Most Italian-American cooking derives from southern Italian fare, yet few cookbooks offer the parent cuisine in all its delicious variety. Nancy Harmon Jenkins's Cucna del Sole
does so expertly. A collection of 200 approachable recipes from Sicily, Calabria, Bastilicata, Puglia, and Campania, the dishes include the likes of Pasta with Tomato and Toasted Almond Pesto; Swordfish in Lemon Caper Sauce; and Slow-Cooked Lamb with Wild Mushrooms. There's a comprehensive section on breads, pizza, and calzone, and a brief but attractive chapter of desserts, such as ricotta tart, Frozen Coffee Pudding, and, of course, cannoli. Good ingredient notes and traveler's advice are present, too.
In her other books, including The Essential Mediterranean, Jenkins offers not only mouth-watering formulas, but pertinent context; the book is also rich in "backstories" like Sicilian Savory Pies, and Pizza in Napoli. Because Jenkins has a journalist's eye and scholar's curiosity, not to mention a cook's know-how, her book also makes good, informative reading. It's unlikely those interested in her subject will find a better introduction to it--or more authentic yet doable southern-Italian dishes. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
In her previous cookbooks, which include Flavors of Tuscany
and Flavors of Puglia
, Jenkins distinguished herself with a no-nonsense and informative approach. She employs the same tone in her latest effort, which offers recipes from the regions of Campania, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia and Sicily. As the author explains, these regions, called the Mezzogiorno, boast a vibrant and varied cuisine. Indeed, the only criticism that might be levied here is that each of the five regions could support a cookbook of its own rather than being lumped into one. Poverty appears to have been the mother of invention in Southern Italy: Jenkins provides several versions of pancotto, basically soup stretched with leftover bread. She also points up the much less frequent use of meat and the prevalence of vegetable stews such as Basilicata's Ciaudedda o Stufato di Verdure with artichokes and fava beans. Jenkins is frank about the difficulty of finding some ingredients in the U.S.: the recipe for Sicily's classic Pasta Colle Sarde acknowledges that its wild fennel is both irreplaceable and hard to track down. A chapter on travel to Southern Italy rounds out this pragmatic volume about an area that Americans are just beginning to explore in large numbers. (Mar.)
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