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Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking Hardcover – June 12, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Starred Review. 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060723432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060723439
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With simple dishes like Fish in a Wine and Lemon Sauce, Lamb Braised in Aged Wine Vinegar (studded with garlic and pancetta), Tiny Meatballs in Chicken Stock, Pugliese Baked Rice with Potatoes and Mussels, and Oven Baked Penne with Eggplant, Jenkins ("Flavors of Tuscany," "The Essential Mediterranean") shares the traditions of Southern Italy.

She gives us foods from Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Basilicata, and Puglia, from breads and antipasti through dessert, and places each dish in context with a bit of local color, technique and history.

This is hearty, simple fare, but that doesn't mean quick. There's a certain amount of patient fiddling with Crispy Fried Rice Balls with Ragu and various fried croquettes. Pasta with Sardines and Wild Fennel requires cleaning the sardines, and store-bought crust is not even a rumor for any of the mouthwatering savory pies like Swordfish and Zucchini, Tuna and Tomato or Cheesy Sausage and Ricotta Calzone.

Traditionally meat is not the center of a Southern meal (unlike Italian-American, which Jenkins suggests could be classed as another region of Italian cooking), so Jenkins includes a lot of special occasion or Sunday dinner recipes in her meat and poultry section. This does not mean fancy: Spiced Braised Beef, Pot Roast of Veal with Anchovy Caper Sauce, Rabbit Braised in White Wine.

Boxed comments on techniques, traditions and ingredients are found throughout. The book concludes with a chapter of advice for the traveler and a list of recommended regional restaurants.

This is a book for those who love the heady aromas and leisurely approach to timeless Italian cooking.
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Format: Hardcover
There are three things that immediately irritate me about Cucina Del Sole, a "celebration of southern Italian Cooking," written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. One is calling it a celebration. Sorry, but the word is overused, and I see no streamers and party hats in my office at the moment. The other is a blurb by Alice Waters, who seems to have become a professional book promoter, as I run across her name on the back of one book after another. (Alright, maybe it was just two in a row, but that was too many.) And then there are no pictures, as happens all too often in cookbooks these days.

But the lack of images makes more room for the writing, which is engaging, and I'm delighted to find someone whose penchant for rambling sentences exceeds even mine. The recipes are marvelous and often surprising. For example, I had done a lot of research into pizza last year as I finished writing the Complete Idiot's Guide to Pizza and Panini, but I had never seen an approach that called for a biga - a starter slurry of flour, water, and yeast that is variously called a poolish, levain, or sponge, depending on where in the world you are. (And certainly I hadn't seen the tip of adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to adjust the pH of the dough and make it easier to work.) There's a recipe for making semolina-based pasta, rather than the ubiquitous northern Italian approach of eggs and regular flour. There are terrific seafood recipes (no surprise in southern Italy) and meat dishes with variations that are usual in English texts, like Sicilian Braised Rabbit in a Sweet-and-Sour Sauce. The delights continue through vegetables (Marsala Carrots - what a natural pairing) and desserts (Olive Oil Cake with Walnuts). The book is worth every penny of its price - and is a lot cheaper than flying to Italy to collect the recipes and know-how yourself.
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Format: Hardcover
I've heard it time and time again - a good cook book does not require pictures. Technically, that is true but the trouble is that the culinary arts produces feasts for the eys and the tongue. Food, despite all the claptrap, is a very visual creation - some would say, the most important aspect. I won't go that far but I will say that this would have received a ten star rating if a few color pictures had been added.

One can describe a meal in all its savory, sweet, sour, crunchy goodness but a picture (sorry, folks) is worth a thousand words. The best part of this book, oddly, is not the plethora of fine recipes but the prose. The author occasionally breaks into alphabetic song ("The Importance fo a Tasty Ragu") or prefaces each section with commentary that both explains and delights. There is no getting around the fact that the food of Southern Italy is lowbrow. In fact, that is one of its attractions to novice chefs - it is not necessity to possess knowledge or technique in order to create a wholesome, delicious meal. Many recipes came straight from grandma and have been updated for modern audiences.

Many of the dishes simply require quality products - perhaps the most difficult aspect. Lamb Braised in Marsala requires garlic, wine, EVOO, onions, parsley and lamb. That's it! Technique is the height of ease but the result is incredible. This is true of almost all the recipes included here. Nothing too outlandish or difficult - solid, serious food that is enjoyed by one and all. My Grade: B for lack of photographs
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Format: Hardcover
`Cucina del Sole' is by one of the leading authors of Mediterranean cuisine and cooking, with a bit less volume, but scarcely less quality than Paula Wolfert. She has as good an analytical eye as Wolfert, and one which is even keener than fellow culinary writer, Claudia Roden.
This book covers the region known as the Mezzogiorno d'Italia, those southern provinces of Campania, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily, and approaches with less of the analytical balance of her `The Essential Mediterranean', but with no less an eye for what her readers would really like to know about the cuisines of this region.
One sure sign that a discussion of a cuisine is worthy is when it has much to say which is both expected AND not widely reported in other books. My first hint that Ms. Jenkins was dishing out a more perceptive than average treatment of Italy was when she recounted a time not too long ago when the food for the traveler in Italy was simply nothing about which to write home. My personal revelation came in Florence in the mid-1960's when I went into a local family run eatery, and had what was the most abysmal meal ever served up in any restaurant on either side of the Atlantic. Harmon verifies that observation for much of her subject up to about 35 years ago, when the Mezzogiorno emerged from centuries of being a backwater of Italian commerce. Ironically, this same region was, at one time, especially in the days of the Roman Empire, the premier center of commerce and wealth. Puglia was especially wealthy with its wheat and olive crops, which fed much of Italy in Roman times.
A second discovery was Ms. Harmon's ample evidence of the influence of Spain on the cuisine of the region, especially of Sicily. At one time, the region was ruled by Spain or under its direct influence.
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