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Robert C. Ross
- Published on Amazon.com
The New York Review of Books is currently running an excellent deal on all four of the books in this series:
All the RSFP recipes are rooted in la cucina povera, “the food of the poor,” a style of simple, wholesome, and wonderfully flavorful cooking that developed centuries ago in the agricultural communities of Italy. The recipes are healthy and economical, and will quickly become go-to dishes for everyday meals as well as special occasions—the spirit of la dolce vita inspires all of the RSFP cookbooks. Gorgeous photos by Annie Schlechter illustrate the recipes, and allow readers a glimpse into the kitchen, dining room, and garden of the American Academy in Rome.
Whether you’re interested in vegetable dishes, soups, pasta, or something sweet, take advantage of our 30% discount on Verdure, Zuppe, Pasta, and Biscotti. The set of all four books—a memorable gift—is available at 40% off.
Three years ago I found this an inspirational book, which encouraged me to make soup on the spur of the moment, quicker and better than the ones I bought in cans or even frozen from the fancy Market Basket here in Franklin Lakes. It continues to inspire; last night I made a soup with approximately the following ingredients:
One celery stalk
One half small onion
One garlic clove
Half cup diced tomatoes
Sprinkle of quinoa -- maybe quarter of a cup
Enough vegetable stock to cover
Some spices -- Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base 8 oz and McCormick Italian Seasoning
Bring to boil, and then simmer until tastes right -- maybe ten minutes
Lots of Italian recipes are much less precise, at least those published in Italy. If "nonnulla", literally a "not nothing", a trifle, bothers you and you seek more precision, pick another introduction to Italian cooking. Whatever you choose, a cuisine focusing on quality ingredients is well worth mastering.
According to the Academy's website, "the Rome Sustainable Food Project provides the community of the American Academy in Rome with a collaborative dining program that nourishes scholarship and conviviality." People who have been lucky enough to attend the Academy sing the praises of studying and also working "making their daily bread". Here is Brad Kessler:
"The kitchen at the academy knits together the seemingly disparate worlds of scholarship and eating. Culture and agriculture. Art on the page (canvas or mosaics) and art on the table. In Rome these arts have never been far removed. The kitchen teaches this, not with lectures or books or power-point presentations, but with a more immediate means: food placed into the mouth. The knowledge enters the fellows directly--alimentarily--without the brain getting in the way."
This is a collection of 50 recipes for soups, more with the several variations she suggests, an essential element of a Roman meal. Mona Talbott is a great believer in "cucina povera" ["cuisine of the poor"]; her recipes waste nothing and employ the concept of "arrangiarsi" ["making do"]. Soup is a wonderful way to transform leftovers, she believes, and notes which soups can be made into one-dish meals with the addition of a poached egg, grilled toast, or even clams.
I've been able to try five of the soups, each of which was relatively easy to make and each of which taught me a little bit more about Rome and the Lazio region in general. The Chickpea, Pumpkin, and Farro Soup was wonderfully warming on the first day of spring here in New Jersey, a raw and blustery day. I also liked the Pasta e Ceci and Pasta e Fagioli, but then I'm a great fan of Garbanzo Beans -- Zuppe certainly improved my preparation of a favorite ingredient.
You can read a couple of sample recipes on the website of The Little Bookroom, which published this fine cookbook; the introductory material is particularly useful. For example, I would never have considered a cold or room temperature minestra soup, but the recipe here would certainly be very refreshing on a hot summer's day. Who ever considered barley water as a base, and yet barley water is well known for its hydrating properties.
This book is the second in the series; the first is Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project, and the publisher promises other volumes in what promises to be a beautiful series.
In the meantime, let Talbott sum up: "Wholesome, egalitarian and economical, soup is the perfect food for our modern lives."
Robert C. Ross
revised February 2015