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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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New York NJTV
Sat 12/22 at 3:00pm
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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!