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Lidia answers your questions here!
May 17, 2011
Holly- How can I make my tomato sauce not taste metallic? I have a friend in Reggio Calabria and he says “basil” will help with this. Do you have any suggestions?
@Holly-I find that when I buy canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and they are truly sweet, there is no metallic taste, so choosing the right tomatoes with low acidity is important. As well dump the tomatoes out of the tin can immediately after you open them and do not cook in aluminum pots. Adding fresh basil and herbs always helps.
Patricia -What kind of tomatoes do you grow in your home garden? Do you can them at the end of the season, and if so, do you add herbs when canning or wait until cooking with them?
@Patricia-I grow many different kind of tomatoes for juicy tomatoes like beefsteaks for salads, the cherry tomatoes all different shapes and colors for the children to pick and pop in their mouth but for sauce I plant two kinds; the San Marzano and the Roma tomatoes. I cook with them when they are ripe and I do can them at the end of the season. I like putting my basil when I can them , then I add more when I cook them.
Jill – Whenever I cook an Italian meal, I am always at a loss for what to make for dessert. I don’t care for tiramisu or panna cotta, and those seem like the obvious dessert choices. I’d love authentic ideas. Thanks!
Rudy – With Arabic Cuisine becoming more and more popular, I recently ate Kefta Kabobs. My family immigrated from Trieste. My dad was born in Istria and a couple of years ago while I was there I ate Ã¦evapÃ¨iÃ¦i (spicy beef or pork meatballs). It was similar but I know Kefta is made with lamb. Do you (I know you must have the recipe for Ã¦evapÃ¨iÃ¦i ?
@Rudy,- Ä†evapÄiÄ‡i is a Balkan dish of grilled minced meat, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire found in the countries of South Eastern Europe. They are considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. They are also common in Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, as well as in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the border between Italy and Slovenia (provinces of Trieste and Gorizia).
Try this recipe:
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
3cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat a grill for medium-low heat.
1. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, and ground lamb . Add the garlic, salt, baking soda, black pepper and cayenne pepper . Mix well using your hands, and form into finger length sausages about 3/4 inch thick.
2. Lightly oil the grilling surface. Grill sausages until cooked through, turning as needed, about 20 minutes.
Serve with chopped sweet onions
John -Do you salt or put oil in your pasta water?
@John- Here are some pasta cooking tips. When cooking pasta, oil should never be added to the cooking water except when cooking wide fresh pasta such as lasagna, or the sauce won’t adhere properly to the pasta. To test pasta when pasta is done, bite into a strand to determine whether or not the pasta had the appropriate al dente texture. As soon as the pasta is done, drain immediately, shaking off the excess water. Pasta should never be rinsed, except when making cold pasta dishes. Always sauce the pasta immediately while it is still hot. After you have drained the pasta, return it to the cooking pot or transfer it to a warmed bowl; immediately add at least a few tablespoons of sauce
May 9, 2011Â
Lori-I grew up in my Grandmom LaVella’s house, and so I learned NEVER to waste any food. Now that my family is grown, and I cook for just my husband and I, I find myself with leftover good Italian bread that I get from our local bakery. We just can’t eat an entire loaf. I use the leftovers for breadcrumbs, and also for breakfast, fried with egg in the middle. Neither my husband or I much enjoy panzanella. Do you have any other suggestions for using leftover bread?
@ Lori- I love your comments and yes let me give you a few more ideas on how to use leftover bread; Pappa al Pomodoro.
Try my recipe for Zucchini and Country Bread Lasagna and Peach Lasagna.
Enjoy the reicpes
Diane -What spices do you use in your marinara sauce?
@ Diane-I like my marinara very simple. I use good San Marzano plum tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive oil, garlic, a few flakes of red pepper flakes and fresh Basil. And I cook it about 20-30 minutes. Here is my recipe for Marinara Sauce. http://lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/589Â
Karen -hi Lidia: I love you and your history and all your enterprises. I notice that you often cook with scallions. I’ve never known Italian cooks to use them, do you do it because American cooks tend to use this type of onion?
@Kerri- In Italy we did use scallions but mostly in the spring, like spring onions. I like them because they are flavorful, available, not expensive and they bring a freshness to any recipe. I like them raw or cooked in a salad as well.
Julie -What can I use in place of Guanciale for an amatriciana sauce?
@ Julie- Good slab bacon is good when Guanciale is not to be had. I also use the end of the prosciutto, where it is a bit fatty. Ask your deli-counter sales person to sell you the stub -the end of the prosciutto. Remove the skin and slice the meat as you would Guanciale.
Inger -My husband and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary at LIdia’s Pittsburgh. What would you recommend from your menu-for our celebration?
@ Inger-Happy Anniversary and have a great time at Lidia’s in Pittsburgh. There are many delicious offerings and Chef Dan Sweeny makes delicious seasonal specials, so look for those, but the classics are our large T-Bone steak with country style potatoes, the Osso Buco with barley risotto is also a favorite and if you like chicken the Lemon Chicken with olives is a must. We also offer a special pasta trio which changes daily according to season and it is a year round favorite.
Enjoy, with best wishes,
May 2, 2011
Jill -What is the best way to “hand down” food traditions in a family?
@Jill, I think the best way to hand down tradition is to live tradition. Involve children and grandchildren in the cooking and preparing, especially around the holidays. Explain why this is a tradition in your family; did grandma always make this for Christmas, or did uncle Sal always bring the baccala for the Vigilia etc. And keep a record of all the recipes and traditions for future generations. Make sure you collect and record information and recipes from the aging members of the family. Pictures are always great to share.
Glenn-Why do some cookbooks recommend sautÃ©ing in olive oil and others warn against it? The “against” camp says high heat does something to ruin olive oil; where do you stand, Lidia?
@Glenn, of all the oils Olive oil has the lowest smoking point. That means that it will begin to smoke at a low temperature versus the other oils. Once the oil begins to smoke or burn, it loses its flavors and value. So if you are cooking something at a high temperature, canola or vegetable oil is advisable. But if you cook somethingÂ at a low temperature, olive oil is fine. The best way to enjoy and eat olive oil is drizzled on food and salads at the end of the cooking process so you get the full nutritional and flavor value of the olive oil.
Mary- Dear Lidia, I made your delicious Gulasch Triestino (wonderful!) but am wondering why, in this recipe and others, you ask us to let the food cool down for several hours after cooking, and then reheat to serve. Thank you!
@ Mary, Good question. When you cook, especially when you braise meats, letting it rest gives a chance for the sauce to be absorbed back in the meat. During braising, the meat releases a lot of its juices and along with all the herbs and spices in the braising liquid, makes a good potion. By letting it all rest together this good sauce gets a chance to get back into the meat.
Stacy- Hi Lidia, Whenever I make risotto, it seems to take 2 more cups of hot stock to soften the rice than my recipes require. I’m also never sure what temperature of heat I should be cooking the rice at and whether or not I’m supposed to stir it …constantly or just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. I find that stirring less works better than more. Can you please clarify these issues for me? My risotto always comes out good, but I’m sure that I’m doing something wrong.
@ Stacy, the rule of thumb for risotto is that one cup of rice when cooked into a risotto will yield double, that is two cups of finished risotto and it will take three and a half cups of liquid to get there.
Of course this is all subject to different elements. If the temperature is too high the liquid will evaporate faster and you will need more to finish the rice. If the pot is very wide the liquid again will evaporate quicker. So there is always some variance, do not feel that you are making grave mistakes. You should add just enough liquid to cover the rice each time you add, and stirring is needed but you are right, you need not be on top of the pot constantly.
The stock you add to the risotto should always be hot and the heat for cooking the risotto should be at medium once the risotto has started to perk.
Patt- I want to make homemade pasta with semolina flour. When I tried all semolina flour it was too hard. I’ve seen pasta from Italy that says made with 100% semolina flour. Is there a recipe I could use that the pasta would not be so tough. …
@Pat, semolina or durum wheat is known as hard wheat, that means that it has more gluten andÂ proteins. It makes a great pasta but it is harder to work especially for a homemade pasta. All the good boxed pastas that you see in your stores are made from 100% semolina flour, but the dough for this dried pasta is mixed by a machine. To get some of the benefits and flavors of the semolina , next time you make pasta at home, use half semolina and half unbleached white flour. Have fun.
Advice from Nonna Erminia
Il perdono e’ il miglior disprezzo.Â
Forgiveness is the best form of disdain.
Nonna Mima always taught me to forgive. She said it was not worth holding a grudge or anger inside, it only took away my own positive energy. She taught me that I needed to forget or forgive any offense that might have been committed towards me. I would be more in peace with myself and show that I was the better person for forgiving.
Wise Words FromÂ MyÂ Nonna Erminia
“Tutte le bugie hanno le gambe corte”Â
“All lies have short legs”
This is a lesson my grandmother taught me young. You will not go far if you do not tell the truth. Lies will always come to the surface and if you tell the truth, you will live in peace.
Post your questions on the “Ask Lidia” posting on Lidia’s facebook page and checkÂ back on Monday 5/9Â at 4:00pm for the answers!
AnswersÂ From the April 27 “Ask Lidia” PostÂ
Ann-Hi Lidia What basic ingredients do you ALWAYS have on hand to throw together for a quick meal? Thanks! I love your show and have learned so much from you I tried mixing it with some white flour but it still was hard to roll and not as light. The white flour does not agree with me and I love pasta. Is there a different semolina flour used in Italy?
@Ann, I always have at home some good olive oil, garlic and peperoncino (crushed red pepper) with these three ingredients I can make a great plate of pasta- Spaghetti garlic and oil- I can add some clams and I have a white clam sauce. Or toss any vegetables with garlic and oil and you are set, not to mention some shrimps or chicken…so garlic, olive oil and peperoncino are always in my cupboard.
Â JanieÂ - Hello! Ben Venuti – I am wondering what is your favorite way to prepare eggplant. My family loves eggplant but I am lost when it comes to cooking it
@Janie, I love eggplant as well, and it is not the easiest vegetable to cook, but once you have the knack for it you are in charge and can make many dishes with it. Of course I think one of the favorite eggplant preparations is Eggplant all Parmigiana, and I will include here a recipe for you to cook. But eggplant as all vegetables are best when in season and summer is the best time for eggplants. Enjoy making my recipe and I am sure your family will love it…Lidia
Enjoy the recipe for “Eggplant Parmigiana” from my cookbook “Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen“.
Courtney- Lidia, what’s your favorite Italian-American Dish?
@Courtney, there are many delicious Italian American dishes, but some of my favorites are Manicotti, Sausages and Peppers and Ceasars Salad. Here is my version of Italian American Sausage and Peppers from my cookbook Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, which can be purchased on my website.
Lynn - Lidia, please help me find the recipe for the most incredibly mouth-watering dish I made. It’s your recipe – it’s awesome – and it is made with pasta (I think spaghetti), and olives. I melted when I ate it and my husband did too!!! I would love to make it again, but I misplaced the recipe. Thanks!!!
@Lynn, there are many recipes with olives that I do to dress pasta, but here is a quick one which you might like, “Spaghetti with Green Olives and Roasted Red Pepper“enjoy!
Carol - Lidia, what is your favorite way to prepare favas, and also rabbit? Please share any recipes or recommendations….thank you!!!
@Carol-I love fresh favas in a sauce to dress pasta. Try my recipe for “Orecchiette with Fresh Favas and Tomatoes” from Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. And I love Rabbit prepared with lots of onions and a bit of vinegar. Here is my favorite recipe for “Rabbit with Onions” also from Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. Enjoy Lidia
Lidia’s Pasta and Sauce
Lidia’s new line of Pasta and Sauce launched in 2010 as a platform to distribute a collection of both existing and new “Lidia’s” food products. The “Lidia” line complements Lidia’s passion for all things pasta, uniting six original varieties ofÂ fresh tastingÂ pasta sauce, with eight different cuts of pasta.
Lidia’s pasta is made in Italy and consists of 100% durum wheat semolina flour. Lidia’s sauces are all-natural and made from the freshest ingredients as well as Extra-Virgin olive oil. Sauce and pasta is available at supermarkets across the U.S. Check your local stores for availability in your area. You can also purchase Lidia’s sauce on her website.
Try Lidia’s sauce inÂ this quick and easy recipe for “Rigatoni with Roasted Eggplant Sauce and Ricotta Cheese“.
Wise words from Nonna Erminia
Marzo asciutto, aprile temperato, maggio bagnato sara’ beato il contadino che ha seminato. Â
Dry March, temperate April, wet May, the farmer that seeded will be blessed.
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Advice from my Nonna Erminia
Dimmi con chi vai e ti diro` chi sei (percio` se vai con l’asino impari a ragliare)
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Tell with who you are friends and I will tell you who you are (so if you are friends with a donkey you will only learn how to bray)
My Nonna always encouraged me to surround myself with people that had similar or higher intellectual capacities. She felt this would always allow me to be stimulated by good conversation and good company. It was not necessarily about having the same or mutual interests, actually better to have friends with some diverse interests so you could learn something new. The point was that if you hung out with donkeys, you too would most likely become a donkey.
If you guessed a strawberry tree you were right!Â Try thisÂ corbezzolo honey with a medium aged pecorino, or with Pecorino di Fossa.
This tree can be found throughout the Mediterranean climate, in particular in the region of Sardinia. From the flowers of this fruit tree, a unique honey is produced by the bees- Miele di Corbezzolo-that has a rich sweet taste, followed by a slightly bitter after taste. This honey has many uses and is particularly delicious when paired with a medium aged pecorino or with a Pecorino di Fossa, pecorino aged in caves.
Can you guess what this is???