Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich is the Grand Marshal of this year's Columbus Day parade in New York. To celebrate Lidia's culinary legacy check out some of her cookbooks and her vast catalog of online recipes. If you've got i soldi, Lidia's restaurants (Felidia, Becco, and Del Posto) are supposed to be fantastic.

Lidia and I have a date nearly every Sunday*. She's part of the Sunday PBS line-up of cooking shows. The line-up has varied over the years (where is America's Test Kitchen?) but Lidia remains a reliable presence in the 5:30PM slot. Among the things Lidia has taught me: buy a spider skimmer, always toss cheese off the heat, and if the base of your sauce is made with butter, add more butter before serving. If it's made with olive oil, add enough olive oil to make the dish "smile".

I saw Lidia make this dish on her show years ago and I fell for it hard. As a big fan of any type of fish stew, fish sauce, or fish soup, this recipe fits the bill completely. And although it sounds complicated, it's actually quite easy.

Tutti a tavola a mangiare...ching, ching.

Capellini Cooked in Red-Mullet Stew
(adapted from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen)

5T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 small leek, white and light green parts only, trimmed, cleaned, and sliced thin
1/3 cup finely chopped celery with leaves
1lb. skin-on red mullet or red snapper fillets
2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes (In the past I have used canned)
2 whole dried peperoncini (I've also used larger amounts of crushed)
1 qt. hot water
1lb. capellini
1/3c. shredded basil

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide 4-quart braising pan over medium heat. Stir in shallots, leek, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan to make room for the fillets. Slip the fillets into the pan, skin side down, and cook until the skin changes color, about 2 minutes. Flip the fillets over, cook 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and peperoncini. Bring to a quick boil, stirring, and pour in 3 cups of the hot water.

Add the capellini to the pan gradually, stirring them constantly to separate them. (This will become easier as they soften and start to bend.) Don't worry if you break up the fillets as you stir the pasta. Add the remaining water a little at a time as the capellini begin to absorb the liquid in the pan. The goal is to end up with just enough sauce to coat the pasta generously - not a soupy dish - so be careful to add liquid very gradually. Cook, stirring almost constantly to keep the pasta from sticking together, until the pasta is done and glides easily in a creamy sauce, about 5 to 7 minutes. A minute or two before the end of cooking, stir in the basil and the remaining 2T. olive oil. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Remove the peperoncini peppers and serve the pasta immediately in warm bowls.

* PBS pledge drives are the exceptions.


karykat said...

The olive oil and butter tips are great. What is the spider skimmer good for?

Kim Foster said...

Rebecca -

Great post! I love Lidia too! Her books, her show, everything.

I find the recipes to be spot on and what I love about her show is how you feel like your standing right next to her, just leaning against the counter with a glass of wine, listening to her talk about her Grandmother's sausage in the old country. It's very simple and intimate, which is how I see her food.

Anyway, thanks for reminding me how much I love her! I'll give this recipe a whirl.

Kim from "The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet"

Adi said...

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Greets from Adi,

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