Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Format: 288 pgs
Source: Amazon online purchase
This is not a beginner's cookbook. There are no pictures of the recipes, nor are the dishes familiar to the majority of Americans raised to believe Italian equals breaded veal parmesan, and ravioli with meatballs. What it does offer is a collection of wonderful northern Italian dishes, featured in the very popular Commissario Brunetti detective series written by Donna Leon. I could read these adventures over and over. Brunetti is one of my favorite fictional characters, and between his wife Paola, his dear, now departed Mama, and all the lovely tratorria in the area, a story of his adventures always includes many scenes of food, eating, and family mealtimes.
There are wonderful essays by Roberta Pianaro about food sources, growing and harvesting, and the changes taking place in the modern city of Venice in which the old markets are being replaced by glass shops, and other tourist attractions. The recipes are well presented, well arranged, and definitely have one reaching for the olive oil, the apron, and a glass of wine to begin the cooking adventure.
Each section of recipes includes an except from one of Leon's books featuring not only the food, but the entire philosphy of eating that is the foundation of Italian life: Mangia, mangia, ti fa bene (Eat, eat, it's good for you). It even has the recipe for Brunetti's mother's "Lasagna con cuori di carciofo e prosciutto" (Lasagna with artichoke hearts and Prosciutto).
I certainly will have no trouble following the exhortations with this wonderful guide at my disposal. After paging thru the entire book, and reading the essays, I have at least fifteen bookmarks sticking out virtually screaming "Cook this first!" This is a book for the serious Italian cook, the serious Donna Leon fan, and the serious lover of good seafood and fresh produce. Tutti a tavola, mangiamo.