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Two Days with Lidia Bastianich: Announcing This Year’s #SMUGala Student Host!

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#SocialSquad at the 2013 #SMUGala

I am always so grateful for all the opportunities that being a Saint Martin’s student has given me. I have met some of the most amazing people here. I have been to countless amazing events by Campus Life, Residence Life, and other departments around campus. I have had the best (in my humble opinion) on-campus job anyone could ask for. I have had all of these opportunities and more, all while getting a quality education.

One of my favorite opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy while at Saint Martin’s is being able to attend the annual Saint Martin’s Gala. (Which is basically a month away… Can you believe that?!) I have been so lucky to be able to attend the last two Galas as a part of the Social Squad. Every year has been better than the last and that isn’t going to change this year.

As you probably know, I have been working on a series of videos to countdown to #SMUGala by cooking this year’s celebrity chef, Lidia Bastianich‘s recipes #CookAtSMU style. I’ve had so much fun making all of the recipes and getting to know Lidia through her food. Because of this project, I am even more excited for the upcoming Gala than I have been in past. Now, I’ve been given yet another amazing opportunity and I am officially way too excited about November 1.

What is the this amazing opportunity you may ask? I have been asked to be the student host for Lidia while she is on campus for Gala! For the duration of her time at Saint Martin’s, I will be with her. Gala is made up of so many different events. As her host, I will show her around campus and in general make her feel welcome and athWhile I have loved getting to know Lidia through her recipes, I am so excited to get to know her in person. Being a senior, this is the perfect way to spend my last Gala as a student! This event is going to be amazing, yet again, and I am so excited and lucky to be a part of it! If you want to be a part of it to, sign up to volunteer at the many different events that make Gala what it is!

And stay tuned to #SMUGala for updates on how to help, Lidia, the auction items, the Social Squad’s role, and more!

#CookAtSMU: Toasted Bread in a Savory Broth

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And I’m back! Whew, the first weeks of school have flown by. I’m settling into my classes and my routine that I have to reinvent each semester. One thing that I have been enjoying is having all the Social Squad back in the office! Matt and I were on campus and working throughout the summer, but we sure missed Stephen and Christine. And, as an added bonus, we added another member to the Squad. If you haven’t checked out Connor’s inaugural blog post yet, you should check it out ASAP!

One of the perks of having everyone back in the office is that my #CooKAtSMU videos are getting better. With Christine behind the camera and the editing process, you can expect bigger and better things from #CookAtSMU! Which brings me to the actual point of this blog post (what can I say, I wouldn’t be an English major if I didn’t go on and on, right?). We are continuing our countdown to #SMUGala by cooking Lidia Bastianich‘s amazing recipes (for a full explanation of this series, check out my introductory post).

This week we’re cooking up a warm and tasty Toasted Bread in a Savory broth.This recipe comes from Lidia’s Italian Tablewhich had some of my favorite recipes. This recipe is actually two recipes combined. The first recipe is for Baked Cheese Toasts (the “toasted bread” part of the recipe) and the broth that goes with it (the “savory broth”). Both recipes would be good by themselves, so feel free to split them up when you make it! Also, in the book, Lidia has several variations for the broth. One of the variations is a spinach broth and the recipe can be found on her website, if you want to try something a little different!

So, with no further ado, here is the recipe for a simplest zuppa (Italian for soup) recipe, perfect for the cold weather we’re heading into.

To make 6 servings, you’ll need:

  • 6 thick slices of day-old Italian bread
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 6 cups chicken stock, meat stock, or vegetable broth (I used vegetable broth, though Lidia recommends chicken as her #1 choice)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. Italian parsley

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Butter both sides of the bread the bread slices
  3. Press one side of each into 1/2 c. of the cheese so the cheese coast the bread
  4. Arrange the bread cheese side down in the skillet and toast the bread until the cheese is golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the slices and toast the other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes as well.
  6. Place the toasted bread in the bottom on your soup bowl
  7. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil on high heat.
  8. Season with salt and pepper
  9. Ladle the broth over the bread and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
  10. Enjoy!

Let me know how you like this recipe and if you try any of Lidia’s variations! Until next time, happy eating!

#CookAtSMU: Oregano Eggs

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This week brings us to the Spangler kitchen where I cook what is probably my favorite recipe thus far. Also, probably the simplest recipe. If you are looking for a quick, simple tasty recipe, this is the recipe for you. Lidia said the same thing about it in Lidia’s Commonsense Cooking, where I found the recipe. In the book, she tells a short story of sharing this recipe with friends and I couldn’t think of a better way to share this recipe. The recipe in the book makes enough for four servings, but I only cooked enough for one (2 eggs) and it definitely is easy to make for as many or as few people as you want!

Before I share the recipe with you, I wanted to give a little shout out to Saint Martin’s for making this series possible. I am having so much fun trying all these recipes and getting more and more excited for #SMUGala every recipe. I cannot wait to try Lidia’s recipes made by Lidia herself! Only 82 more days!

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, the recipe:

To make 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup grana padano or parmigiano-reggiano

I didn’t use cheese in mine, but I can definitely see how it would be amazing!

What you’ll do:

  1. Swirl the olive oil in a cold skillet. Gently break all the eggs into the pan (trying not to break the yolks, especially if you want them to be at all runny.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and dried oregano on the eggs. Sprinkle the grated cheese over all.
  3. Cove the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until the whites are set and the yolks are done to your liking (about 7-8 minutes for runny yolks, 10 for mostly cooked yolks)

And that’s it! Super simple, super easy, super yummy!

I will definitely be using this preparation in the future and will try and experiment with different herbs (sage eggs, anyone?). Let me know if you try any awesome combinations!

Until next time, blog readers. Can’t wait to get cooking with you again!

#CookAtSMU: Rice Cooked with Olive Oil

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This week’s recipe is a simple one. It’s easy to make and you can make A LOT of it, if you want. It reheats well (add a little more oil and water). In the video, I’m cooking on the stove, but this recipe could easily be replicated on a microwave rice cooker and be made right in your room!

Obviously this isn’t a whole meal, but it’s a great base for steamed or roasted vegetables or strips of the meat of your choice. Definitely one of those staples to keep in the back of your mind when you have veggies or meat, but need some starch to go with it! Lidia describes this recipe as the “ultimate comfort food” and that it was her favorite to eat when she was sick. This recipe can be found in Lidia’s Italian Table along with some recipes for what to eat with it!

Are you hungry yet? Don’t worry, the recipe is right here:

What you’ll need to make 6 servings:

  • 5-6 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroil rice (I used jasmine rice, because that’s what I had on hand, so I think anything will work, just adjust cooking times accordingly)
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

What you’ll do:

  1. Boil 5 cups of the water.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of the oil and the salt (to taste)
  3. Stir in the rice and return to boil, stirring constantly
  4. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the rice is al dente and the water is evaporated (~15 minutes). Add the remaining cup of water if the water evaporates before the rice is tender.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the cheese.
  6. Enjoy!

Let me know what you think of this recipe, if you try it, and what’s your favorite thing to eat it with!

#CookAtSMU: Veggie Meatballs (aka Veggieballs)

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Long time no blog, huh?

From vacations to being sick to planning other exciting Social Squad projects, blogging and cooking has taken a (regrettable) back burner.

But I’m back! And making Veggie Meatballs!

If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest meat eater (not a vegetarian, but usually gravitate towards the vegetarian options), so I was kind of excited to see veggie meatballs in Lidia’s Commonsense Cooking while I was collecting recipes for this project.

These “meat”balls offer a fresh alternative to regular meatballs and, after making them for this video, are one of my new favorite recipes. (I feel like I’m going to be saying that a lot about Lidia’s recipes)

In the video, I fried them, but, in the cookbook, Lidia says that they can be baked at 375 for 25 minutes. Since filming the video, I’ve made them one more time and ended up doing a combination of baking and frying (20 minutes in the oven, couple minutes on each side in a pan). I liked that a little better than just frying. Experiment with different combinations and let me know what you like best!

Now for the recipe!

To make 36 veggieballs, you’ll need:

  • 4 medium-small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 3 medium zucchini, grated (squeeze the liquid out through a towel after grating)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used parmigiano-reggiano)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Olive oil, for frying (or to grease baking sheet if you are baking them)

What you’ll do:

  1. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and cook until tender (you can poke them with a fork but they don’t stick).
  2. Drain the potatoes. Let them cool enough to handle (which I DIDN’T do in the video and, let me tell you, it was not fun. Look out for THAT in a possible blooper video in the future!) and pass them through a potato ricer (if you have one. I didn’t and used a grater,  just make sure to use the smallest setting).
  3. Add the zucchini, eggs, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, cheese, scallions, basil, and salt to the potatoes. Mix well (use your hands! Just wash your hands first)
  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil to coat the pan. Make patties of the mixture and cook them in the hot oil, about 3 minutes per side. Add more oil if you need it.
  5. Season with salt, while you drain the cooked veggieballs on paper towels.

And enjoy!

As always, let me know if you try out this recipe and how you like it!

#CookAtSMU does Eataly

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Lidia's cookbook display at Eataly.
Lidia’s cookbook display at Eataly.

The last week or so has been crazy. With my summer class wrapping up and a family trip to Chicago, I wasn’t able to put together a recipe for last week. I apologize for that, but I had a fantastic opportunity while I was in Chicago that I HAVE to share with you all.

If you haven’t heard of Eataly, you are missing out. It was started by Lidia Bastianich (as well as past #SMUGala chef Mario Batali and several other Italian chefs) and it is one of my new favorite places in the world. Essentially, it is an Italian market. You can get everything from cookies to meat, just the way you’d buy them in Italy. But it’s also so much more than that. In the Chicago store, there are seven restaurants and two stories of delicious food, coffee, cooking utensils, and more!

"Pappardelle con Funghi", my dinner at Eataly's La Pasta restaurant
“Pappardelle con Funghi”, my dinner at Eataly’s La Pasta restaurant

Being in Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Eataly. Thankfully, my family was more than happy to go with  me and we were even able to eat at one of the restaurants! Each of the restaurants center around a food specialty (there’s one for pizza, one for fish, one for vegetarians, etc.). We ate at the “La Pasta” restaurant, because, well, pasta is amazing. And fresh pasta (which I had) is even more amazing.

While we were waiting for our table, my family and I walked around the market part. We found a jar of spices that our foreign exchange student who lived with us a few years ago introduced us too, as well as some cookies that are made in the town he lives in. I also got an apron that all of the wait staff at the restaurants wear (look out for it in future #CookAtSMU posts and videos!). I originally wanted gelato, but I was so stuffed at the end of the meal that I didn’t have room. Just an excuse to go back, I guess (like I need one).

Eataly is probably one of the coolest places I have ever been and cannot wait to go back. A huge thank you to Lidia Bastianich and everyone else that make Eataly possible. Where would Italian food in America be without you?

Now that I’m back in town, #CookAtSMU videos and posts will recommence later this week with Cheese Toasts and Savory Broth. Stay tuned!

A panorama of the 2nd floor of Eataly, with the market and restaurants mingling together
A panorama of the 2nd floor of Eataly, with the market and restaurants mingling together

#CookAtSMU: Olive Oil & Rosemary Spaghetti

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Here it is! My first #CookAtSMU countdown to #SMUGala!
For my first recipe I made “Olive Oil & Rosemary Spaghetti” which is in Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master. This book was invaluable when looking for recipes for this project. With delicious and simple in the title how can you go wrong?

This was filmed in the Parsons community kitchen, which is the kitchen on campus I am most familiar with, having spent two years living in Parsons. I really like cooking in the Parsons kitchen (and it doesn’t hurt that you can see the TV while you’re cooking haha). Over the next few weeks, I’ll be moving around to different community kitchens so everyone can see all the great places there are to cook on campus!

This recipe is exactly what Lidia titles her book: simple and delicious. You do have to use a stove, so a trip to a kitchen is necessary, but it’s quick and sooo yummy. So without further ado, here’s the recipe of Olive Oil and Rosemary Spaghetti:

To make 6 servings, you’ll need:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Needles of 2 bushy rosemary
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta just as you start the sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the olive oil.
  3. When the butter is melted, add the rosemary and cook until the needles are sizzling and the rosemary is fragrant. Use your nose to tell you when!
  4. Add 1 cup of pasta water to the skillet and simmer to reduce by half.
  5. When the pasta is al dente and it to the sauce and toast to coat.
  6. Grated cheese on top to serve

And there you go: Olive Oil and Rosemary Spaghetti, a simple and scrumptious dish for everyone. If you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

Up next week: Raw Garden Salad. Stay tuned!