I had the chance to chat with Valerie Bertinelli when she was in Chicago a few weeks ago to sign copies of her new cookbook, "Valerie's Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family." It’s always interesting to meet someone in real time that you’ve, in a way, grown up with. Not saying Bertinelli and I were from the same neighborhood or belonged to the same Girl Scout troop, but I was about her age when I watched her play the role of Barbara on "One Day at a Time," which ran from 1975-1984. The sitcom was rather revolutionary for its time because it was about a divorced single mom raising two kids at a time where most family shows were about households with a mom, dad and a couple of kids.
Her character Barbara was adorably cute, bubbly and, in my memory, almost always smiling. Flash forward 30 some years, numerous movies and a starring role on the TV series, “Hot in Cleveland,” for which she won her second Golden Globe award (the first was for “One Day at a Time”), and Bertinelli could still be channeling Barbara. She’s warm and friendly and totally enthusiastic about cooking. Currently she has two Food Network shows, "Valerie's Home Cooking" and "Kids Baking Championship,” the latter which she co-hosts with pastry chef Duff Goldman.
Her cooking style, she says, is all about simplicity and ease.
“Who wants to complicate their life any more than they have to?” she asks. “We all have enough complications going on in our life, so let’s make it easy in the kitchen. The last thing I want is for people to feel intimidated by my recipes so I work at making them easy to follow and delicious as well.”
Each of the 100-plus recipes in her book not only tell how long they take to make from start to finish but also the “hands-on” time. For example, hands-on time for her Spicy Arrabiata Penne is five minutes, total cooking time is 20 minutes. She also prefaces the recipes with a personalized anecdote about its importance to her and offers variations of the dish.
Describing herself as a Food Network addict, Bertinelli says it’s “crazy” to find herself starring in two shows on the channel and writing a cookbook, the title of the first being a take on her original TV series and called "One Dish at a Time."
When asked how cooking at home differs from preparing dishes on her show, Bertinelli says she finds it challenging because when she’s cooking in her own kitchen she’s cooking alone.
“I don't have to look up and talk and explain how and why I’m doing something,” she says. “It's a little bit different of a muscle. It's like cooking two Thanksgiving dinners every day as we shoot each show. You're on your feet a lot and I’m exhausted everyday shooting the show. But it’s also invigorating as well because it’s so much fun to share something I love.”
Steamed Clams with Spicy Garlic Bread
Hands-on 20 minutes
Total 20 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon salted butter
1⁄8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound clams in shells, scrubbed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 lemon thyme or thyme sprigs
Spicy Garlic Bread (recipe follows)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the sausage; cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to drain on paper towels, reserving the drippings in the skillet.
Place the sausage in a large serving bowl.
Add the shallot to the skillet; cook, stirring often, until translucent and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper; cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, stirring and scraping to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the coconut milk, butter, turmeric, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Add the clams; cover the skillet, and let the mixture steam until the clams open, 6 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the clams to the bowl with the sausage. Stir the lime juice into the broth. Pour the broth over the clams and sausage. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs; discard the stems. Sprinkle the clam mixture with the lemon thyme leaves. Serve immediately with the Spicy Garlic Bread.
Spicy Garlic Bread
Hands-on 5 minutes
Total 10 minutes
1 (12-ounce) French bread loaf
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Pinch of kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the bread in half lengthwise through the top of the loaf, cutting to, but not through, the opposite side. Cut the bread crosswise at 1-inch intervals, cutting to, but not through, the opposite side.
Stir together the butter, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Spread the butter mixture over the bread and between the slices.
Bake until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Spicy Arrabiata Penne
Hands-on 5 minutes
Total 20 minutes
1 (1-pound) package uncooked penne
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (26.46-ounce) package chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
Shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to the package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add the garlic; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the 1/4 cup chopped basil.
Stir the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water into the tomato mixture. Garnish with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and additional basil, if desired, and serve warm.
It’s important to generously salt your water. It adds flavor to your pasta. Don’t rinse your pasta after cooking, and don’t drain all the water; save some to flavor your sauce.
Individual Blueberry-Nectarine Crumbles with Honeyed Lime Yogurt
Hands-on 15 minutes
Total 55 minutes
1 pint fresh or frozen, thawed blueberries
1 ripe nectarine, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
½ cup uncooked regular rolled oats
½ cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
11/2 teaspoons lime zest
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Gently toss together the blueberries, nectarine, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, and 2 teaspoons of the flour in a medium bowl. Divide evenly among 4 (8-ounce) ramekins.
Combine the oats, almonds, cardamom, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup flour and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter. Using your fingers, blend until fully incorporated. Break the mixture into small clumps, and divide evenly among the ramekins to cover the blueberry mixture.
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Stir together the yogurt, honey, lime zest, and remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice in a small bowl. Top the warm crumbles with the yogurt mixture.
Variation: The possibilities are endless — substitute peaches for the nectarines or raspberries for the blueberries. For a more indulgent dessert, serve with ice cream or whipped cream instead of the yogurt.