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I recall as a young apprentice at my great aunt’s apron strings that for every pot that went on the stove, there was an herb somewhere in the garden to match. Some herbs were better to cook while others were better added to the finished dish. Rosemary, bay leaves, thyme were mostly used for long cooking–where their oils would be extracted slowly–while sage, oregano, marjoram needed very little cooking. Time, basil, parsley and mint are great tossed raw; it’s enough just to take in their aroma.
When I cook I love to crush herbs in my hands and then inhale their perfumes. It invigorates me, it refreshes me, and I get a good sense of what I am adding to the pot.
I get so many questions about my own family’s holiday traditions that I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of them with you all.
I’m always in charge of dinner on Christmas day. I begin cooking early in the morning and I always start with dessert. We usually eat at midday, and our meal always starts with some type of stuffed pasta in brodo, or broth. I like stuffed pasta in capon broth followed by a stuffed capon as our main course.
In Italy you will typically find turkey, goose or capon served as a main course, and each bird has a different stuffing. Once we arrived in America, I learned that ham is often found on the Christmas table here, so a few years ago I decided to add a luscious roasted pork to our Christmas meal–it was a hit!
Rich desserts and spiced breads are the way to finish an Italian holiday meal. At our table you will find apple strudel, chocolate cakes, and amaretti pudding. My favorite holiday dessert is crostoli, or ribbon-shaped fried dough cookies.
Of course, the most important part of any meal is the people who join me at my table. Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
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Join Lidia on Staten Island for a book signing and RAFFLE!
2424 Hylan Boulevard
Staten Island, NY
12:00 – 2:00 pm
10 Lidia gift baskets will be raffled off (tickets will be for sale in-store from 12/5 – 12/9) to benefit Catholic Charities’ Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts. Can’t make it? Donate here.
Lidia will be signing books and offering a tasting of her pastas and sauces!
In Italian, the verb we use to describe the final dressing of the pasta with the sauce is condire, or “to season, to flavor.” And the phrase condire la pasta reminds us that the sauce should be considered a condiment, an enhancement to the pasta.
I like to think of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, as playing the leading role in the pasta dish. So why drown the protagonist before the drama has started?
Keep these ideas in mind when you bring your pasta and sauce together in the skillet. If you see that the quantity of sauce is disproportionate to the pasta, spoon some out (and save it, of course) before tossing and finishing the dish. And if you see that the sauce is soupy and collects in the bottom of the skillet, raise the head while tossing the pasta actively, evaporating the excess water and thickening the sauce so it adheres to the pasta.
The way I roast, aromatic vegetables fill the pan to lend flavor to the meat during their hours together in the oven. Later, the vegetables are usually mashed and sieved to extract their juices, flavor, and rich pulp for the sauce. I sometimes hate to lose these sweet vegetables—if you’ve tasted a carrot or onion wedge that’s roasted with turkey or pork shoulder, you know what I mean. So I suggest you split the goods and use some to make sauce and save the rest as contorno, or a side dish.
You can do the same with most roasting recipes, just follow these guidelines:
• Increase the amount of sturdy root vegetables (or add them) such as carrots, parsnips, whole shallots, and rutabagas, as well as celery. Cut 3- or 4-inch long wedges, evenly thick, at least 1/2-wide, or thicker if they must roast a long time. Short wedges cook through, look good, won’t break and caramelize on the edges, too.
• Cut onions in wedges but trim them so the layers remain attached at the root end and they don’t fall apart.
• Cook leeks whole, using leeks of medium thickness (1-1/2 inches). Trim off tough leaves, wash thoroughly, trim the hair-like roots, but leave the root base that holds the leaves together. Do not cut the leek crosswise; split the leaves—but not the root end—lengthwise. When serving, slice off the root and cut into short lengths.
• Use big, thick celery stalks. Peel to remove tough skin. Cut celery sticks about 1-inch wide so they don’t fall apart.
• Caramelize the vegetables in the roasting pan after pouring out the pan juices for sauce. Roast them with the meat or by themselves. Vegetables usually need more dry roasting than the meat because they have been covered in liquid. Speed caramelization by raising the heat or the level of the roasting pan in the oven.
Beet salad with radicchio and goat cheese,
Prosciutto, Salumi, Broccoli Rabe, Squash and
burrata cheese, Smoked Salmon, Shrimp Salad
Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter sauce and
Paccheri with Ragu Festivo
Slow roasted turkey legs and milk braised turkey
breast, Lamb Chops, Salt – Baked Salmon Served
with Crisp Fingerling Potatoes, Butternut squash,
Cranberry and Orange Sauce, Brussel Sprouts,
Ricotta Cheesecake, Apple Crostata “Pie”
and Pecan Pie with maple syrup ice cream
$98 per person
(All served family style)
Here’s a photo of me with my crazy cucuzzi. They’re much better when smaller, but this is what happens when you go on vacation! The straight one was growing from a trellis on the garage, and I found the curvy one growing under the rhubarb.
My favorite part of this aggressively growing plant is the tendrils of the vine; just saute them with a little garlic, peperoncino, olive oil and a pinch of salt! And of course you could make quite a few zucca ravioli out of these two.