We were thrilled to be able to ask one of our favorite chefs a few questions this week! And we're over the moon about her being in Memphis this weekend. You can see her tomorrow and get your cookbook signed at this event.
Support the Brooks Museum's educational programs by attending the Grand Auction this Saturday at 4 p.m.. It'll feature Italian food, wine, and the first lady of Italian cooking, Lidia Bastianich. For tickets, call 544-6209 or go to www.theartofgoodtaste.org.
The Chubby Vegetarian: It seems to me that it's easy to go meatless when cooking an Italian meal. You even have a section in Italian-American Kitchen devoted to vegetarian foods. Ricotta dumplings and my version of a mushroom carbonara are our weeknight standards. At the moment, what are some of your favorite meatless dishes, and which ones end up on your table most often? Care to share a recipe or two?
Lidia Bastianich: The Meatless Pecorino Meatballs from my new book, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, are a great example of who needs meat. In the region of Abruzzo, once a predominantly pastoral society, where cheese abounded and meat was scarce, dishes like these were commonplace. They are delicious as finger food at a party or as an appetizer--or they can be dressed up with a simple marinara sauce and served as a main course. And I am always up for a simple pasta with basil, parsley & walnut pesto as made in the region of Liguria.
TCV: You introduced me to one of my favorites foods, panelle, and I'm eternally grateful for that. I'm considering serving panelle at a dinner party as a third course. What would you do to dress it up and make it the focus of the plate rather than the filling for a sandwich?
LB: You can use panelle as you would polenta, topping it with blanched asparagus and then Fontina or Gorgonzola and grill until crisp on top, or any other vegetable in season, braised artichokes in tomato, fava, peas, etc.
TCV: I find it hard to talk people into making their own pasta. Most home cooks fear that they might fail. What is the one thing you would say to to encourage them to go and make their own pasta dough?
LB: I always tell them to dive in! Every egg dough consists of just flour, eggs, oil, and water, and all you need is a mixing bowl, or even easier, a food processor, some counter space to roll it, and five minutes, so why not try it? It is a great family project. Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with different types of flour, such as buckwheat, semolina or flaxseed, as well as different shapes and sauce combinations.
TCV: What one dish most firmly connects you with the idea of family?
LB: I love cooking my good capon stock and mother's chicken and potatoes, which is the most-requested meal by my grandkids, and all those who drop by love it. It's a dish I grew up with, and it's such a joy to have them love it, too.
TCV: Like your son, I have made some tremendous changes in my lifestyle and eating habits that resulted in a 75-pound weight loss over the past year. His story was very inspiring to me. What role did you play in his transformation?
LB: The onset of diabetes and knowing that he has three beautiful children that he has to be here for, he realized that it was in his court, and he took control. Daily exercise is a big part of the regime. Eating well...just eating less.