Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amazing Dinner, Courtesy of Lidia

Back in the summer, I made a couple of fabulous Lidia Bastianich dishes that I will share with you today.

Better late than never.

My blogging has taken such a back seat to my real life goings-on. Please accept my apologies!

I’m still cooking and shooting pics like crazy, but finding the time to write has been tough since I’m back to a very full piano-teaching schedule (43 students!). Then there’s all of my baby preparations, obsessions, cleaning compulsions that have taken over my world. Technically, I could write during my frequent bouts of insomnia, but my words would probably be gibberish or psychotic. So, you may want to thank me from shielding you from my insanity.

Anyway, this post involves two recipes both by Lidia, the goddess of Italian cooking.

The first is Stuffed Rolls of Veal. The second is Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella. Both are from the amazingly awesome cookbook, “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.” I cook from it all the time. This was the first time I made the veal dish. It was so delish, and it is a perfect main course on a chilly night. It’s comforting, but not too heavy.

The penne dish is so easy to make. I often make it when I’m craving pasta and The Husband is working late. I often substitute the mozzarella for goat cheese. In today’s pic, the dish is served with mozzarella. I made it with gemelli instead of penne because that’s what I had. The dish also works great with orecchiette, pasta shaped like little ears. The dish is easy to adjust for portions if you're with a smaller crowd.

The two dishes work really well together because both call for tomatoes and mozzarella. And both have elements that can be prepared ahead of time. So, they work well for a dinner party.

Stuffed Rolls of Veal
From “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen”
By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup fine, dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
12 thin slices veal (1 ½ lbs.)
6 ounces provola (young provolone), fresh mozzarella or Fontina, cut into ¼ by 1 ½-inch sticks.
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded cut into 1/4-inch strips (See note)
Thin lemon slices, optional

Let the oil and garlic steep in a small bowl for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Toss the bread crumbs with half the infused oil and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place two of the veal slices between two sheets of plastic wrap and with the smooth side of a heavy meat mallet, pound each slice of veal into a rough rectangular shape about ¼ inch thick. Don’t pound the veal too thin or there is a possibility that the filling will leak during cooking. Repeat with the remaining veal. Divide the cheese and tomatoes evenly among the slices of veal, placing them along the center of one of the longer edges. Sprinkle half the seasoned bread crumbs over the tomatoes and cheese and drizzle on half the remaining infused oil. Roll the scallopine around the filling into compact rolls. Secure the flap with two toothpicks to keep the rolls intact while they cook.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly brush a baking pan into which the veal rolls fit comfortably with some of the remaining infused oil. Arrange the veal side by side and seam side down in the prepared dish. Scatter the remaining bread crumbs in an even layer over the veal and drizzle on the remaining infused oil. Bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the cheese in the filling is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve as is or with a slice of lemon.

Note: To peel and seed plum or round tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water near the stove. Cut the cores out of the tomatoes and cut a small “x” in the opposite end. Slip a few tomatoes into the boiling water and cook just until the skin loosens, 1 to 2 minutes depending on the tomatoes. (Overcooking will make them soggy.) Fish the tomatoes out of the water with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. If necessary, let the water return to a boil and repeat with any remaining tomatoes. Slip the skins off the blanched tomatoes and cut the tomatoes in half – lengthwise for plum tomatoes, crosswise for round tomatoes. Gently squeeze out the seed with your hands. The tomatoes are now ready to dice or cut as described in the recipe.

- From “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella
From “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen”
By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Makes 6 servings

1 pound ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes, rinsed, dried and cut in half
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the finished pasta if you like
1 tsp. sea salt, preferably coarse
Pinch crushed hot red pepper
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 pound penne
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded
½ lb. bocconcini (bite-size fresh mozzarella), cut in half

Toss the tomatoes, oil, sea salt and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Whack the garlic with the side of a knife and toss it into the bowl. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing once or twice, for 30 minutes.

While the tomatoes are marinating, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the garlic from the marinated tomatoes and toss in the basil. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, and toss well to mix. Check the seasoning, adding salt and more crushed red pepper if necessary. Gently stir in the bocconcini and serve.

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