Italian

ImageHaving lived and traveled in France repeatedly over the years I know pretty well the regional differences when it comes to food. Like what the specialty of a region is, or where a specific dish hails from. Italy is another matter completely. I have a general sense of the regional differences, north versus south, Tuscan, Roman and Sicilian. Those differences also vary widely from village to village and province to province. The longest stretch of continuous time I’ve spent in Italia was two and half months. I spent that time in the region of Umbria — smack, dab in the middle of the country. Food there was unfamiliar, and I could easily have used the wonderful book “Italy Dish by Dish” to guide me and answer unending questions I had about the region’s food.

Italy Dish by Dish” is here to answer travelers’ (both armchair and mobile) questions about what is what when it comes to food, eating, cooking and dining in Italy. The book describes more than 3,000 dishes found throughout every region of Italy. Broken down by region each chapter is organized alphabetically by course then by ingredient and ends with an iconic recipe that represents that area; for example the chapter on Umbria ends with a recipe for Pizza di Pasqua al formaggio – a dish I remember fondly. There are also listings for the region’s cheeses and wines as well as food and wine pairing suggestions. A detailed glossary describes the bounty of the land and sea that makes up la cucina italiana while an index easily puts menu items close at hand.

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jaimesitaly.jpg In our house, we think Jamie Oliver walks on water.  Every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy rocks.  And all you have to do is follow the directions.  The variation on spaghetti carbonara with chicken instead of ham is genius.  The Prawn and Parsley frittata is totally great (and I don’t even like frittatas and neither does Jamie Oliver). 

And it’s just so simple to use!  And it’s kind of like having a friend in the kitchen.  The grilled swordfish with salsa di giovanna is an exercise in simple bliss.  And the whole fish baked in salt is something you didn’t think you could try at home.... 

Buy Jamie's Italy

wineloveritalian.jpgHow could I not get this book? The title is me. What makes this better than most wine pairing books is that it really delves into the recipes and specialties that make each region unique, explaining wine types, laws and labeling terms along the way. The recipes aren’t always quick or easy, but they are authentic and quite flavorful.

How can you go wrong cooking Spaghettini with Shrimp and Ginger, Macaroni and Cheese with Truffle Oil (better the second day), Osso Buco Emilia-Romagna Style or Slow-Baked Lamb with Potatoes? Plus, they choose the wine for you. A book that makes learning and eating a pleasure.

As recommended by Lisa Dinsmore

Buy The Wine Lover Cooks Italian

adventuresofan.jpg Conventional wisdom says a good cookbook is one that allows you to reproduce a given recipe with consistently successful results. Another opinion is that the recipes should be really special, not run-of-the-mill or the best versions of classics. I may be in the minority, but I most appreciate a cookbook that inspires me, gives me good ideas, and points the way. This is such a cookbook.

I've cooked Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies twice and tweaked it just a bit. The combination of ingredients is most important, after that, as with all recipes, find the balance that works for you. Just a few other recipes from the book that I find intriguing include Campari Cocktails with Salami and Figs, Pasta and Bean Salad with Celery Pesto, Leek and Sausage Orzotto, Risotto with Almonds and Broccoli and Baked Cherry Tomatoes.

As recommended by Amy Sherman

Buy Adventures of an Italian Food Lover

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