If you've been following our 2-part interview with Lidia Bastianich -- a car chase, rather, as she dialed us up from a cab right after landing at LAX -- you've already heard the high priestess of Italian cuisine bless Sunday family suppers, public television, Facebook and Twitter. Albeit notably not in the same sentence.
Much as we tried to convince her publisher to give as a sneak peek recipe from her upcoming book, Lidia's Italy in America , we were told that "it's a little too early for us to start sharing recipes from that book." In publisher speak, that means those recipe for Bronx eggplant parm and Rhode Island clams casino haven't gotten their final test kitchen approval yet.
Instead, we are passing along Bastianich's stuffed vegetable recipe from Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. It makes enough to fill a generous platter, and satisfy all your Sunday supper, and perhaps even Twitter, needs.
Ripieni all'Antica (Stuffed Vegetables Genovese style)
From: Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy, by Lidia and Tanya Bastianich.
Makes: About 3 dozen stuffed vegetable pieces.
Note: Bastianch says this recipe is a guideline that you can (and should) vary according to your tastes and what produce is available. It can be served piping hot, warm, or at room temperature; presented on individual plates, or family- style on large platters.
For the stuffing:
4 cups 1- inch cubes of day- old or dry country bread, crusts removed (about
4 thick slices)
1 cup milk
¼ ounce dried porcini, soaked in 2 cups warm water
1 cup finely chopped scallions
10 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the vegetable assortment:
2 or more medium zucchini (6 inches long)
2 or more red or other colorful bell peppers
12 or more large white stuffing mushrooms
3 or more ripe small tomatoes
2 or more large Vidalia or other sweet, flat onions
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Butter for the baking dishes
½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano- Reggiano
2 or more large shallow baking dishes or casseroles, such as 4- quart, 15- by- 10- inch Pyrex pans
1. To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, and pour the milk over them; toss the cubes, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid. When softened, gather and press the cubes together, squeezing out any excess milk (discard, or save it for your cat!), and return the moistened bread to the bowl, tearing it into shreds.
2. Lift the re-hydrated porcini pieces from the soaking liquid, squeeze firmly (saving all the liquid), and chop them into fine bits. Scatter the chopped porcini, scallions, basil, grated cheese, and salt on top of the torn bread; toss and mix together with your hands. Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands to form a well- blended, fairly dense stuffing.
3. To prepare zucchini for stuffing: Trim off the ends, and slice the squashes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the central pulp and any seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller, so each half resembles a hollowed boat. Cut the long halves crosswise into serving- sized pieces, about 3 inches long (or shorter if you like).
4. To prepare bell peppers for stuffing: slice them lengthwise in half, starting at the stem, or in thirds if very large; trim away the stem and all seeds and fibers, forming cuplike pieces.
5. Pull out the stems of white mushrooms, leaving the hollow caps for stuffing.
6. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds to make concavities for stuffing.
7. Peel the onions, and cut them crosswise into ¾ inch- thick slices.9.
8. When all the vegetables are prepped and all but the onions are hollowed, put the pieces (except the onion slices) in a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Brush some of the oil on the onion slices, keeping them whole.
To stuff and bake the vegetables:
1. Butter the baking dishes, arrange a rack (or two, if necessary) in the oven, and heat to 425 degrees.
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2. Fill each vegetable piece with a tablespoon of stuffing, more or less. For zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, fill the cavities with stuffing and arrange all the pieces in a baking dish, with a bit of space between the pieces. Lay flat onion slices right in the dish, and mound a spoonful of stuffing on top of each slice.
3. When the dishes are filled (but not crowded), sprinkle all the vegetable pieces evenly with the grated cheese and remaining teaspoon salt. Scrape any olive oil left in the vegetable bowl over the stuff ed pieces, and pour half of the reserved porcini- soaking liquid (leaving behind any gritty residue) into the bottom of each baking dish. Cover each dish with a tent of foil, pressing it against the dish sides and making sure it doesn't touch the stuffing or tops of the vegetables.
4. Bake 30 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften and release juices, then remove the foil tents and bake until stuffing is crisped and brown, another 30 minutes or so. Switch the position of the dishes in the oven once or twice so all the pieces cook and color evenly.
5. Serve hot from the oven, or let the vegetables cool and serve warm or at room temperature.