By Anthony J. Sepe
Each Sunday, I thank my readership for their loyalty and dedication to my blog, by providing a healthy recipe. To those that know, this is a healthy repeat, but for those that are unaware and are new to the blog, this is my way of “giving back.” It is also a way to “Pay it Forward.” Each Sunday, not only will you have a healthy recipe, but you will have an expert in the field of dietetics, food and nutrition, provide the healthy recipe to you. It is my pleasure to provide for you this week, my special friend, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (http://www.lidiasitaly.com ) , and her recipe: “ -Asparagus and Rice Soup from Lidia's Italy (Knopf 2007) .” Also, a very special thank you to Lauren Kehnast.
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is an award winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and Public Television cooking show host. Her latest series, Lidia’s Italy, was nominated for an Emmy in 2008 and recently named Best National Cooking Show by the James Beard Foundation in 2009. She is also the host and author of several earlier series and companion books including Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen and Lidia’s Italian Table. Together with her daughter, Tanya, she wrote Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, due out in October of 2009 along with another 52 episodes of Lidia’s Italy.
In addition to over ten years with Public Television, Lidia is well known for her acclaimed restaurants including the three-star Felidia and Del Posto restaurants in New York, the popular theater district Becco restaurant and Lidia’s restaurants in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Lidia was named Outstanding Chef – U.S. and Outstanding Chef – New York by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Lidia and son, Joseph Bastianich, well known wine expert and restaurateur of multiple locations in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond also produce award-winning wines at the Bastianich and La Mozza vineyards in Italy.
For more information on Lidia and her restaurants, visit:
- www.lidias-kc.com/ www.lidias-pittsburgh.com
© -Asparagus and Rice Soup from Lidia's Italy (Knopf 2007)
Developed and reprinted with permission from Lidia Bastianich and Lauren Kehnast
ASPARAGUS AND RICE SOUP—Minestra di asparagi e risi
This simple soup can be made any time but it is best with locally-grown asparagus (if you can possibly get it) with the sweetness of springtime. It’s also important to cook this soup sufficiently to develop the full flavor and silkiness from the base of leek and potatoes.
Makes about 3 quarts of soup, serving 8
- 1-½ pounds fresh asparagus spears
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for serving
- 4 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut in ½-inch cubes
- 3 cups chopped leek, ¼-inch white and green pieces
- 5 quarts water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
· A heavy-bottomed 6-quart saucepan or soup pot, with a cover
- Rinse the asparagus and snap off the tough bottom stubs. Slice the spears crosswise into 1/3-inch chunks, including tips.
- Pour 1/3 cup of olive oil into the pot, drop in the crushed garlic and turn on a medium-high flame. Golden the garlic for a minute or 2, just until fragrant and lightly colored, and stir the potato cubes in the hot oil.
- Cook, stirring now and then, until the potatoes are crusty and starting to stick to the bottom but not browned—lower the heat if necessary—4 or 5 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped leeks and cook until softened and sizzling, 3 or 4 minutes more.
- Pour the 5 quarts water into the pot, drop in the bay leaves and tablespoon salt, and stir well, scraping up any crusty potatoes on the bottom. Cover and bring to the boil over high heat.
- Stir in all the cut asparagus, return to the boil and adjust heat to keep the broth bubbling steadily and slowly reducing.
- Cook uncovered for about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the soup volume is reduced by almost 1/3 and the broth is full of flavor—tasting is the way to test for doneness.
- Stir in the rice, return to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, until the grains are al dente, then turn off the heat.
- Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh olive oil and ½ cup grated cheese.
- Serve immediately in warm bowls, with more cheese and oil at the table.