13 February 2010

Weekend Cooking: Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

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Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's newest cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, is all about Italian regional cooking. Each chapter in the book covers a different area of the country and is introduced with a description, beautiful photographs, and information about ingredients and wines. The chapters close with a short section of must-see places for the traveler.

In between are recipes for wonderful dishes and plenty of tips and hints and advice about ingredients.

My only complaint is that I prefer my cookbooks to be arranged by dish rather than by region. The good news is that there is not only a thorough index but a separate recipe finder, which divides the dishes into familiar categories (for example, appetizer, pasta, meat, desserts).

I made a great vegetable tart from the Emilia-Romagna region (northern Italy) last weekend for the Super Bowl. Oh my, this was wonderful and I can see it becoming a staple, especially in the summer. In my mind, the variations are endless and it was so easy to put together. The measurements are U.S. standard.

Dough for Erbazzone

Makes 1 pound of dough for 1 tart
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup cold water
Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few seconds to aerate. Mix the oil with the water in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running, pour the liquid through the feed tube and process about 30 seconds, until a soft dough forms and gathers on the blade. If the dough is not gathering on the blade, it is probably too dry. Add more water, in small amounts, until you have a smooth, very soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand for a minute, until it's smooth and soft. Pat into a rectangle, and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for ½ hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to a day, or frozen for a month or more. Defrost in the refrigerator, and return to room temperature before rolling.)

Erbazzone with Swiss Chard Filling

12 servings (or fewer if cut smaller for appetizer)
  • 2 pounds Swiss chard
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 batch erbazzone dough
Bring 5 quarts of water to the boil in a big pot.

Cut off the stems and any tough ribs of the chard. Pile up the trimmed leaves, and slice them crosswise into ribbons, about 1 inch thick. Heap all the chard into the boiling water, and stir, gradually submerging the strips. When the water boils again, adjust the heat to keep it gently bubbling, and simmer the chard until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool the chard. The squeeze the leaves by handfuls, pressing out as much vegetable water as possible.

Pour the olive oil in a large skillet, and set it over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook until sizzling and fragrant. Then scatter the chard in the pan, loosening the compressed ribbons. Add 1¼ teaspoons salt, and stir and toss for a couple of minutes , until the chard strips are coated with olive oil and starting to cook. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl to cool.

Beat the eggs with the remaining salt, and stir them into the warm chard; then thoroughly blend in the cheese, bread crumbs, and rosemary.

Set a rack in the bottom half of the oven (with a baking stone, if you have one) and heat the oven to 375°F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface, gradually stretching it into a rectangle that's 5 inches longer and wider than a 10- by 15-inch jelly roll pan. Drape the sheet of dough over the pan, then gently press it flat against the bottom and rims, leaving even flaps of over hanging dough on all sides.

Spread the filling into the dough-lined pan in an even layer over the entire bottom. Fold the dough flaps over the filling, making pleats at the corners, to form a top crust that looks alike a picture frame, with the filling exposed in the middle.

Bake in the oven (on the stone) about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is crisp on top.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes to set the filling before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature: cut into small squares for an appetizer or larger portions for a main dish.

Beth Fish's notes: (1) I am somewhat lazy, so I rolled the dough out to only about 3 inches bigger (not 5 inches) than the pan. Because the crust was a bit thicker, the erbazzone took a few minutes longer to cook. (2) I cooked the chard for about only 3 minutes, until it was wilted and bright green. (3) We loved this warm on the first day and cold on the second. (4) You could fill the tart with just about anything (think quiche or omelet), as long as it's not too watery. (5) This will become a summer standard in my house.

Published by Knopf, 2009
ISBN-13: 979780307267511
YTD: 11
Source: Giveaway win (see review policy)


caite 2/13/10, 7:42 AM  

That sounds yummy. And you are right, the variations could be endless.

I love Lidia, but I don't own any of her cookbooks. I should reconsider that.

Beth 2/13/10, 8:14 AM  

That approach to italian cooking sounds fantastic! I went to italy three years ago, and came back wanting to learn "real" italian cooking. this looks like a great resource!

Jill 2/13/10, 8:18 AM  

This sounds delicious...but I'm a little intimidated by making my own dough. I've heard so much about her...I need to check this cookbook out. Thanks for hosting!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 2/13/10, 10:17 AM  

I loved the 5 notes you've added to the end. I know you're very comfortable changing a recipe and making it your own (I'm getting there :) )

I have LIDIA COOKS, and hope to dig into in the next week or so (I may not be as ambitious as you!)

I've linked to my review of SO EASY.

JoAnn 2/13/10, 10:54 AM  

This sounds delicious - I LOVE Italian food! I like the idea of having dishes arranged by region, but can see how it would be difficult to find what you're looking for. Glad the index is so well done. I'm going to look for this cookbook.

bermudaonion 2/13/10, 11:15 AM  

I could eat Italian food every single day. That recipe sounds delicious.

Sherrie 2/13/10, 11:24 AM  

Hi Beth,
I must admit I have never ate Swiss Chard. It reminds me of Spinach which I don't like. But this does sound really good. Have a great day!

Just Books

Margot 2/13/10, 11:24 AM  

The recipe sounds so delicious. It's a new idea for me. The cookbook really has my attention though. It sounds like one of those cookbooks that is loads of fun to read - like taking a food trip through Italy.

Amused 2/13/10, 12:20 PM  

OMG I love Lidia and remember watching her on PBS yet dont own one of her cookbooks. Thanks for turning me onto this!

Sandy Nawrot 2/13/10, 12:25 PM  

Cooking Italian food makes me feel all warm inside, as well as baking my own bread. I can't explain it. I don't feel like that when I make Chinese, or Polish, or French food. Just bread and Italian. You know what really gets me going? Making slow-roasted tomato sauce!

Care 2/13/10, 4:57 PM  

I've had the pleasure of dining at one of Lidia's restaurants - YUM.

Michelle 2/13/10, 5:51 PM  

Viva Italiano!

That sounds delectable. I wish I was a decent enough cook and so inclined to get off my patoot to get in the kitchen more. You make it all sound so easy.

caite 2/13/10, 6:26 PM  

Care, I envy you having eaten at one of her restaurants. Next time I am in NYC, I really have to do that.
I have looked at the menus online though, which is great fun.

Julie P. 2/14/10, 12:29 PM  

Her cookbooks are a treat. I've never made anything from one though. My parents used to go to her restaurant in Pittsburgh!

S. Krishna 2/17/10, 9:10 AM  

I have this same cookbook and will have to give her recipes a try. I've shied away so far because, while her recipes don't seem difficult, they seem like a lot of work. But it seems to be worth it in this case!

PaganAngel 7/9/13, 3:46 PM  

I just tried this, and thought it was good, although I've never had erbazzone, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I subbed collard greens, which worked wonderfully.

Just one note, I found the salt to be overwhelming, and I'm sure I didn't use the full amount in the vegetables. I'd reduce it to 3/4 t. next time.

I also reduced the olive oil to just 1 T., which I thought worked well, and made it feel a bit more virtuous. ;-)

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