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Tanya sent me this photo of a beautiful ripe fig from Southern Italy, and it brings me right back to my childhood. These gifts of sweetness were the perfect desserts in the late summer. They are also delicious with seasonal corn like you find in this Grilled Corn and Figs with Balsamic Reduction recipe. This recipe can be found by clicking on the link or in Lidia’s Family Table Cookbook (Knopf, 2004).
I love a good pesto, and so does Grandma. The basil this year is in full bloom and thriving, so I’m going to make plenty of Basil Pistachio Pesto so we can have it on hand for quick meals.
In this recipe, I am using pistachios instead of pinenuts but you can also use almonds. And if you want to try something a little different, why not try a mint pistachio pesto?
Pesto can be stored in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer for about six months. You can cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. This Spaghetti with Basil Pistachio Pesto recipe can be found by clicking on the link or in Lidia’s Italy in America Cookbook (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).
Swiss Chard has become very popular, and I absolutely love it. It’s at peak season in June and July, and this recipe works beautifully as an appetizer or a passed hors d’oeuvre. Swiss Chard and Vegetable Crostata
Can’t wait to use these string beans from my garden to make my STRING BEANS, CAPERS, AND BASIL SALAD from my Commonsense Italian Cookbook. See the recipe below.
STRING BEANS, CAPERS, AND BASIL SALAD
Insalata di Fagiolini, Capperi, e Basilico
This is a refreshing salad, particularly in the summer months. Do play with the different kinds of string beans available in season. I love the flat Roman green varietal, but a mixture of green and yellow wax beans is delicious. This base salad can be enhanced to become a main course by adding canned tuna or sardines. It is also a great way to use leftover grilled fish or chicken.
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pot
1 pound string beans, trimmed
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup drained tiny capers in brine
2 tablespoons -red–wine vinegar
2 tablespoons -extra–virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the string beans, and blanch until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain, and rinse to cool slightly.
Shred the basil. Put the string beans in a bowl, and toss with the capers and basil. Drizzle with the vinegar and oil, and season with the salt. Toss to coat, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
If you want to keep on grilling this weekend, toast up some country italian bread, then sauté cavolo nero or kale, like this one from my garden, with olive oil and garlic. Try my recipe below from my Lidia’s Italian Table Cookbook.
Bruschetta with Dinosaur and Kale
Bruschetta con Cavolo Nero
Yield: Serves 6
Dinosaur kale, also called black kale, has darker leaves, a crinklier, almost scaly leaves. If you can’t find it, use regular kale instead. I find my dinosaur kale at New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket.
1/2 pound “dinosaur”, black or green kale
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
Pinch of peperoncino (crushed red pepper)
Water, if needed
Bruschette (recipe follows)
Separate the kale into leaves and remove the thick stem from the center of each leaf. Shred the leaves 1/4‑inch wide. Wash the leaves thoroughly and drain them well, preferably in a salad spinner.
In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the kale, season lightly with salt and add the peperoncino. Reduce the heat to low and cooking the kale, stirring often, until the kale is very tender, about 30 minutes. If the kale begins to stick, add a tablespoon of water and continue cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare the bruschetta.
Adjust the seasoning and divide the kale evenly among the bruschette and serve immediately.
I love a good hamburger at this time of year, and here is an Italian style version that you can enjoy during your holiday barbeque. See below for the recipe.
This special features four celebrations of independence, diversity, and food traditions in America.
On the fourth of July at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, a number of immigrants are sworn in and become citizens of the United States for the first time. Lidia then heads to Texas and participates in a Juneteenth celebration in Galveston with actress Anna Deavere Smith. Lidia spends a day with Jacques Pepin and learns all about Bastille Day, and Martha Wainwright joins them to sing beautiful French songs. Finally, Lidia celebrates Philippine Independence Day with hilarious comedian and actor Alec Mapa, and famed opera singer Renne Fleming concludes the program with her rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Lidia Celebrates America: Freedom and Independence airs July 3rd at 8:00 PM and again at 2:00 AM on PBS. (check local listings).
Stream past specials at PBS.org!