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Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy

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Written by foodie pam   
Friday, 23 April 2010

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) is a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie James Beard Finalists' Guide.

Win a copy of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy! - details

ImageI'm a big fan of Italian food, especially pasta dishes, and Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy has a great selection of both.  The recipes are organized by region, 12 regions to be exact.  The diverseness of the dishes, even the pasta dishes is one of the amazing aspects of Italian food.  Whether or not you are familiar with one, none, or all of these regions of Italian cuisine I'm pretty sure you'll learn more as Lidia presents her favorite dishes from each.

For the pasta lover, you'll find a large number of fresh pasta recipes.  This includes not only the common egg-based recipes but also many that do not use eggs with sauces tailored for each particular type of pasta.  For the meat and fish lover the variety is just as great.  As we'd expect, Lidia presents the recipes so that we can easily make them at home and lends her guiding touch throughout.  She and her daughter also help us see a bit of Italian life within each of those regions.

While I'm really into the dozens of pasta recipes in this book I thought I'd share one that was a bit more exotic - the spicy calamari from the Calabria region.

Win a copy of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy! - details

Spicy Calamari (Calamari Piccanti)

From Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)

Serves 6

It always pleases me when such a simple recipe can be so good. But every ingredient and every step must be perfect-the calamari, fresh; the olive oil, the best; and the pan must be hot for the quick cooking. I always prefer to buy whole calamari and clean them myself (you can see how easy it is to do in my book Lidia's Italian- American Kitchen). I also like to leave the skin on the bodies, because it takes on a lovely color when cooked. However, now that squid are frequently sold already cleaned, which is a convenience, the body skin is usually peeled off as well. So, if you like the skin, as I do, ask the fishmonger at your market to leave it on. If that's not possible, don't worry: the dish tastes marvelous either way. (And if you are not a fan of squid, you could also prepare scallops, swordfish, or even a fillet of cod using this recipe.)

  • 2 pounds cleaned calamari, whole bodies (skin on or off) and tentacles
  • 3/4 cup extra- virgin olive oil
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Recommended equipment: A heavy-bottomed skillet or saute pan, 12-inch diameter or wider

Dry the calamari well, and put in a large bowl. Pour over them 1/2 cup of the olive oil, and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the peperoncino. Toss to coat and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

When you are ready to cook the calamari, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the chopped parsley until emulsified.

Set the skillet over high heat, and when it is very hot, lift the calamari out of the marinade with tongs, let drain briefly, and then lay a batch of them flat in the dry skillet. Sear the calamari, turning several times, until the edges of the bodies and the tentacles are caramelized and crispy, about 2 minutes per batch. If you are using unskinned calamari, the skin will darken to a deep-reddish hue.

As the calamari come out of the skillet, arrange them on a warmed platter. When all of the calamari are done, drizzle the dressing over them, and serve right away.

Win a copy of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy

The registered Project Foodie user that leaves the most memorable or creative comment below will win a copy of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.  Keep the comments clean and relevant - tell us what attracts you to Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and/or what you feel makes this book award-worthy and we'll select one to be the winner of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.

Please note that you must be registered to enter this giveaway and upon winning provide a US postal address for us to ship Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy to.  We'll announce the winner on May 2nd.

If you have not yet registered with Project Foodie, please take a moment to do so right now--it's absolutely free; and we promise never to share your email address with spammers or other unsavory types.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 18 April 2010 )
I haven't given up on winning (Registered) 2010-04-23 08:36:55

As Lidia would say, "Tuttio tavola a mangiare!" Or as I would say, "Pick me!"

But on a serious note, I find myself running home during my lunch breaks to watch Lidia's program on KQED every weekday. It would be such an honor to get a copy of the book.
ktbug418 (Registered) 2010-04-23 11:55:50

I'd really love to be able to move beyond the basics of Italian cuisine. My boyfriend's mother is Italian and she just has this innate understanding for the flavors. It would be incredible to be able to impress her with a traditional recipe from this book!
iced_coffee (Registered) 2010-04-23 12:47:37

I love Lidia! Her's was the first cooking show I ever watched on PBS. I wouldn't know what polenta if not for her! I'm surprised I don't own any of her cookbooks. Time to start that collection!
porkbellyrulez (Registered) 2010-04-23 15:01:36

Have you ever seen someone and instantly feel like you have been part of their family forever. I remember the first time I saw Lidia's show. I was mesmerized. She looked so much like my grandma that had passed, when I was 14 years old. The way she spoke and they way she demonstrated her dish was like being back in the kitchen with grandma. It brought tears to my eyes. I think Lidia is simply a master genius at Italian cuisine. I love watching her cook and speak, it feels like HOME!
jettrash23 (Registered) 2010-04-24 11:16:08

I love the comforting way that Linda instructs us all how to make lovely meals. It would be great to own a piece of this.
southerncooker (Registered) 2010-04-25 06:48:11

I really enjoy Lidia on PBS. You can usually catch me watching her on Sunday afternoon while I'm relaxing before a new work week begins. I have tried some of her recipes with much success and a satisfied tummy. I don't know why I don't have a copy of at least one of her books in my collection. I'd give this one much love and use it to feed my family.
good classic Italian food
tigerfish (Registered) 2010-04-26 01:52:28

I also watched her cooking on TV and I'm in need of good classic Italian food
And the winner is....
pam (Publisher) 2010-05-01 15:27:57

Porkbellyrulez now Lidia will e in your home - congratulations!
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