Saturday, October 8, 2011

Italy in America

Do you ever watch Lidia on PBS? For a few years now, I've watched her various shows. I just enjoy the way Lidia cooks. And the stories that she tells. From time to time, I scribble down a recipe, or technique, and I try it out. Last week, I finally went here, to look at some of Lidia's recipes. Let's just say, I got lost for a few hours...

Recently, I was watching Italy in America. And there were 2 dishes that grabbed my attention. The first being her Stuffed Tomatoes. Yum!

Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves: 8

"Italians will stuff anything, but when it comes to a nice summer tomato this is the recipe. It is good just out of the oven and delicious at room temperature. Wonderful as an appetizer, vegetable and also a main course, this dish is, popular at Italian family gatherings and festivities and it looks great on the buffet table."


1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
¾ cup arborio rice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 firm-ripe medium tomatoes
¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cut in small cubes
2 ounce piece ham, cut in small cubes
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano , or Parmigiano-Reggiano
10 large basil leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon dry oregano


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small pot, bring to boil 2 cups water with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the bay leaves. Stir in the rice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until rice is al dente and liquid is almost all gone, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a bowl to cool.

2. Slice the tops off the tomatoes, reserving the tops. Scoop out the inner flesh of the tomatoes with a spoon, leaving a thick shell. As you work, put the flesh in a strainer set over a bowl to collect the juices. Once all of the tomatoes are scooped out, season the insides of the tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

3. Chop the tomato flesh and put in the bowl with the rice. To the bowl, add the mozzarella, ham, 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, the basil, the oregano and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine.

4. Pour reserved tomato juices in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Evenly divide stuffing in tomatoes. Arrange cut-off tomato tops in the baking dish and place a stuffed tomato on each top. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may have a little leftover stuffing. If so, roll it into “meatballs” and place in the spaces in the baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle tops with remaining grated cheese. Bake until tomatoes are soft and juicy and stuffing is browned on top, about 20 to 25 minutes.

The second being these delicious crab cakes. Yum! One of my favorites. But these are absolutely AMAZING!

Crab Cakes

Serves: 8

"These are the crab cakes from the Faidley Seafood counter in Baltimore, the best I have ever had. Under the crisp outer layer of the crab cakes, big chunks of succulent sweet crabmeat were barely held together by condiments and what I later found out were crisp crushed saltine crackers. I managed to work out this fairly close recipe, since Faidley’s would not part with the original one. Rémoulade is a condiment that kept resurfacing on my research trip all over America. It appeared in Baltimore with the crab cakes, in New Orleans with fried artichokes, as a topping for po’ boy sandwiches, and some rendition of it has even turned up as a topping for today’s Big Mac. The closest Italian traditional condiment to the rémoulade is the aglio e olio (aioli—the emulsified rendition of olive oil and garlic which is used on the Ligurian and French coast). The French- sounding name implies some French heritage, but, then, the French played a big role in the founding of America, in particular in the Louisiana Territory."


For the Remoulade

1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup chopped dill pickle
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

For the Crab Cakes
1.5 sleeves saltine crackers, enough to make 2 cups when crushed
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
vegetable oil, for frying


For the Rémoulade:
Whisk together all the ingredients, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The recipe for rémoulade makes extra; it can be used for a variety of dishes, or you could halve that part of the recipe.

For the Crab Cakes: Crush the saltines with a rolling pin (while keeping them in their plastic sleeves). Empty the crumbs through a sieve into a bowl below, shaking to separate the larger crumbs from the fine crumbs. You will need about 1 to 1 1⁄4 cups fine crumbs for dredging the crab cakes. Put the larger crumbs in a large bowl, and add the crab, mayonnaise, mustard, and Old Bay. Mix gently until you can press the mixture together to form balls. Form into eight balls, and place on a parchment- lined baking sheet. (If you have time, refrigerate for 1⁄2 hour to let them set up a bit.)

Heat 1⁄2 inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the crab cakes in the fine crumbs, and when oil is hot enough, drop the cakes gently into the skillet. Cook, turning on all sides without squishing or flattening, until the cakes are golden, about 6 to 8 minutes in all. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot with the rémoulade.

I want this cookbook, like nobody's business! There are so many great recipes in it. Oh, maybe if I'm really good, this guy, will buy me the collection of Lidia's cookbooks! :)

We had a delicious meal, the other night. Stuffed tomatoes, crab cakes, and a fresh salad. It was so yummy! And who said that these recipes serve 8? The 2 of us, polished them off, with no problems at all! You definitely need to try them out. ♥

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