The Country Cooking of Italy
Chronicle Books (2011)
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (12/11)
Article first published as The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews on Blogcritics.
First of all, “The Country Cooking of Italy” is one of the most beautiful cookbooks I’ve seen. It is one that definitely has a permanent place on top of the kitchen island. Browsing through the book itself takes you on a culinary trip of seeing presentations of beautifully appointed dishes, stories, and scenes of Italy. Even the pages of the book feel wonderful.
For the purpose of the review we are asked to test three recipes. For the first recipe I chose “Sausage with Grapes.” I first braised the mild Italian sausage in butter (yes, butter) and then added 1 pound of green seedless grapes and 1 cup of white wine. This combination was cooked until the liquid was reduced. Served with a side of polenta this dish was very tasty. Originally I wasn’t sure what cooked grapes would be like but I was very pleased. I will make this simple recipe again.
For the second recipe I decided to make something more challenging so I chose “Red Mullet Ravioli.” Rather than mullet, I used striped bass which is a good substitute. I cooked the fins, tail, and head with wine, onion, carrot, and bouquet garni for one hour. In the meantime I prepared the fillets by just cooking them through, then mashing for the filling. The filling was placed on the pasta and ravioli was made. While the ravioli was chilling I made the fish sauce. The whole ordeal took most of the afternoon but the end result was very worth it. I served the ravioli with a side green salad with a light oil dressing. Everyone raved over the dish.
For the third recipe I chose “Swordfish with Pine Nuts and Raisins.” The swordfish steak was cut into strips and cooked lightly in a skillet. The next step was to deglaze the pan with wine, orange juice, and lemon juice. To the liquid I added a paste of almonds, parsley, mint, and marjoram as well as raisins and pine nuts. Swordfish isn’t one of my favorites but in this dish it was like none other.
As I perused the rest of the “The Country Cooking of Italy,” I noted most of the ingredients can be purchased at the local grocery story. Some of the items were specialty items and I’m sure available in Italian markets. I would highly recommend this book for connoisseurs of Italian cuisine and it would definitely make a wonderful gift for those keen on Italian foods and cookery.