I got a new cook book the other day – Lidia Cooks From The Hearty Of Italy by Lidia Bastianich.

When we donated  those hundreds of cook books a few years ago, I thought that I would finally break the habit of getting more and more.  And more.

Let us just say that I have gotten better.

I no longer buy them just for the sake of buying then and I no longer subscribe to the yearly updates and annuals that I did for years and years.  But when Lidia comes out with a new book…  I eventually have to buy it.

I like her cooking.  I like her recipes.  I like the way she puts food together.  She may just be my favorite cook. (Actually, James Beard is my all-time most-favorite favorite cook, but Lidia is my most favorite Italian cook.)  But I digress…

So… armed with Lidia’s latest, I went to work.

I started with two different recipes tonight – one for fish and one for rice.

The fish was wildly lemony and just a bit spicy.  The rice and lentils were rich, creamy, and difficult to stop eating!

Both were extremely simple to put together and dinner was done in less than an hour.

Since I can’t type for beans, this recipe is verbatim from  The James Beard Foundation website.

Baked Fish with Savory Bread Crumbs

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy
“Landlocked Umbria does not have a seafood cuisine,” writes Lidia Matticchio Bastianich in Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. “But its mountain lakes, rivers, and streams abound in freshwater fish, such as the tasty tench. This simple preparation is one I found in Umbria, and it is excellent for fillets of our sweet-water varieties, such as carp or whitefish, or even light ocean-fish fillets like sole.”
Yield:Serves 6


  • 2 pounds whitefish fillets
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of a large lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • Zest of a large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste, chopped fine
  • Fresh lemon slices, for serving

Lightly salt the fish on both sides, using about 1/4 teaspoon salt in all. Pour 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, white wine, and another 1/4 teaspoon salt into the baking dish, and whisk together well. Drop in the garlic cloves, and stir with the dressing. Lay the fillets in the dish, turn and swish them in the dressing so both sides are thoroughly moistened, and arrange them, skin side down, in one layer.

Toss the bread crumbs in a bowl with the lemon zest, parsley, oregano, chopped peperoncino, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and toss the crumbs well until evenly moistened with oil.

Spoon the seasoned bread crumbs on top of the fillets in a light, even layer. Bake, uncovered, until the crumbs are crisp and golden and the fish is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Lift the fish out with a spatula, and set on a warm platter to serve family-style, or on individual plates. Spoon it the juices left in the baking dish, and serve right away, with lemon slices on the side.

Recipe Notes:
Recommended equipment: a 4-quart shallow rectangular baking dish; a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12-inch diameter or larger, with a cover

And the rice and lentils…  These were soooo creamy and good.  I made half the recipe and it was still enough for six people.

Rice and Lentils

Lidia writes: “Lentils and rice are one of my favorite combinations.  I fondly recall savoring a dish just like this often as a child; it was comforting and nurturing.  It can be enjoyed in many ways:  make it dense like risotto or add more liquid to make it soupy.  Just rice and lentils are delicious and simple, but you couls easily add a few sausages or pork ribs to the pot to make quite a festive main dish.”

  • 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup onion cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup carrot cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup celery cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 to 10 cups hot water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian short-grained rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup grated granna padano or parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for passing

Recommended Equipment: A food processor; a heavy-bottomed saucepan or soup pot, 5-to-6 quart capacity, with cover.

Drop the pancetta or bacon in the food processor bowl and pulse sevral times, to chop the meat into small bits.  Scrape all the pancetta right into the heavy saucepan.  Put the onion, carrot, and celery chunks and the sage leaves into the empty food processor bowl and mince together into a fine-textured pestata.

Put the butter and olive oil into the saucepan with the minced pancetta, and set over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, as the butter melts and the fat starts to render.  When the pancetta is sizzling, scrape in the vegetable pestata, and stir it around until it has dried and begins to stick, 4 minutes or so.  Clear a place on the pan bottom and drop in the tomato paste, toast it in the spot for a minute, then stir together with the pestata.

Raise the heat, pour in the white wine, and cook, stirring, until the wine has almost evaporated.  Pour in 8 cups of hot water and the tablespoon of salt, stir well, and heat to the boil. (Add all 10 cups of water if you want to serve the rice and lentils as a thick soup rather than a denser riso.)  Cover the pan, and reduce the heat slightly, to keep the water at a moderate boil, and let it bubble for 20 minutes or so, to develop the flavors.

Stir in the lentils, return to a gentle boil and cook, partially covered until the lentils just start to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the rice, return to a bubbling simmer, and cook, cover ajar, until the rice is al dente, 13 minutes or so. If the dish is thickening more than you like, lower the heat and cover the pan completely.  If it seems too thin and wet, remove the cover and cook at a faster boil.

When the rice and lentils are fully cooked, turn off the heat.  Stir in the scallions and grated cheese.  Serve in warm bowls, passing more cheese at the table.

It took me longer to type that than it did to cook it!

There are 175 recipes in the book.  I have a feeling I’m going to be making lots of them…..