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  • Written by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
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Written by Lidia Matticchio BastianichAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

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On Sale: August 18, 2010
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Synopsis

Lidia Bastianich, loved by millions of Americans for her good Italian cooking, gives us her most instructive and personal cookbook yet.

Focusing on the Italian-American kitchen—the cooking she encountered when she first came to America as a young adolescent—she pays homage to this “cuisine of adaptation born of necessity.” But she transforms it subtly with her light, discriminating touch, using the authentic ingredients, not accessible to the early immigrants, which are all so readily available today. The aromatic flavors of fine Italian olive oil, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gorgonzola dolce latte, fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary, sun-sweetened San Marzano tomatoes, prosciutto, and pancetta permeate the dishes she makes in her Italian-American kitchen today. And they will transform for you this time-honored cuisine, as you cook with Lidia, learning from her the many secret, sensuous touches that make her food superlative.

You’ll find recipes for Scampi alla Buonavia (the garlicky shrimp that became so popular when Lidia served the dish at her first restaurant, Buonavia), Clams Casino (with roasted peppers and good American bacon), Caesar Salad (shaved Parmigiano makes the difference), baked cannelloni (with roasted pork and mortadella), and lasagna (blanketed in her special Italian-American Meat Sauce).

But just as Lidia introduced new Italian regional dishes to her appreciative clientele in Queens in the seventies, so she dazzles us now with pasta dishes such as Bucatini with Chanterelles, Spring Peas, and Prosciutto, and Long Fusilli with Mussels, Saffron, and Zucchini. And she is a master at teaching us how to make our own ravioli, featherlight gnocchi, and genuine Neapolitan pizza.

The key to her delectable fish and meat cooking is the aromatic vegetables that so often form an integral part of the dish—sole with oregano, vidalias, and tomatoes; tenderloin with potatoes, peppers, and onions; sausages with bitter broccoli. Try her version of scallopine with sautéed lemon slices, garlic slivers, capers, and green olives—you’ll be hooked.

Soups are Lidia’s specialty, particularly hearty bean and pasta soups—meals in themselves. And you can top off a Lidia feast with traditional Italian-American favorites, such as a perfect Zabaglione or cannoli, or one of her own creations—Lemon Delight or Roasted Pears and Grapes.

Laced with stories about her experiences in America and her discoveries as a cook, this enchanting book is both a pleasure to read and a joy to cook from.

Excerpt

from Chapter 1

Antipasto

Among the many things Italians brought with them to this country is their love for antipasti-those little bites to nibble on before the meal. An antipasto can be as simple as prosciutto e melone, affetati (an assortment of sliced, cured meats), or a lemony seafood salad. Or it can take up the better part of a table with a display of vegetables that are grilled, pickled, tossed in vinaigrette, broiled to golden brown, or fried; fish that has been cured, preserved in oil or salt, tossed in a salad, or made into a terrine; as well as all kinds of cured meats, cheeses, legumes, salads, and crostate (savory pastries). Whether simple or elaborate, an antipasto is meant to stimulate the taste buds and start the gastric juices flowing with an assortment of flavors, textures, colors, and aromas.

At home antipasti were usually made up of food that could be found in the cupboard-cured, marinated, smoked, dried, or otherwise preserved foods and meats, and an assortment of dried or aged cheeses. In Italian-American restaurants of the 1970s and '80s, "antipasto" meant a plate of prosciutto, salami, cacciatorini, cheese, roasted peppers and all kinds of vegetables-artichokes, giardiniera, pickled mushrooms, assorted olives, beans-tuna in oil, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs. All this would be dressed with some virgin olive oil and wine vinegar. Today, antipasti include a whole repertoire of hot preparations and salads in addition to these traditional favorites.

It is easier than ever to present an authentic family-style antipasto at home, because it is easier to get traditional products imported from Italy. Prosciutto, whether from Parma or the type of prosciutto known as San Daniele, from Friuli-is the king of any antipasto assortment and can now be found across the United States, as can many imported Italian cheeses, cured fish, and vegetables. The surest way to capture the flavors, colors, and textures of a culture is by using authentic products. If you take a bite of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or taste a drop of aceto balsamico tradizionale, there is no doubt in your mind, or on your palate, that you are eating Italian. Use that to your advantage and search out these authentic products, which will bring your table that much closer to Italy. And remember that cooking techniques are also important to the authenticity of a dish. In this chapter I share with you some of the antipasti that have become my favorites.

This appetizer was very popular at my first restaurant, Buonavia, which opened in 1971. It was a time when lots and lots of chopped garlic was used in Italian-American cooking. If you like a milder garlic flavor, use crushed or sliced garlic cloves instead, and remove them from the dish before you serve it.


Scampi Appetizer "Alla Buonavia"


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing dish
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 pound extra-large (about 25 to the pound) shrimp, completely shelled, deveined, and cut crosswise into 3
pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
Salt
6 slices Italian bread (about 1/4 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches wide), toasted and kept warm
1 lemon, cut into slices
Whole chives and/or parsley sprigs, optional

Makes 6 servings

In this dish, high heat and speed are essential. Make sure the pan is good and hot when you add the shrimp and that it is wide enough to hold all the shrimp pieces in a single layer (so the pan doesn't cool down as the shrimp go in). And be sure to have all your ingredients right by the stove-once the shrimp go into the pan, it's "full speed ahead."

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the pan, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the shrimp, and toss until they are bright pink and seared on all sides, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped chives, then add the wine, butter, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, and boil until the shrimp are barely opaque in the center and the sauce is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and crushed red pepper. Season with salt.

Place a piece of warm toast in the center of each of six warm plates. Spoon the shrimp and sauce over the toast, drizzling some of the sauce around the toast. Decorate the plates with lemon slices, and with the parsley sprigs and/or whole chives, if using.



The restaurant business is tough on family life. Joseph, my son, was only four years old when we opened our first restaurant, Buonavia, in Forest Hills, Queens. He would spend many days playing on tomato boxes, and when he got a little older, he would make pocket money by standing on a milk crate and helping with the dishes or the preparation of the day's vegetables. But he did have his rewards, and a plate of clams casino was one of his favorites.



Clams Casino

36 littleneck clams
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled as described on next page, cut into 1-inch squares
12 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine

Makes 6 servings

You can prepare the clams right in their baking dish up to several hours in advance and bake them just before you serve them.

Preheat the oven to 450’ F.

Shuck the clams as described on page 7, reserving the clam juice and arranging the clams on the half shell side by side in a 13 x 11-inch baking dish. Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into the baking dish. Sprinkle some of the parsley over the clams. Top each clam with a square of roasted pepper. Cover the pepper with two squares of bacon. Using about 3 tablespoons of the butter, dot the top of each clam with about 1/4 teaspoon butter. Cut the remaining butter into several pieces and tuck them in and around the clams in the baking dish. Add the wine and remaining parsley to the baking dish.

Bake until the bacon is crisp and the pan juices are bubbling, about 12 minutes. Arrange clams on a warmed serving platter, or divide them among warmed plates. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the juices over the clams and serve immediately.



Two Ways to Roast a Bell Pepper

Roasting peppers imparts a subtle flavor to them, softens the texture, and removes the skin-which some people find hard to digest. Here are two ways to roast a pepper. Whether roasting green, red, or yellow peppers, choose thick-fleshed peppers that are boxy in shape-they will char more evenly and be easier to peel.

Turn the gas burners on high and, working with a pair of long-handled tongs, place the peppers on the grates, directly over the flames. Roast the peppers, turning them as necessary, until evenly blackened on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the peppers, place them in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 40 minutes.

Or place a rack in the uppermost position and preheat the oven to 475’ F. Put the peppers on a baking sheet and roast them, turning as necessary, until all sides are evenly blackened, about 12 minutes. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 40 minutes.

To peel the peppers: Pull out the stems and hold the peppers upside down, letting the seeds and juices flow out. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and, using a short knife, scrape away the blackened skin, ribs, and remaining seeds.

This is a tasty dish adored by many people. Shucking the clams is easy, if you follow the directions on page 7. And it beats steaming them open, which toughens the clams.


Baked Clams Oreganata
Vongole Oreganate

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
36 littleneck clams
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper, chopped fine
2 cups coarse, dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup cubed (1/4-inch) peeled and seeded tomatoes (see Note below)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably the Sicilian or Greek type dried on the branch, crumbled
1 lemon, cut into thin slices

Makes 6 servings

I always add diced fresh tomato to this dish, because I think it contributes a little freshness. Now is the time to try to find the
Greek or Sicilian oregano dried right on the branch-it makes a difference. Many Greek and Italian groceries will have it.

You can buy powdered hot red pepper, but I like to chop up the flakes myself.

Let the oil and garlic steep in a small bowl 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475’ F. Shuck the clams as described on page 7, reserving the clam juice. Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into a 13 x 11-inch baking dish. Add the white wine, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the parsley, the butter, and half of the crushed red pepper.

In a deep bowl, toss the bread crumbs, grated cheese, tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of the garlic-infused oil, the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley, the oregano, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper until thoroughly blended.

Top each clam with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the bread-crumb topping, packing it down tight. Set clams in the prepared baking pan and drizzle the remaining infused oil over them. Bake until the pan juices are bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the clams to a warm platter or divide among serving plates.

To keep the bread-crumb topping crunchy, spoon the sauce from the baking dish onto the plates-not over the clams. Serve immediately, garnished with the lemon slices.



To Peel and Seed Tomatoes

Use this method with either plum or round tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water near the stove. Cut the cores out of the tomatoes and cut a small x in the opposite end. Slip a few tomatoes into the boiling water and cook just until the skin loosens, 1 to 2 minutes depending on the tomatoes. (Overcooking will make them soggy.) Fish the tomatoes out of the water with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. If necessary, let the water return to the boil and repeat with any remaining tomatoes. Slip the skins off the blanched tomatoes and cut the tomatoes in half-lengthwise for plum tomatoes, crosswise for round tomatoes. Gently squeeze out the seeds with your hands. The tomatoes are now ready to dice or cut as described in the recipe.
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich|Author Q&A

About Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich - Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

Photo © Marcus Nilsson

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is the author of seven previous books, five of which have been accompanied by nationally syndicated public television series. She is the owner of the New York City restaurant Felidia, among others, and she gives lectures on Italian cuisine throughout the country. She lives on Long Island, New York.


 Lidia Bastianich is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau (http://www.rhspeakers.com).

Author Q&A

Q: How did you start cooking and when did you know it was your calling?

A: I always loved being around food. I loved preparing and cooking it, as well as growing and producing it. As a child, I helped my grandma Rosa tend her garden, feed the animals and prepare the vegetables, eggs and cheeses to sell at market. I would also stay by her side when she cooked, helping her knead bread and make pasta and gnocchi. For me, touching and preparing food always felt good. I can still recall the silkiness of the pasta dough she made and strive for that texture when I make pasta at home and at my restaurants. Being introduced to food at a very young age, and carrying these culinary traditions with me, I'm sure had a great deal to do with my chosen profession.

Q: In the book, you mention that you learned to cook native dishes from your Nona Rosa. What is your earliest memory of your grandmother?

A: My earliest memory is of running in my grandma Rosa's courtyard chasing the ducks and chickens. We called them courtyard animals and they were part of the family. I specifically remember a white goose with a bright orange beak that would chase me; what she really wanted was the piece of bread or grain I had in my hands. I found out later that geese can be snappy, so I always carried a stick when she was around, but she did lay the biggest eggs, which would make the best and most yellow pasta.

Q: How did your life change when your family moved to New York City from Italy to escape communism?

A: It was a jolting change of gears from a tranquil, pastoral setting to the urban rhythms of a big city. For me, it was very exciting and challenging, but I was always nostalgic for my grandma and the friends I left behind. As Istria became part of communist Yugoslavia and the iron curtain went down, we were not allowed to leave or migrate and one member of the family had to remain in Istria as a hostage to ensure that the family would return. My mother and father had a plan of which we children were not aware. My mother, brother Franco, and I went back to Italy, supposedly to visit the part of the family that was left in Italy. My father, who remained, escaped past the border during the night while being shot at, to join us in Trieste. I was heart broken because I did not have the chance to say good-bye to grandma and my friends I had left behind.

Q: You opened your first restaurant at the age of 24. What was it like when you first started out in the restaurant business?

A: I knew I loved food and cooking and that people enjoyed what I cooked, but at that early age I didn't have the knowledge and wasn't savvy enough to run a restaurant. But sometimes passion pushes us to forge beyond our expectations. I do know that I felt very excited, I felt challenged and I recall being amazed that there were lines of people waiting to come and eat my food. I was thrilled that I could share the food of my heritage with complete strangers and they would enjoy and appreciate it. Over time, a bond was born, and I am still amazed at the trust and following that my clients have for me and my profession. After all, it has been thirty years that I have been cooking professionally and some of my first customers still visit with me at my restaurants today.

Q: How would you define Italian-American cuisine and why is it so popular?

A: Italian-American food is the crowning glory of the Italian immigrants' struggle to adapt. It is a cuisine that reflects the spirit and beauty of the Italian culture. It is a cuisine that was born at the turn of the century when a large influx of Italians, predominantly from the regions of Campania and Sicily, came to America to make a new life. They came with few material things but a vast culture of food and products. With the memories they brought with them and the products they found, a cuisine of adaptation was born: Italian-American. Whatever I do I try to bring the true essence of what it is to be Italian and what it tastes like to be Italian. Americans love Italy and everything Italian; wherever I travel in the United States I see and sense the Italian style and flavor. It is the number one ethnic cuisine in the States and through my restaurants, I bring a piece of my Italy to America.

Q: In the cookbook, you talk a lot about your family. How has the energy and stimulation that you have received from your family shaped your culinary heritage and business?

A: My family sustains me. They are the basis of my being and the basis of my strength. Their love and support gives me the strength to work, to create, to move mountains. In the Italian culture, family is the very essence and center of our existence. I was very lucky to have my mother by my side from the first day I opened my restaurant. She was there to help me work, to help me raise my children and to give me support through rough periods. She still lives with us, and in turn I am blessed that my two children and their families are very close to me. We work together in what is now a family business of restaurants, wines, sauces, cookbooks and television.

Q: What has been your most exciting moment in the restaurant business?

A: My whole adult life has been in the restaurant business and it's been a constant crescendo of challenges, satisfactions and rewards. But to have my children follow in what I have begun with such passion is the greatest reward. They will carry on.

Q: How did you come to start your television show?

A: Everything took off after I did a show on PBS with Julia Child in the Master Chef series. One episode was nominated for an Emmy. I guess I communicated my techniques and passion for food, but most of all I had a great time sharing my culinary culture with viewers. After that episode, a producer came calling and my television career was born.

Q: What is the difference between New World and Old World ingredients and how are these important to Italian-American cooking?

A: Ingredients from the New World--tomatoes, peppers, beans--were first incorporated in the Italian culture when they were brought to Italy by the explorers. These ingredients became major players in the Italian kitchen. Italians are very close to their products and the Italian climate is ideal for growing perfect vegetables, intense in flavor. When the Italian immigrants came to America at the turn of the century, they did not find all those wonderful products and vegetables they had left behind in Italy. They made concessions and adaptations which were the beginning of the Italian-American cuisine, a cuisine based on the same philosophy but substantially different in taste.

Q: What is your favorite dish to eat/prepare?

A: I do not have one favorite dish. That is like asking me which is my favorite child. I love them all the same. I love them all for different things. I love them all at different moments. But if I were stranded on a deserted island, give me pasta for the rest of my life and I would be happy.

Praise

Praise

"Bastianich, a restaurant owner with her own PBS cooking series, explains in wonderful detail the effects immigration had on Italian food here, and offers dozens of classic Italian-American recipes, from shrimp scampi to lobster fra Diavolo."
- Entertainment Weekly

  • Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
  • October 23, 2001
  • Cooking - Italian
  • Knopf
  • $35.00
  • 9780375411502

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