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April 5, 2013

Dressing Your Salad the Right Way


Always drain your salad well before dressing it, otherwise the dressing will dilute with the remaining water, and you’ll lose flavor. Dress your salad as close to the serving time as possible, and be sure that you don’t over-dress your salad or it will become heavy and soggy.

Choose your dressing according to the texture of the salad: If the salad is silky and tender use light liquid dressing, and if the salad is resilient use the creamy and heavier dressings.

If you are using olive oil and wine vinegar, the ratio is usually 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 olive oil. Whisk the oil and vinegar first, add some salt, and then dress the salad. To add some garlic flavor, add a few heads of crushed garlic to the oil and vinegar mixture. Let it steep for 15 minutes, remove the garlic and toss the salad with the flavored dressing.



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April 2, 2013

My Favorite Food Quotes


 

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
– Virginia Woolf


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March 15, 2013

Blood Orange Basics


Even if you’ve never tasted one, you’re most likely familiar with their misleadingly gruesome name.

While they have been popular for centuries in Italy, blood oranges are relatively new to the United States and can be found in supermarkets from November to May. In California, the Moro variety is popular, which ripens earlier than the older Italian native Tarocco or the Spanish Sanguinello.

They’re usually smaller than oranges and cool winter nights sometimes give their skin a beautiful red blush. (If there’s no blush they can still be ripe, but make sure the orange is plump and heavy for its size.)

When you cut them open, their flesh is a deep ruby red and they taste sweeter than a regular orange but with a tangy raspberry quality that makes them addictive.

I love adding them to salads and recommend my Fennel and Blood Orange Salad for an easy, fresh late winter feast.

The wonderful red color is due to the presence of anthocyanins in the pulp and rind–the same antioxidants  that give cherries and blueberries their enticing colors.

Store your oranges at room temperature for several days or put them in a sealed container or bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator to keep them for a couple weeks.

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March 12, 2013

Nonna’s Birthday Surprise hits shelves March 26th!




PREORDER THE BOOK HERE!

It’s Nonna Mima’s birthday, and Nonna Lidia and her grandkids are determined to throw her a surprise feast! While planning the evening’s menu, Nonna Lidia shares her memories of growing up on the farm during each season of the year, gardening her own fruits and vegetables, and being surrounded by animals of all kinds. After a trip to the farmers’ market, Lidia and the kids prepare a pasta primavera, perfect for a family celebration!

Renée Graef’s warm, heartfelt illustrations capture Lidia’s love for her family and the food that they share. Included are eighteen recipes that emphasize the ingredients abundant during each season and the use of leftover ingredients, while “Kids Can” suggestions note ways that kids can participate in the making of the meals.

Whether you are looking for an intergenerational family story or are a fan of America’s favorite Italian chef, Nonna’s Birthday Surprise delivers a savory treat.

Preorder the book here!

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March 4, 2013

A Stop in Buenos Aires


As if it weren’t exciting enough to visit Antarctica, on my way home I had the immense pleasure of stopping over in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Among my favorite sites was the Teatro Colon–a beautiful theater considered to be among the top five for acoustics in the world! My group asked the guide if we could  hear someone sing something, and someone in the group (a professional mezzo soprano, no less!) belted out L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle from Carmen. It sounded lovely. I thought I’d share a couple photo of the hall with you:

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February 28, 2013

To Salt or Not to Salt?


I always used to boil vegetables in salted water, but recently I started salting certain vegetables after they were cooked, tossing them with medium-coarse salt immediately after draining, while they were still steaming hot. And you know what? I preferred it!


Does it make much of a difference? Indeed it does. Instead of making a saline solution out of the boiling water that permeates the vegetable throughout, the vegetable retains its pure flavor and the sprinkled salt adds another dimension of flavor by seeping into it gently while still hot.

The vegetables that best respond to this method are string beans, broccoli, zucchini and the like, but I find this technique also works well with cabbage, beets, chard and other greens.

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February 18, 2013

Purchase Lidia’s Pasta and Sauce


 

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February 13, 2013

Antarctica: Entry 2


There is a surprising amount of human life in this isolated part of the world.

We’ve come a long way since the first explorers; now there are anywhere between one and five thousand researchers living in Antarctica at any given time (more in the summer, of course).

The Palmer Station

The Palmer Station is an enormous US research facility. Staff from the Station (which is run by The National Science Foundation) came aboard the ship and gave us a presentation of their work. They conduct a lot of long term studies on the climate including using a remote controlled vehicle to monitor sea temperature and salinity through the water column.

The historic Wordie House, named after a member of Shackleton's famous expedition team

After getting to know some of the researchers and staff, I’m beginning to understand how they get by: just like we do–with lots of good food and music! In fact, one of the Palmer Station’s chefs hails from Kansas City! Truly a small world.

Stay tuned for another post.

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February 4, 2013

Antarctica: Entry 1


For those of you who don’t get my monthly e-newsletter (sign up on my homepage), I started this new year off with an exhilarating trip to a uniquely beautiful part of the world: Antarctica.

The first thing that shocked me about Antarctica was how truly wild it is. This is not a human world; wandering albatross with eleven-foot wingspans, Adelie penguins, and orcas rule here.

I watched a mother humpback whale and her calf feed on krill, and witnessed the cycle of life as a leopard seal made a meal of a Gentoo penguin. I was surprised to find that the animals weren’t afraid of us–they knew as well as we did that this is their place.

“Small” is one word to describe how I felt as we sailed through icy waters at sunset.

Ice formations of varied textures, shapes, and shades of blue changed completely from one angle to another, and the snow-capped mountains of Tierra del Fuego visible on the horizon were at once beautiful and ominous.

As the voyage went on, the reality of just how dependent I was on my tour guides for survival in this beautiful but extreme climate became ever more apparent. Immersed in this simultaneously urgent and tranquil world, I found kind of spirituality unique to those places that are relatively untouched by our modern world.

Stay tuned! Look out for more stories and photos from my trip soon.

Lidia

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January 31, 2013

Making Good Pasta Great


Cook pasta in abundant salted water at a full rolling boil. The recommendation I make throughout this chapter for coking 1 pound of pasta is 6 quarts of salted water in an 8-quart  pot. Salt is a matter of taste—I go with about 2 tablespoons for 6 quarts of water.

Bring the water to a boil before you stir in the pasta, and get it back to a boil as soon as possible afterward. Covering the pot is the quickest way to get the water back to a boil, but a covered pot has a tendency to boil over. Try this trick: after adding the pasta to the water, pit the top back on the pot, but prop it open slightly with a wooden spoon. That will bring the water back to a boil quickly but allow steam to escape, thereby preventing the water from boiling over.

I don’t know how the practice of adding oil to pasta-cooking water caught on, but I discourage it—with a few exceptions. If you add oil to pasta-cooking water, it reduces the starchiness on the pasta’s surface. That comes in handy for keeping long or large shapes of pasta, like lasagna noodles or fresh pasta squares, from sticking, but when pasta will be dressed with sauce, that surface stickiness will help the sauce adhere.

Always combine pasta with the sauce and let the two cook together a minute or two before the final seasoning and serving. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce, and the sauce will intensify in flavor. I have a big restaurant stove at home—and big skillets to match—so I scoop the pasta out of the boiling water and right into the pan of sauce. You can do the same if you have a skillet or wide, deep braising pan large enough to hold the sauce and pasta. If not, simply drain the pasta, return it to the pot, add the sauce, and  bring it to a simmer there. For pastas dressed with chunky sauces, I hold back some of the sauce to spoon on top. If the sauce is smooth, I combine all of it with the pasta in the pot.

Italians don’t like their pasta swimming in sauce; there should be just enough sauce to let the pasta glide—not plop—into the plate. A dish of dressed pasta should be flowing, not sticky or soupy. And, of course, that last little touch of olive oil—either drizzled into the pasta and sauce as they simmer together, or drizzled over the pasta in the plate—makes a plate of pasta “smile.”


Stir in grated cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino at the very end, after you remove the pasta and sauce from the heat and just before you plate it. Cheese breaks down—the fat separates from the protein, and the cheese becomes stringy—if it is heated too long or at too high a temperature.

I prefer shallow bowls to plates for serving pasta. If you pile the pasta in the bottom of a bowl—or, in the case of long shapes like spaghetti, make a little nido (nest)—the pasta will stay night and hot. Pasta is one of the foods we Italians enjoy piping hot. For that reason, always warm up the soup bowls ahead, or the platter, if you plan to serve pasta family-style.

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