Three Great Recipes from Lidia’s

It was the most fantastic Sunday afternoon in Western Missouri since June.  The temperature was in the high 70s, there was a gentle breeze and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was a perfect day to visit Powell Gardens, about 36 miles East of Leawood’s Town Center Plaza on 50 Highway.

I really enjoyed strolling around the gardens with friends, it is truly a remarkable place.  I try to make it out there at least once a year.  The main reason for Sunday’s visit was to attend their Garden Chef Series.  From late April through the early part of October, Powell Gardens invites Chefs from popular local eateries to come out and perform cooking demonstrations using mostly ingredients freshly gleaned from their gardens.  These demos occur on most Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. in the Missouri Barn.  The Missouri Barn isn’t really a barn per se, the location where the demonstrations occur is more like a covered patio; great for people like me who love to eat al fresco, not so great for those of you who don’t like flies buzzing around your food.

I made it a point to be there on this particular Sunday, (September 9th), because Cody Hogan, the top chef at Lidia’s, was the featured chef.  Chef Hogan was a non-arrogant, rather shy, personable guy who answered audience questions while explaining how to prepare each of the three recipes he presented.  I mention non-arrogant only because I guess I’ve watched a few too many of those “chef shows” on television.  I was a tiny bit apprehensive and maybe a little intimidated before the show started, but after a few minutes, I realized how silly that was.  It was a great experience and I think that I will head out for a couple more of these demonstrations before the season is over.

The first recipe was for “Insalata Cruda e Cotta” (Raw and Cooked Salad).  He explained that  you could basically substitute about anything you have on hand for this salad.  He used different varieties of new potatoes, (one variety was blue), instead of regular green beans he used a long purple colored variety and instead of Bibb lettuce, he used arugula.  Most, if not all, of the vegetables had come from Powell Gardens. 

The next recipe was for “Pesto Trapanese alla Anna“.  This was amazing.  I’ve never had a tomato based pesto before, at least not that I am aware.  So, it is red instead of green, of course.  This recipe also called for almonds instead of pine nuts which I found interesting.  We watched Chef Hogan pick basil from the adjacent herb garden right before the demonstration, that’s how fresh the ingredients were, so naturally the flavors were amazingly vibrant.  I’m definitely trying this recipe at home.  When I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out.    

The third recipe was for “Rigatoni alla Pastora” (Shepherd’s Rigatoni), another amazingly simple, yet delicious recipe that even I could make at home.  There are only about 6 ingredients for this dish, plus the pasta.  This recipe called for ricotta.  In Chef Hogan’s opinion, there is nowhere in Kansas City to buy good ricotta, so he told us we should make our own.  He said to look-up a recipe online, so I did, here’s the one I found.  I am so going to try this!  I will record my attempt and place it online so you can all laugh.  Anyway, back to the recipe… it called for sweet Italian Sausage, the one Chef Hogan used had cinnamon in it, no fennel.   I’m not generally a guy who likes his meat sweet, so I was sceptical as to whether I would like this one.  I shouldn’t have been, this was really delicious.  I’m going to attempt this recipe at home also. 

Chef Hogan also shared a couple of “secrets” with us. 

  1. First, don’t put oil in your pot when you boil your pasta.  Yes, the oil prevents the pasta from sticking together, but it also prevents the sauce from sticking to your pasta. 
  2. Pasta with ridges or ruffles in it add surface area and allow more sauce to collect on the pasta. 

I really enjoyed my time here.  Chef Hogan has inspired me to try a little more cooking at home.  Lidia’s recipes are so simple, yet so delicious it makes it easy to want to do-it-yourself.  But don’t worry Lidia, I’m still going to frequent your restaurant, because let’s face it, even though it’s fun to do-it-yourself, it’s usually better to have someone do it for you.

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