It’s very rare that I blog someone else’s recipe since I’m so glad to share my own but every now and then one jumps at me and I have to blog about it. Lidia Bastianich is probably out of all the “Celebrity” chefs, NYC restauranteurs, Italian cooking experts, cookbook writers..the one who I love to listen to the most. So many of the Italian food types put up a great big wall between “real” Italian (meaning in Italy) and the Italian food that Americans serve, particularly Italian-American food. It’s often dismissed as overdone, not good, just awful and not bearing any resemblance to the foods of Italy. Well, truth be told America has definitely turned some Italian or Italian based dishes into Circus Carnivals of food that really break every rule of Italian cooking and even Italian-American cooking. That’s one type of Italian American food problem. I’m sure the people of Mexico cry when they see a 200 layer dip of cheese, jarred salsa and lettuce. There is a very wonderful Italian-American food culture, I pride myself on being quite knowledgeable in it and love to share that with you. Lidia is one of , if not the only Italian born food experts that really knows the connection and bridges that river that separates Italian and Italian American cuisines. Never once have I heard her call an old fashioned Italian-American restaurant a RED SAUCE JOINT. Nothing gets me angrier than that insulting phrase. She has taken the time to learn what makes America’s Italian communities tick, and how being thousands of miles from homelands in Italy the immigrants adapted the foods of their new home to stand in for the foods of their motherland. Chicken and Veal Parmigiana, serving Spaghetti along with the meatballs, Garlic Bread…a few of the examples of purely Italian American dishes, not to be found in Italy, but certainly strong roots to dishes and techniques throughout the Italian country. Dishes like a Creamy Tomato and 5 cheese sauce topped with Roasted Peppers, Olives, Onions, and Grilled Sausage and Shrimp are the problem dishes…these are just American overkill, usually created in big corporate think tanks..taking ingredients used in Italian food and creating these mashups that cause Italians in Italy to shake their heads. Lidia, being the lady she is does not mention them, instead, she always chooses to present to the world and her audience everything there is to know about Italian food in Italy, Italian food in America, and Italian food around the world and how it all got to where it is and why there were some creations and changes along the way. There I am with Lidia at the 2011 NYC Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her 3 times and she was always engaging, interested and wonderful. So…the other night I was watching her on one of our local PBS stations and from her new cookbook, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking (http://shopping.lidiasitaly.com/lidiascommonsenseitaliancooking.aspx) she was cooking SEMOLINA AND ESCAROLE SOUP. I was mesmerized! Semolina, I love it in anything it’s made with. It creates Italian pasta, makes dumplings, puddings, hot cereal, breads, desserts, cookies, cakes, it’s really a versatile item. I had to make this. I don’t have the book yet! So online I went and luckily there’s a link to the soup recipe. Now I can’t copy it (copyright rules prevent that) but if there’s a live link I can drop it in here so..here’s the recipe:
OK. I followed the recipe tonight..and here are my thoughts. Start with a homemade stock and make it as richly flavored (meaning don’t skimp on the amount of chicken parts you are using) as you can. I also season my stock with a little saffron for extra color. It was straightforward and came together with no stress. There’s my stock in the back with a head of well rinsed escarole in front. The semolina I was able to get at one of my Local supermarkets, Bob’s Red Mill makes a 1 1/2 lb bag of Semolina. Good stuff. My youngest looked at the finished soup and said..”Really? what is it??”..I said Cream of Escarole. She bought it. Loved it. The whole family loved it. We will have it again!
Thanks Lidia!! Grazie Mille!!