Food Adventures

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Adventures of an Italian Food Lover

I have been busy reading a number of books on Italian food and wine. First, let's talk about the new Faith Willinger book, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover.

This is part travel guide for food lovers, part storybook, part cookbook. Willinger tells stories about her friends (chefs, restaurant owners, wine consultants and couple of her family members), describes the food-related establishments they are associated with, and provides the recipes they make. Her masterful story-telling is combined with a great deal of useful information on interesting places to visit, ingredients to look for, and things to do.

The book can easily serve as a travel guide for foodies: there are enough restaurant recommendations to keep even the most dedicated among us busy for years. I look forward to planning many itineraries around the farms, restaurants, and food stores described in this book.

For now, the most interesting part of the book are the recipes. They range from simple to quite complex and from familiar (arista) to completely surprising (pasta with chicken bone sauce). Many of them have their origins in peasant cuisine and use leftovers and simple ingredients in new and creative ways. I can't wait to try the leftover beef and potatoes and the pasta with chicken bone sauce.

My favorite part is that Willinger is not afraid to adapt these recipes so they are more accessible to the home cook. For example, in the recipe for eggplant puree, she cooks the eggplant in the microwave, something many Italian chefs would disapprove of, but a technique that will make the home cook more likely to try the recipe.

Many comments about the ingredients and potential substitutions reveal once again Willinger's focus on quality and tradition. She not only describes the ingredients she uses and explains why they are appropriate, but also suggests what you can substitute if you are not lucky enough to live anywhere close to Italy.

What is the first recipe I tried? Tuscan brownies, of course. They are made with extra virgin olive oil and come out very moist and gooey, but also light. Because they are made with olive oil, they are supposed to stay fresh longer, but I won't have a chance to report on that because this first batch will not last long enough.

Stay tuned for more comments on Willinger's recipes!


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