Today, more than ever, we want and need to gather around the table with our family and friends to escape our daily distractions, and what better way than with food that is luscious, nutritious, and cooked with love. – Lidia Bastianich (quoted from Lidia’s Favorite Recipes)
So much of our life is spent preoccupied with business and work matters, computer time, watching television, and in the car running errands. Our complex lives leave less time to prepare nurturing meals to share with those we love.
It is often difficult to get off this treadmill and take time to enjoy life. I was fiercely reminded of this during our recent visit to Europe and in particular, Italy. There is a real zest for life in Italy, a desire to slow down and take the time to savor the food, the wine, the surroundings, and enjoy the moment.
I was transported back to those memories of Europe last evening as the aroma of sizzling olive oil, butter and garlic filled our home; aromatic and lingering, the beginnings of a wonderful and classic dish. I thought of the French bistros and Italian trattorias we have visited in the past and why those meals were so memorable.
Sole Meunière. This beautiful preparation of what I knew to be a classic French dish is also offered on many Italian menus, called Filetto di Sogliola al Limone. The delicate flavors and texture of the lemon sole are eloquently enhanced with the piquant sauce prepared with lemon, capers, parsley, and white wine. Every bite was perfectly balanced with the sautéed fish, brininess of the capers and lemony sauce; a dish that is meant to be savored and given the attention it deserves.
This recipe for Sole Meunière (Filetto di Sogliola al Limone) is one of the 100 recipes in Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, Lidia Bastianich’s new cookbook that is co-authored with her daughter, Tayna Bastianich Manuali. It will be released this Fall (2012). The recipes are accompanied by the story and history of each dish and why they are her favorites. Some are reader favorites, some are her family’s favorite recipes and some are Lidia’s new favorites.
I found myself placing a marker in nearly every page I read. I was inspired by so many dishes in this cookbook. Many of these recipes I had made in the past, but was reminded of how much I enjoyed them, so I will make them again soon. Others were recipes I look forward to making for the first time. Many are seasonally focused but can easily be adapted by interchanging whatever is fresh at your market. I appreciated the clear and precise instructions along with Lidia’s notes about the dish.
Lidia says she served Sole Meunière at her first restaurant, Buonavia, which she opened in 1971, and she continues to serve it in her restaurants today. She shared this in her recent newsletter, “In my early childhood I was living on the coast in Istria, so I can never say no to a good seafood recipe. One dish that my family – even all five of the grandkids – has been enjoying this summer is Sole Meunière. It’s light, which I appreciate when it’s warm out, but still very flavorful. I’ve fed it to children even younger than my grandkids and it’s always a hit – maybe hold off on the capers for the pickiest eaters. Anyway, Sole Meunière truly is one of my favorites–I’ve even included it in my forthcoming book.”
Sole Meunière is not only one of Lidia’s favorite dishes, it is also Julia Child’s favorite dish. Preparing this recipe had so much significance at this particular time since Julia Child was a great friend to Lidia Bastianich as well as an inspiration and catalyst for her career. With the celebration of Julia’s 100th birthday on August 15th, Sole Meunière is probably the one dish that altered the history of American cooking and our relationship with French food in the United States.
This classic dish was one of the courses served to Julia Child at her very first lunch in France at La Couronne when she moved there with her husband Paul. At this restaurant she first experienced European dining; wine served at lunch and the salad after the main course. She shared her epiphany with The New York Times, It was “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” She also recounted in My Life in France, “Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.” Julia said this one dish led to her culinary career.
Hailing from Pula on the Istrian peninsula and moving to the United States as a young girl, Lidia Bastianich grew up with similar feelings and connections to food and to a place. It was her memories of the food and culture of Italy and the time spent farming and cooking with her grandparents that inspired her lifelong career which has in turn inspired so many others to learn about and appreciate Italian cooking.
Last night, I was reminded of the time we spent in Europe in June, as we dined on Sole Meunière sharing a bottle of Sauvignon made in Friuli. I thought of the impact that experience has had on our lives and how something as simple as one well-prepared and executed meal altered the food of a nation and the power it can have to touch and change so many lives.
As Lidia suggests, make the commitment to prepare a meal that is not only satisfying to you, but is meaningful and nurturing to your family and friends. Sit down at the table, open a bottle of great wine, enjoy the company and savor the moment. You never know how it may change your life.
While lemon or gray sole is recommended in this recipe, you can substitute other fillets of fish. I was able to find lemon sole at a local fishmonger. Be sure to source the freshest fish possible. I used a large nonstick skillet to sauté the fish. It allowed for ease of turning the the fish as well as removing it from the pan.
If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy of Lidia’s new cookbook, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, you may do so through Amazon.
Sole Meunière (Filetto di Sogliola al Limone) from Lidia's Favorite Recipes
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
This light fish in a lemony sauce, which always appears on Italian and French menus, has remained a favorite for decades. I served it in my first restaurant, and continue to serve it today. I recommend using fillet of sole in this recipe, but the fillet of any fish prepared this way is delicious. It is easy to prepare, and even kids love it. The result is a puckery lemon finish, with briny capers.
You know how much I love olive oil, but there is a time and place for everything. When sautéing foods that cook quickly, like these sole fillets, using some butter along with the oil helps the sole brown before they overcook. Thicker sole or flounder fillets are ideal for this dish, but if yours are thinner, you may find it easier to handle them if you cut them in half first. Traditionally the fillets are simmered in the sauce, but I like to cook the sauce separately and spoon it around the sole fillets—they stay crispier that way. - Lidia Bastianich
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing the sauce if you like
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 fillets gray or lemon sole, approximately 2 1⁄2 pounds
All-purpose flour for dredging
5 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
12 thin lemon slices (about 2 lemons)
3 tablespoons drained tiny capers
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
1⁄2 cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat 3 table- spoons of the olive oil and 4 tablespoons of the but- ter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is foaming.
2. Dredge the fillets in the flour to coat both sides lightly. Gently lay as many of the fillets in the pan as fit without touching. Cook just until the under- side is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Flip them gently with a wide metal spatula, and cook until the second side is browned and the fish is opaque in the center, about 2 minutes. Transfer them with the spatula to a baking sheet, and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat if necessary with the remaining fillets, adjusting the heat under the skillet to prevent the bits of flour in the pan from burning.
3. When all the sole fillets have been browned, carefully wipe out the skillet with a wad of paper towels. Add the remaining olive oil and the remaining butter and crushed garlic, and return to medium heat. When the butter is foaming, slide in the lemon slices, and cook, stirring gently, until they are sizzling and lightly browned. Stir in the capers, and heat until they are sizzling, about 1 minute. Pour in the lemon juice and wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by about half. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and boil until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 2 minutes. If you like, drizzle in a tablespoon or two of olive oil to enrich the sauce. Sprinkle in the parsley, and taste, seasoning with salt and pepper if you like.
4. Remove the sole from the oven, and set one fillet in the center of each plate. Fish the lemon slices out of the sauce, and top each fillet with two of them. Spoon the sauce around the fillets, dividing it evenly. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with express permission
Lidia's Favorite Recipes