Category Archives: LIDIA

SOUP: A GIFT FROM LIDIA, SEMOLINA AND ESCAROLE SOUP

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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.389297_2149464138543_118335309_n  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:

http://parade.condenast.com/170248/parade/sneak-peak-lidia-bastianichs-semolina-and-escarole-soup/

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.  10590523_355851134583193_816628793859554853_n  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!!

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SPUMONI, A GIFT FROM NAPLES, AN IMMIGRANT STORY, AN ITALIAN AMERICAN INVENTION

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Who doesn’t love an immigrant story…especially one where what’s
been brought from their native country is transplanted into the new country and winds up being more popular today
in the new country than in it’s country of origin.  Americans are many times looked at as newbies in the cultural time-
lines of the world but what Americans have a knack for is holding onto those traditions that their ancestors brought
with them.  I was once told by an Italian that much of what comprises the Italian-American cultural tradition is on
the downswing in Italy and in many cases, America just made what might have been a small regional tradition into
a big deal on this side of the Atlantic.  One such tradition, a food tradition (of course it would be food I’m talking
about) is SPUMONI.  Chances of finding Spumoni all over Italy today would be pretty rare.  Why?  It was never
something that was eaten/made up and down the boot.  It most likely is from the city of Naples, or Napoletana, or
Neapolitan.  Follow this evolution, Spumoni is a frozen dessert, cream with whipped cream added, sort of a
frozen mousse  usually done in three flavors…a chocolate, a vanilla or pistachio, and a cherry..touched with the
flavorings you would find in an Italian Pastry shop..like candided fruits, cherries, pistachios, almonds, rum,,
cinnamon oil, the usual suspects.  The layers are pressed into a mold and it’s frozen, served in slices or scoops.
Remember I said “Neapolitan?  The Ice Cream flavor in the U.S. called Neapolitan which is a mix of vanilla,
chocolate and strawberry takes it’s idea from Spumoni, which comes from Naples.  Interesting stuff.   Here in
the U.S. Spumoni is generally found in the areas with higher Italian Populations.  Of course, whenever I talk my
own childhood history, Staten Island comes into play.  Nearly every spumoni I shoveled into my childhood face was
made at an Ice Cream factory in Staten Island called SEDUTTO’S ICE CREAM.  An immigrant from the area
around Naples,
10965_1151469789308_1304531591_30356921_1242298_nGiuseppe (Joseph) Sedutto immigrated to NYC and worked as a pastry chef in NYC’s fancy hotels
of the day.    Along with his brothers, he began the Sedutto Ice Cream Company in
Staten Island and grew it into a large operation that primarily served hotels, catering halls, and restaurants with
their Italian frozen desserts, like Spumoni, Tortoni, Bombes, plus Ice Cream Cakes, Ice Creams.  Every meal
out or catered affair of my youth ended with a “log” of Spumoni or a paper cup of Tortoni.  I’m going to guess
that the first spumoni that found it’s way passed my lips was Sedutto’s.  Here’s a picture of an actual Sedutto’s
Spumoni from the 1973 Catalog. 
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Seriously, If you have a food memory, the Internet is loaded with proof that you really did remember something
correctly. There is it…my God did I love    when that “log”, actually a slice of Spumoni was served at the end of the
meal.  To this day I love Spumoni.  Unfortunately the Staten Island connection with Spumoni is long gone, the
Sedutto family sold the business to big corporate America and then one day it was gone. The lead picture in this
post still has my hands sticky from eating it.  August 22 is designated as National Spumoni Day, so, off to Ralph’s
Ices (another Staten Island institution who thankfully has a few locations now down here at the Jersey Shore) for
a celebration of Spumoni Day.  That cup in the picture was damn delicious.  Hold on while I take another lick.  Ok,
back to blogging…If you are ever in Brooklyn, the iconic L & B Spumoni Gardens is a place to enjoy a great meal and
their signature Sicilian pizza, finishing the meal off with their Spumoni..
http://www.spumonigardens.com/

Another Spumoni mecca in the United States is Angelo Brocato in New Orleans, on my bucket list…their slice of
Spumoni looks amazing   How beautiful
is that????  20 Angelo-Brocato-New-Orleans
I’ve never made Spumoni, and quite frankly, probably never will, this is one thing that i don’t mind buying out..but, in
True A FOOD OBSESSION style I will give you a recipe, courtesy of Lidia Bastianich, who else??

http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/811

Check that out, make it if you care to, i’ve never used the recipe, so, if it doesn’t come out right, well, that’s my warning,
but Lidia, really…i don’t think you have to worry about using her recipes, I’m comfortable posting it to here for you.

As this August 21, 2014, National Spumoni Day comes to a close I’ll remember  how excited   as a kid I’d get when
we would drive along Richmond Terrace in Port Richmond and pass the Sedutto’s Factory…I knew there was
Spumoni  behind those doors!  006


Another web find…a pic of Sedutto’s Factory in 1953.   Make your delicious memories even more delicious by
creating or finding those foods that were part of your personal history.  It’s why I blog, post, and share.
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