Last updated on February 9th, 2015
On Sunday I was privileged to hear Lidia Bastianich speak at the New York Botanical Garden. I more than love Lidia. I lerve Lidia. I can think of few things more comforting than curling up on the couch on a cold day, flipping on PBS and watching an hour of Lidia’s Italy.It transports meback to childhood where I’m in thekitchen with my grandmother, experiencingher alchemy withsimple things like a tomato from the garden, or a handful of homemade breadcrumbs.
Lidia’s easy and confident way with food is something warming and familiar to me, and is perhaps what inspires devotion from her viewers andreaders. This uncomplicated sense of the world thatI received in childhoodthrough my grandmother’s cooking continues to ground me in numerous ways.
As part of the closing weekend of NYBG’sThe Edible Garden, Lidia cooked three recipes with ingredients plucked from the exhibition, in front of a crowd of hundreds. There was a huge rush of clapping and hollering as she took the stage. I was inspired to see the crowd included people of all ages and races, but an especiallylarge contingent of twenty-somethings. (Yay for the future of PBS!) I also spied Food Network’s Ellie Krieger.
Lidia prepared a zucchine crostata, fried eggplant, and a beautiful tomato, basil, and parsley pesto. Along the way, she shared a wealth of information from how to use a twig of thyme or marjoram as a pastry brush, to the chemistry behind the antioxidant effectsof extra-virgin olive oil entering your bloodstream.
The audience was chock-full of questions. Perhaps most interesting was when she was asked how she achieved such good food with such simple techniques and ingredients. Lidia acknowledged her years in restaurant kitchens, her partnership in nearly 18 successful restaurants,and her training and achievements as a chefa process, she said,which often complicates the cooking of those less secure in their abilities. But, she explained, “I am someone who is very comfortable in my shoes,” and always stuck to her best instincts about food and the fine art of simplicity. “Make something beautiful out of two lines, that is the hardest thing to achieve.”
Did I mention I love her?
Check out NYBG’s archive from The Edible Gardenfor Lidia’s recipe forthe aforementionedzucchini crostata.