, and it sounds delicious.
MEAGHAN MORELLI: What is your must have tool for your kitchen?
DANIEL LANZILOTTA: A very large cutting board. Im always amazed at the small cutting boards people work on. Stuff gets everywhere -- on the counter, on the floor, on you -- everywhere except where you want it. You need a good 16" by 20" cutting board. I tell everyone this. Get a bigger cutting board and your knife skills will improve. No one can chop well on a small cutting board.
MM: Wood or plastic?
DL: There is some controversy over this. People generally prefer plastic, because of the issue with bacteria in the wood. But theres plenty of controversy over plastic, too. When Im working, I used color-coded plastic cutting boards, to minimize cross contamination. Green is for vegetables, red for meet, blue for fish, and so on.
MM: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
DL: I guess it comes from growing up in an Italian-American household in the Bronx. There was always lots of good, fresh food around. My grandmother, Anna, she had a garden in the back. The space was just your standard New York little plot of land in the back of the building, but she had a pear tree back there and an apple tree. She had grapes and a cherry tree and all kinds of vegetables and herbs. We just lived with fresh food all the time.
MM: Whats some advice for the novice?
DL: Buy the best food that your budget will allow, celebrate that and just cook.
Daniels Farro Fried Rice
Farro is an ancient whole grain. Its nutty and full-flavored and packed with nutrients. This recipe is a meal in itself. You can make it vegetarian or add meat, whatever your preference. Purchase Farro from a well stocked health food store or grocer. Make the farro according to manufacturer's instructions on product.
3 cups cooked farro
1 cup blanched, bite-sized broccoli florets
3/4 cup 1/4" cubed carrots
3/4 cup 1/4" diced celery
3/4 cup 1/4" diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced scallion
1/2 cup 1/4" diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
cilantro to garnish
In a large hot sauté pan, drizzle in enough olive oil to coat pan bottom and swirl around covering entire area. Quickly sauté off blanched broccoli and hold in serving bowl. Repeat this procedure for each ingredient: carrots, celery, red bell pepper and sweet onion, cooking each ingredient separately. Hold all sautéed vegetables in bowl. Drizzle more olive oil into hot pan and swirl oil around bottom to coat. Place sliced scallions, garlic and ginger in pan and quickly stir fry moving ingredients around with wooden spoon. Add all vegetables from bowl into sauté pan and mix for one minute into garlic and ginger at the same time adding 1/8 cup of soy sauce to the mix. Hold vegetables in bowl. Repeat adding drizzled olive oil to hot sauté pan and swirl oil in pan to coat bottom. Add farro and quickly stir fry for 30 seconds at the same time adding the rest of the soy sauce. Immediately after soy sauce is mixed into the farro add all vegetable and incorporate until well mixed. Hold on heat for 30-45 seconds. Place in bowl, garnish with cilantro.
Note: Add your favorite vegetables always being mindful of the size of the vegetable. Usually around a 1/4 " dice is good. dice is good.
To add beef, chicken, pork or seafood to this recipe, dice to a 1/4' size. You will need extra ginger and garlic. Cook the proteins separately.
Ingredients and cooking procedure for adding a protein
3/4 cup chicken, beef, pork or seafood
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
In a hot saute pan drizzle olive oil and swirl around to coat bottom. Quickly sauté garlic and ginger adding 1/4" diced beef, chicken, pork or seafood. Add the soy sauce at the same time as it all cooks. Cook for two mins or just until proteins are cooked. Add this to the finished farro dish and incorporate until well mixed in. Garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!