26 August 2011

Lidia Bastionich and Grilled Tuna Rollatini under Tomato Lemon Marinade Served with Calabrese Salad

Grilled Tuna Rollatini under Tomato Lemon Marinade
Served with Calabrese Salad
Lidia Bastianich is one of the most-loved chefs on television, a best-selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. She has married her two passions in life, her family and food to create a career that is unparalleled. She lives her life as they do in Italy where food isn't just food... it's a revelation!!!! Food is one of the cornerstones of Italian culture and even if times are changing and life is more and more frenetic, Italians still find never ending pleasure in sitting at a table and sharing a good meal together.

Enter Lidia Bastionich, the grandmother of all Italian cooks and wannabee Italian cooks like myself! Her cookbooks include Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and Lidia's Italy,  both companion books to her Emmy-nominated television series, "Lidia's Italy," as well as Lidia's Family Table, Lidia's Italian- American Kitchen, Lidia's Italian Table and La Cucina di Lidia. Lidia is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants — Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto (recently awarded four stars by the New York Times), as well as Lidia's in Pittsburgh and Kansas City. She is also founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high-quality broadcast productions including Lidia's Italy.

On the Canadian Food Network she is nowhere to be seen so I live vicariously through you and any information I glean on the Internet, but her influence crosses culinary borders and I would challenge anyone to discount that they have not crossed paths with her empire in one way or another from vineyards, mega stores, a product line, restaurants and television productions.

Along with her son, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, the team opened Eataly a year ago. It is the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in New York City and would put my beloved Valarosa here in K-Town to shame. The partners have transformed a 42,500 square‐ foot space in the Flatiron District into New York City's premier culinary mecca where you can find a myriad of premium Italian delicacies and wine. It is also home of La Scuola where you can learn the art of Italian cooking, and a diverse slate of boutique eateries where you hop from restaurant to restaurant gorging on everything Italian! Lidia has taken her passion for education and enrichment through food, making culinary classes a defining focus of Eataly.

And her empire doesn't end there since she is one of the hardest working nonna's known. Together with her son Joseph they also own two wineries in Italy, Bastianich Vineyards in Friuli and La Mozza Vineyards in Maremma where they produce award-winning wines. Along with her daughter Tanya the team also launched Nonna Foods last year as a platform to distribute an array of "Lidia's" food products. The line highlights a passion for all things pasta, with six original varieties of homemade pasta sauce, with eight different cuts of pasta, sold nationally.

Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers.  Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and join Mary on this journey and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today. In doing so I have learned more about myself, and have learned more than a few new recipes and techniques. Follow us on this journey while we take an in depth exploration of these women's lives and what has made them who they are.

One of my favourite well-travelled bloggers Mary of One Perfect Bite invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. For 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list". Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. My cohorts for this adventure can be found below. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. She will be posting every Friday.

To narrow it down to just one dish for this weeks challenge was difficult with so many delicious choices. When traveling through Sicily, you will often encounter tuna or swordfish rollatini, or involtini as they call them. It is a traditional dish and seemed appropriate for this weeks challenge despite paying $40 for 6 slices of lovely tuna. What makes this dish particularly delicious and interesting is that they roll the rollatini in seasoned bread crumbs before grilling. The way Lidia prepares the rollatini, they get a marvelous range of flavours by marinating before grilling in garlic, olive oil, and fresh thyme; then she smothers them with a fresh tomato and lemon salsa once they are cooked. This is one of those dishes that can takes days to prepare allowing the flavours to marry. The longer the rolls sit, before and after grilling, the more flavourful they become. But I dare you to see just see how long they last and try not to eat them for a couple of hours.

To accompany my rollatini I made a Calabrian version of potato salad where peppers play a key role. Fresh green or red peppers are fried as a main salad ingredient; and peperoncino, dried crushed red-pepper flakes, serves as an essential seasoning. The peppers you want for this are the slender, long ones with sweet, tender flesh, which Lidia calls "Italian frying peppers." 

What have we been up to....

Mary of One Perfect Bite - Brown Rice and Asparagus Soup
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Grilled Tuna Rollatini Under a Tomato Marinade with Calabrese Potato Salad
Joanne of Eats Well With Others - Lidia's Farro with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Susan of The Spice Garden - Polpette di Verza (Braised Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed - Zuppa Gallerese (Bread and Cabbage Soup)
Heather of Girlichef - Struffoli
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Beef Braised with Peppercorns and a Spinach Gnocchi
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living - Caponata
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud -  Fregolatta
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Baked Stuffed Shells
Linda of There and Back Again - Gemelli with Sausage-Tomato Sauce/Neapolitan Pizza/ and Simple Tomato Sauce
Amy of Beloved Green -  Crostoli
Kathleen of Gonna Want Seconds
Linda of Ciao Chow Linda-  Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

What did I learn: Be patient. This dish can take several days, but it is worth the wait!! Also leftover Calabrese Salad is wonderful fried up for breakfast!

I want to thank Mary for taking us on this journey which has opened my eyes to not only the importance of these women in our lives but to reflect on what we have learned from each by sheer osmosis.

**Grilled Tuna Rollatini under Tomato Lemon Marinade**

For the Garlic-Infused Oil

2 large garlic cloves, sliced
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Flavored Bread Crumbs

½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon peperoncino, chopped into little bits
2 tablespoons toasted pignoli (pine nuts), finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins, finely chopped (I omitted only because I did not have any)
2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil

For Grilling and Marinating the Rollatini

1½ pounds fresh tuna loin, in one piece
½ teaspoon salt
6 fresh thyme branches
2 cups Fresh Tomato-Lemon Salsa

Preparing the Garlic and Oil Crumbs

Stir the garlic slices and salt into olive oil. Allow to infuse for at least 1/2 hour, preferably an hour or more.

Mix all the seasonings with the bread crumbs, and then stir in the garlic oil. Rub the crumbs with your fingers so they're evenly moistened.

Preparing the Rollatini

Slice the tuna into 3 ounce scallops; flatten and spread them (if necessary) to 1/4-inch thickness with a meat mallet.

Sprinkle each scallop with a couple of pinches of salt, and then cover with a thin layer, about 1-1/2 teaspoons, of the seasoned bread crumbs.

Roll up and secure the rollatini with toothpicks and place them all in a baking dish, close together in one layer. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, scatter a spoonful of the oily garlic slices, drop in the thyme branches and turn the rollatini to coat with oil on all sides. Let them marinate for at least an hour, preferably a couple of hours or overnight (refrigerated).

Grilling and Marinating with Tomato Salsa

Heat the clean grill rack over medium heat, using gas or charcoal. Take the rollatini out of the marinating dish and roll them in the bread crumbs. Press a bit so a light coating of crumbs adheres to the rolls on all sides.

When the grill is ready, lay the rollatini at right angles to the grill bars and let them sear without moving for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes, until they've been branded with nice gold marks on the bottom. The crumbs should be toasted but not burnt. If the fish and crumbs are darkening much faster, lower the heat, raise the rack or spread the coals out.

Using tongs, rotate the rollatini 180 degrees, so the first marks are on top; grill and mark the opposite side for about 2 minutes. Turn 90 degrees and grill about 1-1/2 minutes on a third side. Finally, rotate them all top to bottom again so the remaining unmarked side of each roll is on the grill. This should need only a minute or so to mark. Drizzle garlic oil in tiny amounts on the rollatini, if you wish, after each turn.

After grilling on all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes total, the rollatini should be cooked through but moist in the middle (you can cut one open if you are concerned about doneness). Immediately remove them to a clean baking dish (I usually just wash and dry the one in which they marinated in garlic oil). Pull out the toothpicks.

Serve the hot grilled rollatini. For the most flavour, spread the tomato-lemon marinade over the top of the rollatini and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, until the rolls have cooled and been infused with the sauce. For instructions on how to prepare this marinade, see the recipe for Fresh Tomato-Lemon Salsa below. Serve at room temperature, 1 or 2 per person, with sauce on top. For longer marinating, refrigerate the sauced rollatini after 3 hours and serve the next day-leftovers will keep and taste fine for about 4 days, properly sealed.

**Fresh Tomato-Lemon Salsa**

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped in 1/3-inch pieces
½ cup red onion, finely diced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 lemon wedge, cut lengthwise in quarters
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons fresh chives or Italian parsley, finely chopped

Toss the chopped tomatoes in a bowl with the red onion and the salt. Trim the ends of the lemon wedge and pick out any seeds. Lay it on one of its flat sides and slice the wedge lengthwise thinly, then crosswise. Let the slivers of lemon fall apart and slice or chop any long pieces into short bits. Scrape all the lemon into the bowl, toss with the tomatoes. Then toss with the vinegar, oil, and chopped herbs.

Spread the marinade over grilled tuna rollatini or serve as a condiment for other grilled or steamed seafood.

Serves 4

**Calabrese Salad**

1 pound russet potatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 Italian frying peppers, preferably 5 inches or longer
12 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Put the potatoes in a pot with water to cover them by about 2 inches, and heat to a steady boil. Cook just until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife blade (don't let them get mushy), then drain and cool them. Peel off the skins, cut the potatoes crosswise into round slices about 1/3 inch thick, and put in the salad bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil into a big skillet, and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, lay in the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes, until they're sizzling and starting to color on one side, then turn them and brown the other side. Keep turning and moving the peppers around so they cook and color evenly. After 5 minutes, when the peppers have been turned a couple of times and are sizzling nicely, scatter the garlic cloves in between them. Now lay another, smaller skillet or a heavy pot cover on top of the peppers, and press down for more thorough browning. Cook for another 5 minutes or more, rotating the peppers a couple of times, until browned and blistered on all surfaces. Remove from the heat, and let the peppers cool for a few minutes, with the weight still in place. When the peppers can be handled, cut off the stems, peel off the skin, slice them open, and scrape out the seeds. Slice them lengthwise in strips about 1 inch wide; if the peppers were very long, cut the strips crosswise into nice lengths for eating, 3 inches or so.

Assemble and dress the salad while the pepper strips are still warm (though it is also good at room temperature). Put the pepper pieces and the onion slices in the bowl with the potatoes, and sprinkle over them the salt and peperoncino. Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and the vinegar on the vegetables, and toss well. Remove garlic and serve right away.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Wow, what a tribute! This tuna sounds amazing...I love that lemony-tomatoey marinade. A delicious meal all around.

  2. Scrumptious! I particularly like that potato salad.

    A great tribute!



  3. What an undertaking, Val. It sounds fabulous and I would have loved to share this with you. It sounds like the work was worth the effort. Your dish is gorgeous. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  4. I LOVE LIDIA! She is such an inspiration and her family on the show is a bonus. She's just as nice in person too. I've eaten at all her NY restaurants and every one is special. I've always wanted to try making rollatini with swordfish after eating them in Sicily, and here you are featuring them with tuna. Brava to you for featuring her and this delicious recipe.

  5. I'm dying to visit Eataly!

  6. Oh Val, you've really outdone yourself this time. :-) Love the colors and unusual flavors and all around fabulousness of these dishes. :-)

  7. I've had a lot of rollatini in my day, but never one made with fish! I love the sound of that filling.

  8. What I find so revealing about Lidia - and I love her, too - is that she is from Istria - and when she grew up there, it was not Italy, but part of the Balkans. Later, it became Italy - and many many of her recipes and her roots are from the former Yugoslavia, though she rarely mentions this.
    The food looks incredible. Love this project you are working through. I now recall seeing the list and the invitation for the project - but, you know... I have been barely hanging on these days with my volunteer work eating up most of my waking hours. Soon...

  9. Nice tribute Vall, this sounds delicious, hope you have a nice week end! gloria

  10. A rollatini is such a fun sounding dish. I love how you put together a whole menu to pay tribute to Lidia!

  11. This is a wonderful dinner pairing. My grandmother always made potatoes when she cooked fish and often it was a salad similar to this.

  12. What a beautiful meal you made in honor of Lidia Bastianich! Just lovely.

  13. Very fancy and a really nice tribute to Lidia

  14. This rollatini is beautiful! You certainly went above and beyond with this dish. Love your Calabrese Salad too! Perfect!! I'm afraid I made a much less complicated dish. I made Baked Stuffed Shells.

  15. Val, This tribute is just over the top great! The dish you chose is just fantastic! Rollatini are such works of art and the addition of the salsa just makes this tuna awesome! The Calebrese potato salad is also such a beautiful dish! Rustic but really elegant with the colors and that smooth, peppery vinegar/oil treatment!

    Wow, such a great week of recipes!

  16. That looks like such a refreshing meal! Great job on the tribute as well, you really took me "through" Lidia.

  17. My BIL loves Lidia and has every one of her cookbooks. You've written a lovely tribute to her. She's one of the ladies I know the least about unfortunately, so thank you.

    You know I'm crazy about tomatoes and tuna, so this sounds perfect.

  18. What a fantastic idea- and what a beautiful dish. I've had a gorgeous time reading back through your archives and catching up. Your writing is just lovely. Thank you for the escapism!

  19. These dishes look and sound like they were well worth the effort that went into them.


  20. Love that lady too, especially since my grandmother comes from her region as well. That dish is perfect, as all her creations.


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