Beth Weaver and Yves Panneton tried recipes from Lidia's a Pot, a Pan and a Bowl over the last month. They were cooking from the same book — but under very different circumstances.
Weaver lives in Dorval in Montreal's West Island and currently works from home as an operations manager for a West Island church while Panneton, normally a Montrealer, is currently living in Iqaluit, working as the manager of surgical services at the hospital.
"I truly have a pot, a pan and a bowl," said Panneton of his sparse kitchen up north. It was one of the reasons he wanted to try this particular cookbook, to see whether it could deliver on its promise of "simple recipes for perfect meals."
His biggest challenge was finding ingredients in his temporary home. A can of tomatoes can cost $7, when available, and he did not buy parmesan cheese at all because of the high cost.
On the one weekend he had to buy ingredients, there was a delay in cargo delivery in Iqaluit.
Weaver was already a fan of Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich, who's published many best-selling cookbooks and has been on public television for decades. She was also intrigued by the idea of this simple approach to Italian cuisine.
"I'm a wannabe Italian," said Weaver.
A seasoned home cook and with experience in the hospitality industry, Weaver tried several recipes. While there were no disasters or failures, there weren't any that blew her away, either. Both she and Yves made the recipe for beer-braised beef short ribs. Yves used stewing beef and Beth bought pricier beef ribs.
"I was hoping for more," said Beth. "It wasn't awful, but it was OK."
Yves thought it was very good, but not worth all the effort and time.
The "win" for Beth was the onion soup with bread and fontina pasticciata.
"It was actually reasonably easy and definitely one pot." The addition of mushrooms in the recipe added to the surprise of this dish, but Beth says she'd give it a bit more punch next time with a cooking liqueur and maybe a more pungent cheese, such as Gruyère.
Panneton said the spinach, bread and ricotta frittata was "easy to do" and is "definitely a keeper."
This dish was a favourite both because of its texture and also because the ingredients are readily available in the North.
As simple as some of these recipes claimed to be, Bastianich sometimes asks for a pestata, or a paste, to be made of various vegetables and aromatics with a food processor.
Panneton had to make it by chopping until he reached the most pestata-like consistency. "It should be called, 'a pot, a pan and a food processor!'" he said.
As for myself, the tomato and zucchini bread lasagna was a family favourite, so that is definitely a keeper. The one bowl olive oil cake was very easy to make as well as moist and delicious, also a keeper. The others I tried were also good, but as Beth said, they need a little something extra.