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Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking [Hardcover]

Pamela Sheldon Johns
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
“Good food for hard times†– Italian comfort foods from the heart of Tuscany based on peasant-inspired dishes.

"Brava, Ms. Sheldon Johns, for bringing this cooking to us with such grace, and with a reverence that goes to the heart of the Italian cuisine." --InMamasKitchen.com

"Cucina Povera is a delightful culinary trip through Tuscany, revered for its straightforward food and practical people. In this beautifully photographed book you will be treated to authentic recipes, serene landscapes, and a deep reverence for all things Tuscan." --Mary Ann Esposito, the host of PBS' Ciao Italia and the author of Ciao Italia Family Classics

The no-waste philosophy and use of inexpensive Italian ingredients (in Tuscan peasant cooking) are the basis for this lovely and very yummy collection of recipes. --Diane Worthington, Tribune Media Services

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.

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Product Description

About the Author

Pamela Sheldon Johns is a well-known cooking instructor and the host of culinary workshops throughout Italy. She has authored 14 cookbooks, many specializing in Italian food, such as Parmigiano! and Balsamico! Pamela has spent 20 years exploring and writing about the back roads of Italian food culture. She hosts many of her food and wine workshops from her farm in Tuscany, which was recently featured as one of the top 20 culinary workshops in Italy by Food & Wine magazine. She returns to the U.S. several times a year to teach cooking classes and promote her cookbooks.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yum! Sept. 14 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you want a taste of simple, delicious, authentic Italian cooking as well as great stories this is the book.

I can't wait to try some of the recipes -- they are what my Zia's in Italy would prepare when we'd visit.

It is a delightful read!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking Pleasure In Small Things and Eating Well Sept. 16 2011
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For this reader/food lover there's nothing more tempting or satisfying than Italian food, especially the recipes offered by Pamela Sheldon Johns in her beautifully illustrated book. While "cucina povera" literally translated means poor kitchen these dishes are priceless!

Jones opens with an Introduction in which Virio Neri, the cobbler of Montepulciano, is quoted as he praises the food of his youth, a childhood spent "in a time of poverty and intense hunger." He rhapsodizes about fava beans with a touch of sheep's milk cheese, a simple cake. Perhaps, the author notes, "those simple, pure flavors are harder to find now."

Not so, thanks to the over sixty dishes Johns has collected over the years from neighbors, friends and local food producers. The dishes may be simple, but they are supremely satisfying such as the Gnudi, Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings served in a bath of tomato sauce or the Acquacotta, Bread, onion, and Greens soup.

Photographs throughout by Andrea Wyner are gorgeous, and often evocative of happy times past.

One of my favorite parts of a cookbook is the Resources section, which is where I discovered Gustiamo, a purveyor of the finest in Italian foods and found at [...]. We used their Bucatini by Carlo and Carla Latini to make Pasta all Bricole (p.93). This is an amazing dish, comfort food I'd call it, topped with spicy bread crumbs, which are often called "poor man's Parmigiano." Delicious!

Pamela Sheldon Johns suggests we take pleasures in small things and eat well - eating well comes easily, simply, inexpensively with Cucina Povera.

- Gail Cooke
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid 5 star cookbook! Sept. 14 2011
By CristiAk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a beautiful book that is more than a cook book. This is a book you, (and your guests), will thumb through just for the beauty of it. The amazing photographs give one a glimpse of Tuscan and mouthwatering views of the food. The recipes are ones that I found easy to make. The Ricotta Cake is super easy and amazing to serve to guest with coffee. The Acquacotta is now a simple but favorite soup in our home. We also love Uova ai Piselli alla Marelia, (Marelia's Peas and Eggs). This lovely "cookbook" is perfect for gift giving and is one you will want in your home as well.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring an authentic taste of Tuscany to your table Dec 4 2011
By Sarah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I recently spent three weeks in Northern Italy, including Tuscany (Siena, Volterra, Pisa, and Florence). Along the way, I had the opportunity to sample regional Tuscan specialties at numerous osterias, including several Slow Food restaurants. Upon returning home, I was looking for a cookbook that would capture the magical essence of the Tuscan landscapes, honeyed sunsets, and simple but soulful cooking that I'd enjoyed. When I heard about "Cucina Povera," I contacted the author, who was kind enough to write back almost immediately and send a review copy via her publicist.

Pamela Sheldon Johns gives culinary workshops in several regions of Italy, and is the owner of an agriturismo in Montepulciano that has a 1,250-tree olive farm. A regular visitor to Italy for nearly three decades, she has written sixteen cookbooks, many with distinctly Italian themes (Gelato!: Italian Ice Creams, Sorbetti, and Granite, The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Risotto, Prosciutto, Pancetta, Salame, etc.). Her latest work "Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking" focuses on peasant dishes borne of necessity and hardship that are now served in restaurants around the world.

Hit particularly hard during and after WWII, many Tuscan families lived on the brink of starvation, forced to forage and hunt. Leftovers were scrupulously reused, particularly unsalted bread. This gave rise to dishes like ribollita ("reboiled" soup made from vegetables, olive oil, and stale bread) and panzanella (bread salad dressed with tomatoes and olive oil). "Cucina Povera" includes several personal stories from elderly Italians who lived through dire poverty, and their memories of special foods that brightened otherwise difficult times. The memoirs provide a historical footnote to the recipes within without overwhelming the main function as cookbook (roughly the first forty pages are taken up by various interviews and introductions to various areas of Tuscany). There are interesting historical tidbits scattered throughout.

Recipe titles are given in Italian in a large, flowing font with a smaller English translation underneath (both Italian and English titles are indexed, with the Italian recipe names printed in italics). Ingredients and instructions are straightforward and brief for many recipes. Most ingredients are limited largely to pantry staples and bread, olive oil, herbs, and fresh produce (the notable exception are the recipes calling for chestnut flour). If you want to speed things along, using canned stock and canned cooked beans will speed up your cooking time.

Some of the more unusual recipes that caught my eye were schiacciata all'uva (grape foccacia studded with walnuts), farinata toscana (cornmeal, kale, and bean soup), and pomodori, fagoioli e cipolline (roasted tomatoes, beans and onions). You'll also find simple, comfort food favorites pici (fat rolled noodles), frittatas, polenta (including a chestnut variation), meat and game, and regional sweets like Sienese cantucci, ricciarelli, and brutti ma buoni.

I tried making several of the recipes, starting with the roasted tomatoes, beans and onions. The recipe, like many in the book, relies on a few star ingredients, allowing the flavor of each to shine through. I tracked down cipolline onions and fennel to go with the potatoes, tomatoes, and cannellini beans. Perhaps it was the type of potato I used (baby Dutch yellow), but despite baking for the 35 minutes at 400 called for in the recipe, even after an additional hour of roasting, the potatoes remained hard (the other ingredients softened into a buttery sweetness, particularly the cipolline onions and fennel). The next time I make this, I may parboil the potatoes first. The next recipe was the farro soup, which uses a simple base of onion, garlic, carrot and celery to complement the nutty sweetness of the farro. A garnish of parsley adds a dash of bright flavor. Finally, the roasted chicken with vin santo is massaged with aromatic herbs and olive oil, and the pan drippings are then deglazed with marsala (or another fortified wine). The end result was soul-warming comfort food perfect for a blustery fall or winter's day.

The cookbook is gorgeous to look at as well, with heavy paper and deckled edges. The photography vividly captures various aspects of the Tuscan landscapes, from medieval skylines to its interviewed elderly residents cooking and preparing local food. There are a number of historic photographs as well as ample photos of finished dishes. The photographs and pages are matte, so there is no issue of glare if using a cookbook holder. At the back are a list of resources and metric conversions and equivalents.

This is a lovely cookbook that captures the flavors and history behind some of Tuscany's well-known dishes, and a beautiful souvenir for those fortunate enough to have visited some of the varied Tuscan provinces highlighted within.

(Review copy courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh if only I were a Peasant! Feb. 5 2012
By Carolyn Leptich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just because the so-called Peasants relied upon the bounty of their harvests and used grains and locally-available proteins to create their meals doesn't mean they ate poorly. They ate like Kings! This cookbook captures the very essence of some heartwarming meals, as described by the people who ate them and fondly remember them. This book is a delight to read, and even better to make the recipes and taste the simple flavors...and perhaps to remember a wonderful trip to Tuscany. Create a memory for your family and friends, and buy this book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Recipes And Stories... Nov. 1 2011
By PattyLouise - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this book and it's concept...that is why I bought this book!!!
Stories surrounding the recipes warmed my heart...and reminded me of my Italian grandmother.
The recipes are inspiring. Wonderful food made with simple ingredients. These dishes were meant to be shared.
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