“Lidia’s coming to Toronto for a book signing the same weekend we’ll be there!” my friend, Pete, said enthused. He was referring to Lidia Bastianich, host of “Lidia’s Italy” (2 p.m. on WNED-TV*), best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur.
Now, my idea of cooking is adding water to a can of condensed soup. But Pete’s a whiz in the kitchen – and one of Lidia’s greatest fans. Not only does he rave about Lidia’s flagship restaurant in Manhattan, but he was inspired by watching her series to make fusilli pasta. “Quite yummy,” he says - a recipe that originates from Italy’s Molise region, where Pete’s grandparents were born.
So we found our way to All the Best Fine Foods, an ultra-gourmet, local sustainable caterer/prepared food store. Luckily, we arrived early because the place was packed! People were lined up outside the door.
Reporters showed up to interview Lidia, including one from the “Digital Journal.”
Karen von Hahn, fashion columnist for “The Star,” also wrote about Lidia’s visit with the headline, “Lidia Bastianich is fearless in life and kitchen.”
Pete picked up a copy of “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy” to have autographed for a friend, and we settled into line, enjoying food samples and chatting while we waited.
“So what’s the attraction?” I asked my culinary-astute friend. (Did I mention he’s three-quarters Italian and planning his sixth trip to Italy this fall?)
“Her recipe for life starts with using only the freshest ingredients and good nutritional sense,” he says. “More importantly, I think Lidia is almost the anti-celebrity. She teaches what she loves the best; she is not about being the center of attention, but passing along what she loves to do, and others can experience the joy she does when they make their own traditions. It’s in the joy of giving and creating that Lidia shines.”
The next night, we enjoyed a wonderful progressive dinner experience in Toronto’s Little Italy section, north of the downtown area. First, we sampled appetizers at an upscale, wood-smoked spot (the watermelon gazpacho soup was light and sweet!); then moved on to a casual bistro for penne vodka; and relished the finalé -- a chocolate pastry and espresso -- at a bakery just across College Street.
It occurred to me, just like all the flavors and options to choose from in Toronto, there’s probably a Saturday cooking show on WNED-TV that appeals to just about everyone’s taste. Whether you’re a gourmet, a busy mom or just love to barbecue, you can learn a lot about cooking, cultures and more.
And most of the series have comprehensive web sites that offer recipes and the opportunity to explore beyond the typical 30-minute program – and it’s all free information! (Some even have videos of previous episodes to view.)
Here’s a sampling of the regular Saturday cooking line-up on WNED-TV (programs may be preempted for specials during a few weeks each September, December, March and June).
11:00 a.m. “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen”: Known as the “grilling guru,” host Steven Raichlen takes grilling to the next level – and beyond – with easy-to-follow, step-by-step techniques for barbecue dishes from around the world.
11:30 a.m. “New Scandinavian Cooking:” Culinary adventures with host Andreas Viestad feature recipes and stunning natural backdrops from Norway, Finland and Denmark.
Noon “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” – premieres October 1, 2011: Profiling cutting-edge food trends, must-use ingredients, kitchen gadgets and food destinations, this series mixes travel with food to explore, inform and entertain.
12:30 p.m. “Rachel’s Favorite Food for Living”: “Irish cooking queen” and mother of three Rachel Allen features easy recipes and helpful tips for the time-strapped home cook.
1:00 p.m. “America’s Test Kitchen from Cook’s Illustrated:” – through October 8, 2011: Filmed in the test kitchen of “Cook’s Illustrated” magazine, this series features recipes carefully developed to make sure they work every time. Dozens of recipe videos can be viewed online.
1:00 p.m. “Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen:” – premieres October 15, 2011: The slogan is “Recipes that work.” From a renovated 1806 farmhouse, the cast scientifically re-imagines family-friendly recipes for the modern home cook, featuring regional home cooking from across the country.
1:30 p.m. “Simply Ming”: Host Ming Tsai prepares recipes inspired by a combination of East and West ingredients, specializing in dishes that can be prepared in one vessel. He pairs with celebrity chefs and travels to kitchens and restaurants throughout New England.
2:00 p.m. “Lidia’s Italy” (see above)
2:30 p.m. “Ciao Italia”: Western New York native Mary Ann Esposito (she grew up in Depew!), hosts America’s longest-running cooking show. She travels around the United States and Rome, Italy in search of recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
All this research on cooking series is inspiring me to get better acquainted with my kitchen.
Have you tried a recipe based on TV cooking show? If so, how did it turn out?