The Daily Dish: The Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

listen icon Listen to the Daily Dish

In the kitchen I like the basics so I don’t use a lot of gadets, but here are a few I would recommend to any amateur or professional for their kitchen:

1. For pasta I always use a simpe, inexpensive chicken wire spider skimmer on a bamboo handle to lift the pasta and vegetables from the water.

2. Metal tongs are another essential tool. When I am at the stove I always have a pair on hand, they are perfect removing long noodles, pieces of meat or fish, or just a quick stir.

3. Another treasure: My wooden spoons for mixing, stirring, and tasting.

4. And when your meal is ready to serve, have wine glasses handy and a nice bottle of Bastianich wine to toast.

Salute e buon appetito!
___________________________________________________________
lidia bastianichLidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBH 44.

Advertisements

The Daily Dish: Tips for grating cheese

block of parmesan cheese
listen icon Listen to the Daily Dish

Grate that cheese, please!

Here are my favorite grating tips for three wonderful Italian cheeses. Whether its Grana Padano, Parmeggiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, I always buy my fresh cheese in a chunk at the store rather than already grated. I like to grate my cheese as close as possible to when I plan on serving my dish.

I add freshly grated cheese to the pot of the fire right before serving. And when I have grated all I can I always save the rinds and plop them into my soups and sauces. This imparts a delicious depth of flavor.

For more tips, check out my latest cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.
___________________________________________________________
lidia bastianichLidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBH 44.

How to process the first CSA share of the year

Stunningly beautiful and vibrant Swiss chard, the first of the season.

Local-food enthusiasts all over New England are toting home their first CSA share of the season this week. (CSA is short for “community-supported agriculture,” where you can buy a share of a farm’s produce, provided weekly during the season.) The first take of the season here in Eastern Massachusetts was impressive: very large, so much so that deciding what to do with the produce once it’s home might be a little overwhelming.

Here are some tips garnered from growers and friends on what to do with the produce available to us this very moment.

Swiss chard: The stems are tougher than the leaves, so give the stems a little more time to cook. Slice them, sauté for a minute or two in a mix of olive oil and butter, and then add the leaves. Season with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar if you like. I prefer Pastene’s Balsamic Cream condiment for a nice finish.

Turnips and radishes: The leaves of both of these vegetables are perfectly edible but they can take up a lot of space in your refrigerator. Remove the leaves from the roots and keep the roots cool in the fridge. Use the leaves as soon as possible.

Lettuce: Separate the leaves, wash them, spin dry in a salad spinner, then lay them in a single layer on a kitchen towel. You may need more than one. Roll up the towel, tucking the leaves inside, and wrap the roll(s) in a plastic bag for storage in your refrigerator. Just pull out however much you need for that day’s salad!

Spinach: My favorite preparation for spinach starts by sautéing an onion or two leeks (white and light green parts) in butter and olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the fresh spinach and cook. It will “melt” quickly and fit easily in your sauté pan. Season again with salt and pepper. At this point, add some golden raisins to the pan, if you like; they will plump up from the heat. Stir in crème fraîche, then grate a little nutmeg on top. For an extra flourish, toast pine nuts and sprinkle them on as garnish.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

The Daily Dish: Cooking perfect pasta

By Lidia Bastianich of Lidia’s Italy

Do not — I repeat, do not — add oil to your pasta cooking water! And that’s an order! Follow my 10 pasta commandments, and you will make a great bowl of pasta that rivals the delicious pastas at Becco, one of our New York City restaurants.

1. Cook the pasta in abundantly salted water.

2. And again, do not add oil to the pasta cooking water.

3. Add the pasta all at once to the boiling water so it cooks evenly.

4. Drain the pasta, but do not — do not! — rinse the pasta.

5. Once drained, add the pasta to the sauce and let the two cook together for about 1 minute.

6. Dressed pasta should be flowing — never sticky or soupy.

7. With the fire off, stir in grated cheese, right before you plate it.

8. To keep pasta nice and hot, serve it in a shallow, warm bowl.

9. For that extra touch, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at the end.

10.  Finally — you deserve it now — pour yourself a delicious glass of Tuscan red wine like Morellino La Mozza. And cin cin to you!

___________________________________________________________
lidia bastianichLidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBH 44.

The Daily Dish: Tips for using olive oil

By Lidia Bastianich of Lidia’s Italy

I hear it from you out there all the time: I love it, but how do I use it? Here are my tips for how to best use olive oil.

1. Extra virgin olive oil is best when used in its raw form—to drizzle on salads and before serving a bowl of soup or pasta.

2. Do not use olive oil for frying, canola or vegetable oil is best for that, but you can add a little olive oil to the pan for flavor.

3. When cooking or sautéing, use olive oil, but keep the heat at a low temperature. Olive oil has a low smoking point.

4. Olive oil is a great antioxidant for your body when ingested.

5. To prevent oxidation or rancidity, store olive oil in full, small bottles, tightly shut in a dark and cool place.

___________________________________________________________
lidia bastianichLidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBH 44.

Every Foodie loves a garden

Zucchini flower growing at Long Hill Farm in Beverly.

Gardening season is upon us — and as we so often realize this time of year, gardeners and food lovers are close kin. Whether you’re a fan of The Victory Garden’s What’s Growing This Weekend with Paul Epsom or Food Trip with Todd English, you know that every Foodie loves a garden.

Last night, Barbara Emerson, brought home this concept when she spoke about “Edible Landscapes” at the public library in Manchester-by-the-Sea, giving her audience a wealth of gardening inspiration. Emerson, a gardening consultant and master gardener, is founder of Have Green Thumb in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

While I’m not (yet) a gardener, what I learned from Emerson was liberating. For example:

  • Vegetables don’t have to grow in rows. You don’t even need a plot of land. Emerson has grown vegetables in every kind of container — including cloth bags. All that’s really required is a small spot of sun and decent soil.
  • Interplanting is mixing ornamental plants and vegetables. Imagine violets or nasturtiums interplanted with cucumbers or lettuce. (Your dinner salad is practically done!) Putting a lot of plants in one place leaves less open soil, which means less weeding and less work.
  • Plant according to the time you have available, and according to the vegetables you enjoy eating.
  • PMO – Pretty Much Organic – is okay. Really.
  • Roses are edible. Put the leaves in salads, use rose water in cooking, make rose hip tea. Nasturtiums – also edible – have a peppery flavor.
  • New trends in gardening: Pink blueberries (a recent phenomenon, available locally from Corliss Bros Nursery in Ipswich), cloth garden bags made from landscape fabric that let you garden without a plot of land (check them out at SmartPots.com), and self-watering containers (high-end versions available from Lechuza).
  • Make it easy and realistic for yourself. Place vegetables or herbs close to the kitchen, within easy reach. If they’re too far away when you’re cooking, you simply aren’t going to grab them.

A trend survey conducted by the Garden Writers of America indicated that the number of home vegetable gardeners was up 37% last year, and it’s expected to boom again this year. With Emerson’s advice on gardening — practical, fun, liberating, and realistic — I can envision it booming in my own backyard.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Reducing your handicap on high-alcohol wines

Given the choice between an 11% abv (alcohol-by-volume) wine or one that’s 15.5%, I’m much more likely to go for the one with less alcohol. It’s not that I’m a lightweight – I can handle the alcohol – but more often, it has to do with the sweetness of a non-dessert wine that such high levels of alcohol manage to convey.

Fortified wines — such as sherry, port, and vermouth– are another story, because alcoholic spirits have been intentionally and traditionally added. But I feared that my preference for lower-alcohol wines in general handicapped me when it came to fortified wines.

Take Cognac.

At first, when I took a sip of it, I managed to inhale at exactly the wrong time so the aroma – the highly alcoholic fumes – reached my nose and my palate too soon, interrupting the taste and leaving me with the unappealing impression of a hygienic solvent.

Which was not such a good thing.

So I did what any eager learner would do. I sought out opportunities to inform myself about the subject in question. In this case, “informing myself” meant tasting as many Cognacs as often as possible, and that practice did, in fact, reduce my handicap on high-alcohol wines.

Here was the meat of the “lesson plan,” pieced together over several weeks of tasting with friends, at home, and at public tastings at wine shops around town.

  • Frapin Grande Champagne V.S.
  • Frapin VIP XO
  • Grand Champagne Château Fontpinot

Here was the catch: my handicap (that is, my negative reaction to the high alcohol) lessened in inverse proportion to the price of the bottle in question.

In other words, I liked the more expensive cognacs the best.

Oy.

The VIP XO, for example, at $199.99 per bottle retail, was rich and structured and long on the finish. (Some people call it “masculine” though I have no idea what that means.) It was easy on my nose and very smooth going down without any of the raspy heat of examples I had tasted earlier.

So what was the takeaway? What was the lesson of this experiment?

The lesson, fortunately, is not to buy only very expensive bottles of Cognacs.

The lesson, rather, is to keep tasting, keep learning, keep differentiating, and keep experimenting until something – like the Frapin VIP XO – clicks into place.

It’s an exercise, this “try, try again” thing – otherwise known as reducing your handicap.

I’m game.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.