Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekend Cooking and a Cookbook Review - Cucina Povera

Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.

This week I got a notice from NetGalley that they had some cookbooks available for pre/review.  I don't usually like cookbooks in an e-format, particularly since I don't have a color e-reader.  However, I went to browse through the list to see if anything jumped out screaming "buy me buy me!!"  I am so glad I looked.

In spite of what Andrews McNeel Publishing says, I think this one was edited in heaven by my Nona and her son, my father.  I am positively drooling over this book, and have already sent an email to my daughter strongly suggesting that this one appear in my stocking from Santa later this year (it's not due for publication until next month.)

Cucina Povera
Tuscan Peasant Cooking
Author: Pamela Sheldon Johns
Photographs by Andrea Wyner
Publisher/Format: egalley 192 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: Tuscan Peasant cooking
Genre: cookbook
Source: e-galley from publisher via NetGalley

Publisher's blurb: Italian cookbook authority Pamela Sheldon Johns presents more than 60 peasant-inspired dishes from the heart of Tuscany inside Cucina Povera. This book is more than a collection of recipes of "good food for hard times." La cucina povera is a philosophy of not wasting anything edible and of using technique to make every bite as tasty as possible. Budget-conscious dishes utilizing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables create everything from savory pasta sauces, crusty breads and slow-roasted meats to flavorful vegetable accompaniments and end-of-meal sweets.

The recipes inside Cucina Povera have been collected during the more than 20 years Johns has spent in Tuscany. Dishes such as Ribollita (Bread Soup), Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo (Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce), and Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) are adapted from the recipes of Johns' neighbors, friends, and local Italian food producers. Lavish color and black-and-white photographs mingle with Johns' recipes and personal reflections to share an authentic interpretation of rustic Italian cooking inside Cucina Povera.
I found many of the recipes to be familiar from my childhood, others exotic but with ingredients that had me making a market list to try them as soon as I can get my hands on the real book.  In fact, my sister, who is also an excellent Italian cook, was just visiting last week, and we had a discussion over whether or not one could substitute olive oil in a cake recipe that called for vegetable oil.  The recipe for Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) on page 156,  left no doubt that olive oil was quite acceptable. In fact, that cake looked so good, I may just have to move my laptop to the kitchen and bake it tonite to serve with some fresh Maine blueberries.  Because, you see, the secret of Cucina Povera, in fact the secret of all good Italian cooking, is to use the fresh ingredients one has on hand, to make simple, elegant, wholesome, healthy food.

The cover recipe "Pomidori, Fagioli e Cippoline" (Roasted Tomatoes, Beans and Onions) p. 135, makes me wish for a cold rainy day to come quick.  My family was quite fond of our Nona's gnocci - they were her specialty.  But I was quite taken with a dish I'd never seen before "Gnudi" on pg.90.  Literally meaning "nudes", they are spinach and ricotta dumplings - similar to the filling found in ravioli, but without the pasta shell.  On a bed of homemade tomato sauce, they would be worthy of royalty.

The book is well laid out, has an excellent index, and although the e-galley is lacking a table of contents, each section has an individual TOC.  The photography is spectacular...if you had a fork and spoon, you'd feel you could dive right in. The actual recipes don't start until page 43, but you don't mind because Johns takes us on a pictorial and memory tour of the area, introducing us to locals who have been cooking and growing these foods for all their very long lives.  She gives us introductions to herbal remedies handed down by the monks in a local monastery, explains why basic ingredients are so important, and how and where they're produced.  In short, we get culture, history, geography and cuisine all in one small volume.  It's a winner.

1 comment:

  1. did I mention that I just bought a color Nook..perfect for a cookbook! off to check this one out!


Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.