The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen
by Diane Darrow, Tom Maresca
Never have I reviewed a cookbook on this blog, but never have I loved a cookbook as much as this one. It's out of print, which is too bad, because it's just a joy to read. Here's the authors discussing the issue of frying in olive oil:
Well-fried food is not greasy or heavy; in fact, properly fried food usually creates a palatial impression of lightness and purity, as if the food's natural flavor has been heightened, not obscured. The olive oil component of the flavor is like the harmony line that makes the melody more interesting. And foods cooked in olive oil are not unhealthy unless that's all you ever eat -- but you could say the same of water. In the Italian diet, fried foods are balanced out by fresh fruits and vegetables, by pasta and rice and wine. Some fat is essential for human nutrition, and olive oil is the best there is. (p.129)Yes, most of the book is like this. The recipes are arranged by season, then by course (primi, secondo, etc.). Each one -- not each meal, but each recipe in each course -- has extensive and well thought out wine recommendations.
Although the book isn't vegetarian, there are plenty of vegetarian and even some vegan dishes here, and they're all fantastic. When we first came to Austin, I made a meal of capri salad, pasta with uncooked sauce (fresh tomatoes, parsley, onions, olive oil, wine vinegar), zucchini marinated with mint, and I believe granita. Wonderful, and that's not because of the cook -- the recipes are simple enough even for me to make.
If you see this one for sale somewhere, pick it up. Even if you think you hate "Italian food" (or that stuff that goes by the name, covered with horridly processed tomato sauce sweetened with corn syrup). Make the pasta with uncooked sauce (salsa cruda), the fusilli vesuvius, the eggplant parmesan, the zucchini marinated with mint, the capri salad ... And do what I do: buy your olive oil in three-gallon containers. It's worth it!
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Update 2011.09.05: Amazon now has this book, new, in paperback!