Wednesday, October 7, 2009

TV Chef Lidia Bastianich Profile and Recipes

Lidia Bastianich is an American chef from Croatia. She specializes in Italian-American cuisine, and has been a mainstay on PBS (Public Television) cooking for years with shows such as Lidia's Italy.
Lidia owns several restaurants, Felidia and Becco in Manhattan; Lidia's Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Lidia's Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri. with her son Joseph Bastianich a winemaster.

Lidia Bastianich Veal Scallopine Marsala
Serves 4
8 scallopine of veal
Salt and pepper
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 stick butter
2 tbs. shallots, finely chopped
2 cups mushrooms (shiitake, fresh porcini, champignons), cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup dry marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbs. parsley, chopped

Lightly salt and pepper the veal, dredge it in flour and shake the excess off.

In a wide skillet, heat the vegetable oil until it is hot but not smoking. Sauté the floured veal on both sides until golden and set on a plate. Drain the oil off and return to fire. Add half of the butter and the shallots. Cook for a few minutes until wilted, add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until all water has evaporated from the mushrooms, approximately 10 minutes. Add marsala wine and let cook until all alcohol has evaporated or burned off, approximately 7 minutes. Add the remaining butter and chicken stock, bring all to a vigorous boil and season with salt and pepper. When half boiled down, add meat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add parsley and serve.
Lidia Bastianich's Shrimp Scampi
Scampi (Nephrops Norvegicus) are spiny, hard-shell crustaceans that resemble small lobsters more than shrimp, except that they are powder pink in color. They are much prized but not as abundant as they used to be in the Mediterranean. One of the most common ways to prepare them is to saute them with garlic, onion and white wine. The same method was used by chefs in Italian-American restaurants to prepare shrimp (gamberi, in Italian), which were much more readily available. So they were called Shrimp Scampi, and the name has stuck, meaning shrimp prepared in the style of the beloved scampi.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons minced parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
36 "U-10" shrimp (about 3 1/2 pounds, see Note)
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

To make the flavored butter: Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until pale golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the shallots, season generously with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, shaking the skillet, until the shallots are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until about half of the wine has evaporated. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and boil until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. Add the butter, parsley and tarragon and beat until blended. To make the butter easier to handle, spoon it onto a 12-inch length of plastic wrap and roll it into a log shape, completely wrapped in plastic. Chill thoroughly. (The flavored butter can be made up several hours, or up to a few days in advance.)

Place the rack in the lowest position and preheat oven to 475°F. Peel the shrimp, leaving the tail and last shell segment attached.

Devein the shrimp by making a shallow cut along the curved back of the shrimp and extracting the black or grey vein that runs the length of the shrimp. Lay the shrimp flat on the work surface and, starting at the thick end, make a horizontal cut along the center of the shrimp extending it about three-quarters of the way down. Pat shrimp dry.

Using some of the flavored butter, lightly grease a low baking pan, such as a jelly roll pan, or ovenproof saute pan into which the shrimp fit comfortably without touching. Place each shrimp on the work surface with underside of the tail facing away from you. With your fingers, roll each half of the slit part of the shrimp in toward and underneath the tail, forming a "6" on each side of the shrimp and lifting the tail up.

Arrange the shrimp, tails up, on the prepared sheet or saute pan as you work, leaving some space between. Cut the remaining flavored butter into 1/2-inch cubes and disperse the cubes among the shrimp. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup wine and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and add it to the pan. Scatter the thyme sprigs over and around the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and place the pan on the oven rack. Roast until the shrimp are firm and crunchy and barely opaque in the center, about 5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a hot platter or divide among hot plates. Drain the pan juices into a small pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until the sauce is lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp as is, or strain it first for a more velvety texture. Serve immediately.

When buying shrimp, the easiest way to determine the size is by using restaurant terminology. For example, "U/10," stands for "Under 10", which means there are 10 or fewer shrimp in a pound. "U-15" means fewer than 15 per pound; "21/25" means there are between 21 and 25 per pound, "16/20" between 16 and 20 a pound and so on. Retail terminology like "large," "jumbo" or "medium" can be misleading.
Lidia Bastianich's Oven Braised Pork Chops w/Red Onions and Pears
Costolette Di Maiale Brasate Al Forno Con Pere

Makes 4 servings
2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 center cut pork rib chops, each about 12 ounces and 1 1/4 inch thick
1 large red onion (about 12 ounces), cut into 8 wedges
Freshly ground pepper
2 ripe but firm bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

The sugar in the honey helps to caramelize the pork, onion and pears as they oven-braise. It is a technique that works well with other roasted meats and birds as well. Just mix a little honey with the pan juices and baste or brush the roast with that during the last 10 minutes or so of roasting.

For some dishes, you want the onions cut fine, so they almost disappear. Here, I cut the onions large-and the pears, too-so they keep their shape and don't fall apart. Even when ripe, Bosc pears stay firmer than most, making them just right for this dish.

In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and boil until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced to about 1/3 cup. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet with a flameproof handle over medium-high heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and scatter them over the oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until brown, about 2 minutes. Lay the pork chops in and cook until the underside is browned, about 6 minutes. Remove and reserve the garlic cloves if they become more than deep golden brown before the chops are fully browned. Turn the chops, tuck the onion wedges into the pan and continue cooking until the second side of the chops is browned, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. About half way through browning the second side, tuck the pear wedges in between the chops.

Stir the red wine vinegar and honey together in a small bowl, until the honey is dissolved. Pour the vinegar/honey mixture into the skillet and bring to a vigorous boil. Return the garlic cloves to the skillet if you have removed them. Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the onions and pears are tender and the juices from the pork are a rich, syrupy dark brown, about 30 minutes. Once or twice during roasting, turn the chops and redistribute the onions and pears. Handle the skillet carefully-it will be extremely hot.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Place a chop in the center of each warmed serving plate. Check the seasoning of the onion-pear mixture, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon the pears, onion and pan juices around the chops. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction around the edge of the plate.
Lidia's Tuscan Style Biscotti

4 ounces blanched almonds
1 stick of butter
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until lightly golden. Cool them. Coarsely chop half of them, leaving the rest whole. Butter two large baking sheets.

Mix butter, sugar, flour, salt and baking soda together. Beat in the eggs and then the whole and chopped almonds, to obtain a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly, then divide it into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece under your hands into a cylinder 15 inches long and about 11/2 inches in diameter. Place two rolls, well separated, on each baking sheet and put them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned and firm to the touch.

With a spatula, carefully transfer the rolls to a cutting board and slice each one diagonally into cookies about 1/2 inch thick. Set wire racks on the baking sheets and lay out the biscotti on them. Return them to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the biscotti are very firm and crisp.

Let the biscotti cool on the racks, then transfer them to a tin for keeping.
____________________________________________________________________ Lidia Bastianich's Ricotta Cheesecake
Makes 8 servings

3 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
Softened butter and fine dry bread crumbs for the pan
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
Grated zest of 1 large orange
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pine nuts

Place the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and place the sieve over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours up to one day.
Combine the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Soak, tossing occasionally, until the raisins are softened and have absorbed most of the rum.
Brush an 8-inch spring form pan with enough softened butter to coat lightly. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the butter to coat generously. Shake out the excess crumbs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar and salt with a whisk until pale yellow. Add the drained ricotta, lemon and orange zest and beat until blended thoroughly. Beat in the cream. With a rubber spatula, fold in the pine nuts and the raisins and rum, blending well.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer or wire whisk until they form firm peaks when a beater is lifted from them. Add about one fourth of the egg whites to the ricotta mixture and gently stir them in. Add the remaining egg whites and fold them in, using a large rubber spatula to scrape the batter from the bottom of the bowl up and over the whites. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is golden brown on top and set in the center, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool the cake completely before removing the sides of the pan. Serve the cake at room temperature or chilled.

Lidia Bastianich's Lasagna

Makes 12 servings, plus leftovers

2 lb fresh or packaged whole-milk ricotta cheese
Italian-American Meat Sauce (see below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs lasagna noodles
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, sliced thin
Pinch salt

I am always telling you not to add oil to the water when you cook pasta because it will reduce the adherence of sauce to the pasta amount of sauce that clings to the pasta. Cooking long, flat pasta - like these lasagna noodles - are the exception. They have a tendency to stick together when they cook; the oil will help prevent that. Inevitably, some noodles will break. Save the pieces, they will come in handy to patch the layers of lasagna.

You'll notice in the meat sauce recipe that the final consistency of the sauce should be fairly dense. Following that pattern, I suggest you drain the ricotta first to remove a lot of the moisture. Removing excess moisture from the ingredients will result in a finished lasagna that is more intense in flavor.

You may assemble the lasagna completely up to a day before you serve it, but don't cook it until the day you plan to serve it. Lasagna tastes better and is easier to cut if it is allowed to stand about an hour after it is removed from the oven. It will retain enough heat to serve as is or, if you prefer, pop it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. My favorite way to serve lasagna is to bake it and let it stand 3 to 4 hours. Cut the lasagna into portions, then re-warm it in the oven.

Line a sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Place the ricotta over the cheesecloth and the sieve over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to one day. Discard the liquid that drains into the bowl. Make the meat sauce.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water and the olive oil to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir about one third of the lasagna noodles into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, set a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. When the lasagna noodles are al dente, remove them with a wire skimmer and transfer to the ice water. Let them stand until completely chilled. Repeat the cooking and cooling with the remaining two batches of lasagna noodles. When the cooked noodles are chilled, remove them from the ice bath and stack them on a baking sheet, separating each layer with a clean, damp kitchen towel.

While the noodles are cooking, beat the eggs with the salt in a mixing bowl until foamy. Add the ricotta and stir until thoroughly blended. Preheat oven to 375° F.

To assemble the lasagna, ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 15 x 10-inch baking dish. Arrange noodles lengthwise and side-by-side so as to cover the bottom of the baking dish and overhang the short ends of the dish by about 2 inches. (A little 'cut and paste' might be necessary. Also, the noodles will most likely overlap in the center of the dish. That is fine.) Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, to cover the noodles in an even layer. Sprinkle the sauce with ½ cup of the grated cheese. Arrange a single layer of noodles crosswise over the cheese so they overhang the long sides of the baking dish by about 2 inches, again trimming the noodles and overlapping them as necessary.

Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Arrange a single layer of noodles lengthwise over the ricotta, trimming the noodles as necessary. Arrange the sliced mozzarella in an even layer over the noodles. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce over the cheese and sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese over the sauce. Cover with a layer of noodles, arranged lengthwise. Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, to cover the noodles in an even layer and sprinkle the sauce with 1 cup grated cheese. Turn the noodles overhanging the sides and ends of the dish over the lasagna, leaving a rectangular uncovered space in the middle. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce over the top layer of noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes.

Uncover the lasagna and continue baking until the top is crusty around the edges, about 20 minutes. Let rest at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours before cutting and serving. To re-warm a lasagna that has been standing, cover it loosely with foil and place in a 325° F oven until heated through, 15 to 45 minutes, depending on how long it has been standing.

Sugo di Carne

Makes about 8 cups, enough to fill and sauce Italian-American Lasagna or to dress about 2 pounds pasta)

Two 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
5 or 6 meaty pork neck bones (about 3/4 pound)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably the Sicilian or Greek type dried on the branch, crumbled
3 to 4 cups hot water

If you have trouble finding ground pork, or if you prefer to grind your own, it's really very easy. (And if you buy a piece of bone-in pork to grind, you'll have the bones you need for the sauce.) Remove all bones and gristle from the meat, but leave the fat. Cut the pork into 1-inch pieces, chill them thoroughly. Grind about half at a time in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse, using quick on/off motions until the meat is coarsely ground.

In my region of Italy, tomato paste is usually added along with the onions to caramelize it a little bit. But around Naples, and the rest of Southern Italy, tomato paste is stirred right into the sauce. That's how I do it here.

When the sauce is finished simmering, you can pull the meat from the bones and stir it into the sauce or you can do what I do- nibble on them while the sauce perks away. This makes quite a bit of sauce-enough to feed a small crowd and have enough left over to freeze in small quantities for a quick pasta meal for one or two.

Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine blade. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4 to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Make a little room in the center of the pot, dump in the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the pork bones and cook, turning, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat changes color and the water it gives off is boiled away, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat is browned about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and oregano then pour in the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the pot, until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the tomato paste until is dissolved. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce takes on a deep, brick-red color, 2 to 3 hours. Add the hot water, about ½ cup at a time, as necessary to maintain the level of liquid for the length of time the sauce cooks.

Skim off any fat floating on top and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The sauce can be prepared entirely in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is the essence of tomato in a concentrated form. I use tomato paste to bring an intense tomato flavor to a dish, or when I want the sweetness and mellow flavor of tomato without the acidity of fresh tomatoes. I also add tomato paste to soups, braised meat dishes and slow-simmered tomato sauces for a rich color and complexity of flavor. The next time you make a roast, dilute a tablespoon of tomato paste in a cup of hot stock or water and add it to the pan. It will give the roast a bit of color and a lot of taste.

Traditionally, tomato paste is made by spreading very ripe tomatoes on a wooden board to dry in the sun. As they dry, the tomatoes are turned daily and spread out on the board, like plaster of Paris, until most of their water is evaporated. During the drying process, the tomatoes' acidity is greatly reduced and their flavor and sweetness is intensified. Today, tomato paste is dehydrated in commercial plants by boiling the tomatoes down, then drying them in a slow oven.

To give tomato paste a nuttier flavor, I like to caramelize it by cooking it in oil along with vegetables before the other ingredients are added to the pot. And, to get the most out it, I like to cook it longer than I would fresh or canned tomatoes.

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