This book is a wonderful companion and guide to a cook, yielding delicious, often classic dishes little known outside of Italy. It is well written by Coleman Andrews, with his 40 some years of intimate knowledge of Italian cookery. He concisely shares his cooking suggestions and "pearls" in a welcomed educational manner. Finally, it's beautiful book to look at, both with its layout and its photographs. Yes, there's hundreds of Italian cookbooks to select from, and this is already one of my top few.
This is a book to cook delicious yet simple authentic Italian meals from. Simple, not fancy. I'm a pretty good cook, and I'd rather master a delicious recipe with 5 ingredients than one with 15-20 ingredients, and hours of preparation time. It's a book to treasure with Andrews' insights on Italy and Italian cooking. I learned that recipes that many think are "traditional" are barely 100 years old. Did you know that tiramisu is less than 50 years old? That classic spaghetti all'Amatriciana is traditionally made with the luscious guanciale, and not pancetta? Scampi are actually a little lobster-like cousin with elongated claws, and not a shrimp? They taste different, too! He shares his decades of "boots on the ground" experience in Italy with you as a chef/friend, opening a window into Italy's culinary history. Bonus- You become better cook in the process. Is each recipe the "authentic one"? Given that a recipe has variations within the same family, town and region, it's definitely authentic to certain credible Italian cooks, and clearly more authentic than recipes "tarted up" by authors who have never dined on a back road "mom and pop" find in Italy.
Delicious cooking depends on fresh ingredients and proper technique. You do your part with getting the former, and Mr. Andrews covers your back well with the latter. There's ways to cook pasta that work: adding oil to the pot doesn't work. Try recipes like duck with bitter orange sauce, Sicilian style pork loin, stewed pork ribs with sausage, veal stew with red peppers and black olives, cianfotta, stuffed eggplant, apfelkuchel, and pear sorbetto, to name a few.
I have visited Italy several times, dined in Italian's homes, and favor simple fresh flavorful dishes. No foams, gratuitous fois gras, molecular gastronomy glues or trendy ingredients here-. they are fine, elsewhere. No Food Network Americanized Italian here. If you need "New York" Italian cuisine, look elsewhere. Properly grilled shrimp with rosemary is ambrosia. Without the proper grill heat, you won't get it right. A fritto misto di mare won't be right unless the seafood's at the right temperature to begin with, then fried at the right temperature too. I've cooked Andrews' recipes and they let you create the real deal, right in your home.
The fifteen chapters amply cover soups, pastas, rice and polenta, savory pies, foccacia, fish, shellfish, poultry, rabbit, pork, lamb, goat, veal, beef, game, offal, salads and desserts. No shortage of recipes, each with helpful hints on preparation and the dish's culinary background. With over 375 pages of recipes, this could have been two or three books for most other authors.
Simple cooking is cook-friendly, with most recipes needing only a handful of ingredients. This assumes that you already have fresh herbs and spices, olive oil, butter, and flour. Toss out that grocery store-bought olive oil bottle, and flour, and buy some fresh, before you begin-your taste buds will thank you.
For Italian ingredients not readily available in all grocery stores, be it pheasant,wild game, goat, guanciale, lentils, cheeses, etc., there's a list of top quality suppliers in the back. His list of consulted cook books can be a guide to completing your Italian cookery library with well written classics.
Buy The Country Cooking of Italy so you can cook some wonderful savory and sweet dishes that easily look as attractive as the photos, and equally enjoy it as a great reading companion. And yes, this will be a great gift for that special friend or relative!