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Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking Hardcover – June 12, 2007
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was pleased with the book, and the speed with which it came; Will definitely use them again
if I order a book that they have, that I want.
Cucina del Sole is a wonderfully written paen to the cooking of Southern Italy. I not only enjoyed seeing recipes for the many foods I enjoyed in Naples, etc; I enjoyed seeing... Read morePublished on September 9, 2009 by Star Walker
I received this book as a gift and was mightily impressed by the selection of recipes and accompanying articles. Read morePublished on August 11, 2008 by D Brookes
Ms Jenkins once again has shown her intimate knowledge of Italy and its food ways. She has chosen less well known regions to provide authentic flavors and foods rather than the... Read morePublished on April 3, 2008 by Terence Janericco