Raw and Cooked Salad
Recipes courtesy of Lidia Bastianich
Makes 6 or more servings
1 pound sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
¾ pound red bliss potatoes (3 to 6 potatoes, depending on size)
1/2 pound fresh green beans
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil or as needed
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste
1/ 2 cup black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons small capers, drained
1 or 2 fresh ripe tomatoes (about ½ pound), cored and cut in wedges
1 or 2 heads of Bibb lettuce (about 3/4 pound)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the verdura cotta (cooked vegetables): Peel and trim the onions and slice into rounds, about ¾-inch thick. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt lightly on both sides. Lay the onions on a baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated 375° oven for 20 minutes or longer, turning once, until slightly softened and nicely caramelized on the flat sides and edges. Cool then separate the rounds into thick onion rings.
Meanwhile, drop the potatoes, whole with skin on, into a pot with plenty of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook just until a sharp knife blade slides through the potatoes—don’t let them get mushy.
Extract the potatoes and cut them into wedges, about 1-1/2 inches thick.
Trim the ends of the green beans and, when the potatoes are out of the boiling water, drop the beans in and cook until al dente, 4 minutes or so. Scoop them from the pot with a spider and drop the beans into very icy water, to set the color. Once chilled, drain and dry the beans and cut them in 2-inch lengths.
For the verdura cruda (raw vegetables): Rinse, dry, and core the tomatoes. Slice them in wedges about the same size as the potatoes. Separate, rinse, and spin dry the lettuce leaves.
Put everything in the bowl except the lettuce: onions, potatoes, beans, olives, capers and tomatoes. Sprinkle over the remaining salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle over the rest of the olive oil and the red wine vinegar, and tumble the vegetables to coat them with dressing.
Scatter the lettuce on top, tearing the larger leaves in two, then toss the greens with the vegetables gently but continuously for about a minute, to distribute the dressing evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if you like, and toss again.
Serve immediately—always including some of the heavier goodies that drop to the bottom of the bowl and hide under the lettuce.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratinate
Makes 6 servings
1 pound broccoli
1 pound cauliflower
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino
Water, if necessary
For the Gratinate:
2 tablespoons soft butter, for the baking sheet
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano plus a few tablespoons
Lemon slices, for serving
Prepping and Skillet Cooking:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
Snap or slice off the big clusters of broccoli and cauliflower florets from the stems. Trim the stalks of the broccoli pieces but don’t separate the tiny florets. Slice the cauliflower clusters in half or quarters so that they’re roughly equal in size to the broccoli pieces. You’ll need only the floret pieces for this dish so save all the good stalk and stem pieces for soup or another dish.
Set the skillet over medium-high heat, pour in the oil and scatter the garlic. Let them cook, tossing them in the pan once or twice, until they just begin to color, 3 to 4 minutes.
Drop in the cauliflower pieces and sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the peperoncino. Cover the skillet, give it good shake to roll the florets around, and cook for about 5 minutes, on medium heat, shaking the pan again once or twice.
Uncover and add the broccoli florets, sprinkle another 1/4 teaspoon salt on top, and pour in the water.
Cover and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan now and again, until the broccoli’s started sizzling and softening too. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape all the florets into a large mixing bowl, with all of the oil and garlic.
Assembling and Baking the Gratinate:
Let the florets cool for a few minutes while you coat the baking sheet with the butter. Mix the 2/3 cup of grated cheese and the bread crumbs together.
Pour about half the crumbs on top of the florets and toss all together. Pour over the rest of the crumbs and toss again, until the florets are well coated and the crumbs are moistened.
Lay the florets on the baking sheet, in one layer with space between them, so all surfaces will crisp and caramelize in the oven. Scrape up any crumbs in the bowl and sprinkle them on the vegetables. Finally, sprinkle extra cheese lightly all over the florets, using another 2 or 3 tablespoons, if you love cheese (as much as I do).
Put the sheet into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even browning and cook 10 minutes more. The florets should be crispy and nicely colored but may need a few more minutes for deep color. If they’re still not dark enough after 5 minutes, raise the oven heat or move the sheet to a higher rack and bake a bit longer.
Let the vegetables cool on the sheet briefly then arrange them on a serving platter. Scrape up the crispy bits of crumbs and cheese and crumble them over the florets.
Serve warm or room temperature, with sliced lemon. Eat them by squeezing a few drops onto a floret and pop it in your mouth.
Chunky Apple-Apricot Bread Pudding
Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon soft butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
3 cups day-old hearty white bread, crusts removed, cut in ½ -inch cubes
1 ½ pounds firm baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½ -inch chunks (see head note to preceding Baked Apples recipe for good apples to use)
6 tablespoons apricot preserves
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
You will need A 2-quart(11-by-7- inch) rectangular baking dish, or an oval gratin dish of
similar size; a flexible, sturdy wire whisk; a roasting pan large enough to hold the baking dish.
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350o. Coat the bottom and sides of the baking dish with the softened butter. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the sugar on the buttered surfaces; tilt and shake the pan so it’s sugared. Stir together ¼ cup of the sugar with the cinnamon. For the custard:
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Gradually pour in the cream, milk, and all the remaining sugar, whisking steadily to incorporate them, then whisk in the salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Fold the bread cubes into the custard, pushing them down so they’re all submerged, and stir in the apple chunks.
Spoon the pudding into the baking dish, spread everything out to fill the dish in an even layer, and smooth the top. Drop teaspoonfuls of the apricot preserves on the pudding, distributing it all evenly, then scatter the chopped walnuts on top. Finally, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the pudding. Put the pudding dish inside the roasting pan, and set the big pan in the oven.
Carefully pour hot (not boiling) water into the roasting pan, enough to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish—don’t splash the pudding! Bake the pudding for an hour and 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crusty and the custard is set: a knife blade inserted into the custard should come out clean.
Carefully lift the roasting pan from the oven to a solid surface. Leave the pudding dish in the water bath to cool very gradually, but not too much— take it out of the water and serve the pudding family-style while it is still warm.