Side Dish: “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes”

Family, friends, favorite Thanksgiving dishes and possibly football, too, are now forefront on most people’s minds. But, by next week, thoughts will turn to getting ready for the upcoming holidays, including Hanukkah, which begins at sundown on Dec. 8, Christmas and New Year’s Day. That means planning special meals and snacks and selecting the perfect presents.

If a fan of chef and author Lidia Bastianich is on your gift-giving list, consider getting that person Bastianich’s latest cookbook. “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes,” written by Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, is a collection of not only the chef’s favorite family recipes but also those recipes from her six previous books that her readers have told her are their favorites.

Among the book’s more than 100 recipes are Bastianich’s mother’s chicken and potatoes dish, which she writes has remained a family favorite for four generations. Some are recipes that she picked up on travels through Italy and across the United States. Bastianich says she has included “the simple and flavorful Italian dishes that you will love to prepare for your family and friends, like minestrone, meatloaf with ricotta, and sausage and peppers. These recipes all make family-size quantities, and can also be divided and stored in the freezer.”

Recipes are divided into nine chapters from appetizers to desserts. Among the recipes are eggplant parmigiana, braised pork ribs with rigatoni, cannoli Napoleons, lobster salad with fresh tomatoes, and baked stuffed shells. Many of the recipes, but not all, are accompanied by full-color photographs of the completed dishes.

Bastianich has revised and updated the classic dishes to make them easier to prepare, and all are written in a clear, concise style.

However, they do not include nutritional data.

The book also includes some recipes, such as roasted loin of pork stuffed with prunes that would make great choices for the holiday table.

I want to wish all of our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

Roasted Pears and Grapes

Serves 6. Recipe by from “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrées” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). Bastianich says, “This is my favorite dessert for a dinner party. Light, tasty and easy to make, it is a great dessert when you have company: you can just slip this recipe into the oven and have a grand dessert, especially if you serve it with vanilla ice cream. Pears and grapes make a great marriage of flavors, but, depending on the season, I also like baked quince and cranberries. To try that, cut the peeled and cored quince in quarters, because they take longer than the pears to bake, then add the cranberries instead of the grapes.”

2 cups seedless red grapes

1 cup sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

2⁄3 cup Moscato wine

1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthwise

2 tbls. apricot jam

3 firm but ripe Bosc pears

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the grapes in a baking dish.

2. Combine the sugar, lemon juice, Moscato, vanilla beans from the pod, and apricot jam in a bowl, and stir until blended. Pour this over the grapes.

3. Cut each pear in half through the core, and remove the cores and seeds. Nestle the pear halves, cut side up, into the grapes.

4. Bake until the pears are tender and the liquid around the grapes is thick and syrupy,a bout 50 minutes. Remove the pears, and let stand for about 10 minutes. Serve them with some of the grapes and their liquid spooned around them.

Testing note: The dish was too sweet for my taste so when I make it again, I will cut the sugar back to no more than 3/4 cup.