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Friday, April 23, 2010

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy...Review

About the book:
In this inspiring new book, Lidia Bastianich awakens in us a new respect for food and for the people who produce it in the little-known parts of Italy that she explores. All of the recipes reflect the regions from which they spring, and in translating them to our home kitchens, Lidia passes on time-honored techniques and wonderful, uncomplicated recipes for dishes bursting with different regional flavors -- the kind of elemental, good family cooking that is particularly appreciated today.

Penetrating the heart of Italy -- starting at the north, working down to the tip, and ending in Sardinia -- Lidia unearths a wealth of recipes:
  • From Trentino-Alto Adige: Delicious Dumplings with Speck (cured pork); apples accenting soup, pasta, salsa, and salad; local beer used to roast a chicken and to braise beef
  • From Lombardy: A world of rice -- baked in a frittata, with lentils, with butternut squash, with gorgonzola, with eggs and cheese, and the special treat of Risotto Milan-Style with Marrow and Saffron
  • From Valle D'Aosta: Polenta with Black Beans and Kale, and local fontina featured in fondue, in a roasted pepper salad, and embedded in veal chops
  • From Liguria: An array of Stuffed Vegetables, a bread salad, and elegant Veal Stuffed with a Mosaic of Vegetables
  • From Emilia-Romagna: An olive oil dough for making the traditional, versatile vegetable tart erbazzone, as well as the secrets of making tagliatelle and other pasta doughs, and an irresistible Veal Scaloppine Bolognese
  • From Le Marche: Farro with Roasted Pepper Sauce, Lamb Chunks with Olives, and Stuffed Quail in Parchment
  • From Umbria: A taste of the sweet Norcino black truffle, and seductive dishes such as Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils, Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes, and Chocolate Bread Parfait
  • From Abruzzo: Fresh scrippelle (crêpe) ribbons baked with spinach or garnishing a soup, fresh pasta made with a "guitar," Rabbit with Onions, and Lamb Chops with Olives
  • From Molise: Fried Ricotta; homemade cavatelli pasta in a variety of ways; Spaghetti with Calamari, Shrimp, and Scallops; and Braised Octopus
  • From Basilicata: Wedding Soup, Fiery Maccheroni, and Farro with Pork Ragù
  • From Calabria: Shepherd's Rigatoni, steamed swordfish, and Almond Biscottini
  • From Sardinia: Flatbread Lasagna, two lovely eggplant dishes, and Roast Lobster with Bread Crumb Topping
This is just a sampling of the many delight Lidia has uncovered. All the recipes she shares with us in this rich feast of a book represent the work of the local people and friends with whom she made intimate contact -- the farmers, shepherds, foragers, and artisans who produce regional cheeses, meats, olive oils, and wines. And in addition, her daughter, Tanya, takes us on side trips in each of the twelve regions to share her love of the country and its art.

I don't regularly watch cooking shows, but I love Lidia's show when I can catch it on PBS. She's an absolute delight to watch, and her cookbook is just as great. I love this book as much for the commentary as I do the recipes.

I have so many of them marked, it's going to take me awhile to get through all of them. But, my mouth waters just reading them. I love that each region is high-lighted, not only with recipes, but with lovely commentary about the area and the people. And each recipe isn't just written out with ingredients and instructions; Lidia shares definitions, explanations and anecdotes about how a dish or ingredient came to be created or used.

Like I do with every cookbook, I wish this had a photo for every recipe, but this is a lovely book, perfect for any cook who wants to learn a more authentic Italian way of cooking, and it would make a gorgeous gift. My first recipe: Spaghetti in Tomato-Apple Sauce, followed by Baked Penne & Mushrooms, followed by Almond Torta with Chocolate Chips, followed by Fresh Cavatelli with Eggs & Bacon, followed by...

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Lidia here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

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