Now here's something I never thought I'd be touting....a digital cookbook. IF (and it's still a big IF) you have an iPphone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you can have this one at your fingertips -- or on your kitchen counter as you cook. No more messy drips all over the pages, but...goodness-- how about messy drips on your screen??? Of course, you can adjust the display size to see the recipe, zoom in on details of the recipe photo, etc.
I subscribed to SAVEUR magazine for several years, and have all my back issues in slipcases in my personal library, but when we moved from Virginia to Maine, I let the subscription lapse because we weren't cooking the more elaborate Italian fare often featured in this publication. My family preferred, and I also favored more simple peasant type foods both for taste, expense and presentation.
I still cook and serve Italian food at least 3 times a week, so when I had a chance to look over this one, even as an e-galley from Net Galley, I decided to test how well it really translates to the e-reader world. I don't own any of the Apple devices listed above, but I was able to downloaded the ePub format and viewed it through Adobe Digital editions on both my laptop and our Nook Tablet. It's NOT available for Kindles.
I'll talk about digital formats in a minute but for now let's look at recipes...or should I say let's try to keep the drool off the screen while we click through the recipes. The table of contents lists 7 starters, 4 soups, 9 pasta dishes, 7 main dishes and 3 sweets, in addition to a list for The Italian Pantry, lists of Italian Red and White Wines, and a Table of Equivalents --all in 96 (or 48?) gorgeous pages! My ADE and NOOK show it as 48 pages, but the publisher lists it as 96 pages....I think the e-reader registers each double page as one.
I almost didn't get past the first recipe. My family loves eggplant, and my son-in-law loves caponata style renditions. I decided to wait to try out the "Sweet and Sour Eggplant Relish" until he comes to visit in a few weeks, but I may have to make some next week so I can test it first. Combining eggplant, onions, celery, crushed tomatoes, capers, raisins, pine nuts, basil and (are you ready?) finely shredded unsweetened chocolate all in some olive oil and white wine vinegar.....I'm somewhere on my way to heaven just thinking about it.
Then there's "Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms and Spinach", "Baked Clams" (another favorite here in Maine), a "Bread and Tomato Salad" and we're just through the Starters. Any of these could easily be a light meal without busting the diet, or the Weight Watcher's points.
The soups are also perfect for light meals - Vegetable Soup - a recipe provided by Lidia Bastianich, Bread and Tomato Soup (my favorite), Minestrone (perfect for chilly Maine foggy evenings) and Escarole Soup - a new concept for me.
The nine pasta recipes could fill my meal planner for the next two weeks....each one is more luscious than the next. Some such as the "Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce" are meant to fill your kitchen with a slowly simmering but mouth watering aroma for hours as they slowly meld their flavors into a scrumptious sauce; others such as "Trenette with Pesto, Green Beans and Potatoes" or "Corkscrew Pasta with Almond Pesto" can be tossed together in under an hour.
As for Main Dishes, living here in Maine has definitely made us seafood addicts, so I'd have to nominate the "Swordfish Puttanesca" as a favorite, but "Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes", and the "Eggplant Parmesan" (done the way I prefer it without breading the eggplant) are sure to be served in Tutu's kitchen within the month!
As for sweets...SIGH......all three of the recipes are sent from heaven, although I will admit I usually don't go to the trouble of making anything this elaborate at home. Berries are great, but whipping eggs, making Panna Cotta, or even piping cookies through a pastry bag and arranging 12 pine nuts BY HAND per cookie are way past my patience level. I'll pick some up at the Italian market!!! That said, I'm quite proud that my pantry had every single item recommended.
Anyway, I love this cookbook and I even think I don't mind the format. The publisher has done a remarkable job making the pages readable, and with the ability to enlarge each page on the e-reader, it's well within the realm of possibility to have the tablet on the kitchen counter to view the recipe. It still isn't my preferred method though. I'm just too exuberant and messy to want to dare try cooking with an expensive piece of electronic gear within sloshing range. And with the amount of EVOO around, the oily finger prints on the screen as I swipe to turn the page could really be a negative occurence. Someday perhaps we'll have drop down monitor screens that will hang from under a cabinet, where I can see the extra large font and read the recipe at eye level while I cook. And the e-reader format does not allow the cook to make notes, print out a copy to use on the kitchen counter to mark up, etc. I'm not quite there yet with e-cookbooks, but this one sure is going to be one that I'd be happy to have on my tablet to grab some of those recipes if that were the only way to have it.
The work is a small virtual tour through all the gustatory tastes of Italy from Tuscanny in the north, through the central regions of Rome and Naples, down to the incredibly tasty dishes of Sicily. Guest recipes from some of our favorite Italian cooking personalities add to the appeal. The photography, layout, and clear instructions are worthy of SAVEUR. Each and every recipe is presented in gorgeous living color. You can almost smell the roasting garlic, the fresh basil, the bubbling sauces, and the savory meats. (Did I mention the drool on the screens?) If you are a cook who enjoys good Italian food, and you want to test the digital format, this is one book that might convert you.
Note: as far as I can tell, this one is only available through the publisher Weldon Owen. My thanks to the publisher for making this available for review.
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