Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What did Benedict eat? - Lidia Bastianich reveals the menu

Chef Lidia Bastianich reveals what was on the menu for Pope Benedict to food blog Serious Eats:

Forty years ago, when Lidia was 12 and living in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy, with her parents and brother, a Catholic relief organization provided them with safe passage and the proper visas to emigrate to America. But Lidia and her parents had to go to the Vatican to get the blessing of the pope at the time, Pope Paul VI.

So one can only imagine how thrilled she was to cook not one, not two, but three meals for the current pope during his visit to New York City. And Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be a serious eater, which is not surprising, given the fact that his mom was a hotel chef. [...]

Here's a mouth-watering sampling -- from Saturday's Lunch for the Holy Father and his Cardinals in New York:
  • String bean salad with sheep's milk ricotta and pickled shallots and toasted almonds
  • Ravioli with fresh pecorino and pears
  • Risotto with nettles, fava beans, and ramps
  • Whole roasted striped bass with boiled fingerling potatoes and a frisée salad
  • Apple strudel with honey vanilla ice cream (with honeycomb intact)
Lidia sums up her experience:
"It was celestial. It meant my life had come full circle. I came to America because a Catholic relief organization provided safe passage, and here I am cooking for, feeding, and nourishing the pope. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?"
(Via Domenico Bettinelli).

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On a related note, the New York Times reveals that Pope Benedict's diet "reflected the digestive needs of a man who had just turned 81 and was at the end of an intense road trip" (A Recipe With an Imprimatur, by Kim Severson. April 23, 2008):

He wanted food that was light and seasonal. And the two formal dinners he ate in the wood-lined dining room at the five-story town house of the papal nuncio to the United Nations on East 72nd Street were to last only 80 minutes.

Besides security checks as each dish was prepared, the most important edict was this: The pope couldn’t handle spices.

Adjustments were made. The pepe was withheld from his ravioli cacio pepe e pere, the classic dish of pasta and pecorino accented with pears and pepper. Strudel, a nod to his German roots, was made without cinnamon. ...

One dish the pope ate in New York stands out as a particularly nice way to mark both spring and the papal visit. This creamy risotto is warm enough to take the chill off a New York spring evening but tastes so green that it satisfies the pent-up desire to eat early spring vegetables as soon as possible.