I caught Lidia Bastianich on the Today Show this morning with Hoda Kotb. Apparently, "as we all know", they're hosting a wedding tomorrow. Well, actually, no, I didn't know, but Lidia was there to demonstrate an easy dish for a rehearsal dinner. Well...my first piece of advice would be...GO OUT TO DINNER! Who the heck needs to be cooking the night before a wedding? But this DID look like a lovely dish, for ANY time really.
First of all, just watching Lidia is the perfect antidote to so many of the now lousy Food Network shows. She's not flashy, she's just an accomplished chef, who has mastered the art of writing simple, yet appealing, and often very authentic, recipes. Add to that her down-to-earth motherly demeanor and what you have is a mix of perfect food AND personality.
For this occasion, Lidia knows the dish should be "uncomplicated, light, BUT flavorful. You NEVER compromise flavor." She decides on a different version of a pesto from Sicily, made with almonds and tomatoes. She says to serve it with a good Italian spaghetti, made from 100% semolina. (I didn't exactly expect her to recommend a pasta from Harrisburg.)
She and Hoda put the ingredients into the food processor, including tomatoes, basil, peperoncino, TOASTED almonds and then process. Then Hoda adds oil with the machine running. Very quick, very easy. Lidia drains the pasta. They’re running out of time, but Hoda handles it all very calmly. Of course, Lidia is the personification of calm. They mix the spaghetti with the pesto, put a bit of cheese on top, Hoda digs a fork in, twirls it and…and…commercial, we never see her taste it.
I wait for the commercial to be over to see if they mention it and I see something highly disturbing. It’s the next segment after Lidia.
It was these singing and dancing idiots called The Doodle-Wops or Woodle-Hops. I have no objection to children's acts. (I have certainly watched Mr. Rogers as an adult...when I was an adult, not just him.)
The thing that was noteworthy about this was that they kept showing the kids in the audience and, I‘M NOT KIDDING, they were completely UNMOVED. They sat there stone-faced in these ridiculous day-glo pink wigs that they had been given to wear. They looked almost upset at the idiocy around them.
The adults were enthusiastic, but the kids looked like they thinking, who are these imbeciles jumping around and why are we here, when we could be learning the alphabet in school from a normal teacher? The guys looked like eunuchs. The lead woman was an accomplished dancer, but her costume and required choreography made her look like a rag doll on speed. Uck! It’s going to take a while to get that out of my head…Think of the kids.
Lidia was coming back on the new 17th hour of Today, so I taped that. If her first appearance of the morning was somewhat incomplete, this one was nervewrackingly rushed by Tiki Barber, who admits that he never cooks. (Good choice for interviewer.)
He asks Lidia about being the Grand “Master” of the Columbus Day parade. She corrects him tactfully by saying, “Yes, I’m so excited about being the Grand MARSHALL.” Tiki, which organization did you think she was talking about?
He tells us that Lidia is going to complete the menu from earlier. To go with the pesto dish, she’s going to make Shrimp Alla Buzara. Oh, that’s AWESOME!!!! I JUST made that last week, from her book, Lidia's Italy and it is wonderful and simple.
Tiki is totally rushing her and there are only about 4 easy steps to this recipe, 2 of which she’s done in advance. Tiki, stand to the side and let Lidia do her thing!
She makes the base, adds the shrimp and says it’s important to leave the shells on. Tiki says, “Oh, when do you take them off?” WHEN YOU EAT THEM, GENIUS!” Lidia was a bit nicer...Where do we go now, he says. What do we do now? STOP asking that, Tiki. He tries to take a taste before she‘s ready. Lidia wants to make a perfect serving.
You couldn’t tell from this segment, but this recipe is definitely worth making. I don’t know enough about football (is that where he came from?) to make a sports analogy. But (that won’t stop me, however) it seemed to me that Tiki’s interview of Lidia was like a last minute pass to the end zone. The clock is about to run out and he fumbles or stumbles or whatever they do. He needs A LOT more practice.
Lidia, however, was flawless.