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Italian-American Thanksgiving

Television host and cook book author Lidia Bastianich loves cooking because it brings her family together for great food and conversation.

She shares this passion in her latest cookbook, "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen." And despite her busy schedule, she never fails to host a large Thanksgiving feast at her home.

She visited The Early Show to demonstrate her Italian touch for the holiday. Her Thanksgiving menu consisted of:

An assortment of crostinis (one with spinach, one with ricotta and Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and stuffed mushrooms; turkey with Italian glaze of honey and balsamic vinegar; sautéed cranberries, squash, and apples; Italian-style mashed potatoes, baked squash and cranberry with olive oil; and cranberry and apple sundae for dessert.


Pan Fried Garlic Bread


Choose a large heavy skillet -- cast iron is ideal -- and brush it lightly with olive oil and set it over medium low heat. Cut a loaf of Italian bread in half lengthwise, then cut it crosswise into 3- or 4-inch pieces. Rub the cut surfaces with a smashed garlic clove and brush with garlic infused olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. Arrange as many of the pieces, cut side down, in the pan as will fit without touching. Weight the bread down with a slightly smaller skillet and cook until the underside of the bread is golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove and repeat as necessary with the remaining bread. You may keep the garlic bread warm in an oven turned to the lowest setting.

An Assortment of Crostini or Toppings on Toasted Bread

Sautéed Spinach
Makes 6 servings


6 slices of pan-fried garlic bread
2 pounds bunch spinach or two 10-ounce cellophane packages spinach
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled
Freshly ground pepper


Wash the spinach, but don't dry the leaves completely. The water that clings to the leaves will steam the spinach as it cooks.

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and toss them into the oil. Cook, shaking the pan, until golden, about 2 minutes. Scatter the spinach, a large handful at a time into the pan, waiting until each batch wilts before adding another. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cover the pan. Cook until the spinach begins to release its liquid. Uncover the pan and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted and its water has evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if you like. Serve over garlic bread.

Crostini with Ricotta and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Makes 6 servings

6 slices of pan fried garlic bread
1/2 pound of ricotta (large curd), drained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground coarse pepper


Spoon the ricotta over the pieces of garlic bread. Drizzle each piece with olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 6 servings


24 white or cremini mushrooms with caps about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the tops of the mushrooms if you like
1/2 cup finely chopped scallion
1/2 cup of finely chopped red bell peppers
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

Freshly ground pepper:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Chicken Stock Vegetable Stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
1/4 cup of dry white wine, optional


Serve these nice and hot, or let them cool to room temp. If you'd like to make this a little more contemporary, you can add a dash of balsamic vinegar to the red peppers and scallions as they cook. In true Italian-American style, these are topped with butter, but in Italy, we would use olive oil. Best yet, top them with butter, then "bless" them all with a little olive oil.

This stuffing is delicious in celery stalks baked with a light tomato sauce. You can also line up blanched asparagus on a baking sheet, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over them and bake them until the crumbs are crispy. I'm sure you can come up with a lot of uses for the breadcrumbs. Remember, I give you the basics, but I want you to go play.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them fine. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the red peppers and chopped mushroom stems and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove and cool.

Toss the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and the sautéed vegetables until thoroughly blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of each mushroom with the filling, pressing it in with a teaspoon until even with the sides of the mushrooms.

Using 2 tablespoons of the butter, grease a 12 x 18-inch low-sided baking pan. Arrange the mushrooms side-by-side in the pan and, using the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, dot the top of each mushroom with about 1/4 teaspoon butter. Add the stock, wine, if using, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley to the pan. If you like, drizzle the tops of the mushrooms with olive oil. Bake until the mushrooms are cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Serve the mushrooms on a warmed platter or divide them among warmed plates. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the juices over the mushrooms and serve immediately.

Roasted Turkey Hen With Balsamic Glaze
Makes 8-10 servings


One turkey, about 8-10 pounds
Freshly ground black pepper
5 fresh rosemary sprigs
10 sage leaves
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
6 slices dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups Chicken Stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey


Basting roasts with a mixture of pan juices, balsamic vinegar and honey adds flavor and a mahogany color to poultry, to pork to veal. I also like to serve roasted vegetables as a contorno (side dish) with roasted meats. It makes sense; the oven is going so you might as well make use of it. Sometimes Bastianich adds additional large-cut carrots and celery to the roasting pan with the meat and serve them alongside the carved roast. Or she put together a separate pan of other root vegetables-leeks, onions, parsnips, turnips or even mushrooms, season them with salt, olive oil, some of herbs Bastianich used to season the roast and roast them on a separate shelf from the meat. While they roast, she adds enough chicken stock to moisten them and stir them once in a while until they are caramelized and tender. Everybody's favorite vegetable prepared this way, it seems, is ripe tomato.

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Remove all visible fat and the neck and giblets from the turkey. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Season the turkey generously with salt and pepper inside out. Place one rosemary sprig, 2 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf in the body cavity of each bird. (Or you can make your favorite stuffing for the inside).

Heat the oil in a in a heavy, flame-proof roasting pan or very large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, porcini and the remaining rosemary and sage leaves and cook, stirring about 4 minutes. Smooth the vegetables into an even layer and nestle the turkey between them. Roast, basting frequently with enough of the chicken stock to keep the vegetables well moistened, until the vegetables and turkey are golden brown-about 1 1/2 hours.

Carefully tilt the pan and spoon off enough of the roasting juices to measure one cup, not including fat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and honey until the honey is dissolved. Return the turkey to oven and roast, basting occasionally with the honey mixture, until it's a rich mahogany color and the leg joints moves easily when you wiggle them, about another 30-45 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer to a platter or plates, and cover with a tent of aluminum foil to keep them warm. Strain the and pan juices through a sieve into a small saucepan, pressing as much of the vegetables through the sieve as possible. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and bring the sauce to a simmer while carving the bird. Arrange the pieces of turkey on a platter or plates and spoon some of the roasting juices over them. Pass the remaining sauce separately.

Cranberry, Squash and Apples Sautéed in a Pan
Makes 8 servings


1 butternut squash (approximately 2 pounds)
2 apples (approx 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh cranberries
Pinch of salt
Juice of one lemon
Rinds of one lemon grated
1 tablespoon of honey


Peel the squash, cut in half and clean out the seeds. Cut the squash into 3/4 inch cubes.

Peel and core the apples and cut into ¾-inch cubes. In a nonstick pan, add the butter. Add the squash and cranberries and sauté' for 5 minutes. Season with salt, then add apples, lemon juice and rind and continue to sauté' until both are golden and soft to the touch, approximately 5- to 7- minutes. Add honey, cooking tossing occasionally until golden brown and done. Serve hot.

Baked Squash and Cranberry With Olive Oil
Makes 6 servings


1 butternut squash (approximately 2 pounds)
1 cup of fresh cranberries or 1/2 cup of dried reconstituted in water for an hour
4 tablespoons butter
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
Salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Clean out the inside, removing the seeds. Peel the squash and then cut into 3/4 inch slices so the pieces are in the shape of half moons. Butter the baking pan, line squash slices side by side and season with salt and a dab of butter. Sprinkle all of the squash pieces with freshly ground nutmeg.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, toss the cranberries in the sugar and spread around squash.
Place the mixture in a 425 degree F oven for 30 minutes until the squash is golden brown. Toss gently and serve.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Makes 4 servings


1 pound Idaho or Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, preferably white


Pour enough cold water over the potatoes in a large saucepan to cover them by three fingers. Season the water with salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the potatoes. Drain the potatoes and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Peel the potatoes, and pass them through a ricer or food mill fitted with the fine disk. Gently stir in the olive oil and season them to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Slice three peeled garlic cloves, scatter them over the oil and cook, shaking the pan, until light brown about 2 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature before the adding to the riced potatoes.

b>Cranberry and Apple Sundae
Serves 6


1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
4 tablespoons honey
3 Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons butter
Juice of one lemon
1 quart of vanilla ice cream


Soak the cranberries in 2 cups of water for an hour. Add apricot jam, 2 tablespoons of the honey and cook until soft and syrupy for approximately 30 minutes. In the meantime, core and peel the apples and cut in 1/2- inch cubes.

In a nonstick sauté pan heat the butter and sauté apples, adding the lemon juice and tossing until golden approximately 10-15 minutes. Add the remaining honey and toss until golden brown.

In a sundae glass, build the dessert by alternating ice cream with apples, then cranberries then syrup. You can top with whipped cream if you like