If you like to mix reading and cooking, Cesare Casella offers a delightful blend of family reminiscences and recipes for Tuscan dishes in this charmingly written, culinarily opinionated book. Casella first came to the attention of food lovers while cooking at Il Vipore, the restaurant his parents started in a small Tuscan town near Lucca in 1964. Under his guidance, the restaurant won a Michelin star in 1993, the same year he moved to New York City to cook at Coco Pazzo. In Diary of a Tuscan Chef he enthusiastically shares stories about his parents and family and of growing up in rural Italy. The accompanying recipes are, of course, for Tuscan dishes. There is supernally hearty Zuppa di Gran Farro della Garfagnana, made with a grain available at Italian markets (or that you can replace with barley) and Pesto alla Cesare, enlightened with fresh chervil (or parsley) and anchovies. Crostini of Tuscan bread made with tomatoes and aromatic herbs, including ginger, perfectly illustrates how Casella's cooking blends tradition with creativity. Whether its 150 recipes please or startle you, Diary of a Tuscan Chef is bound to enchant.
From Publishers Weekly
Having cooked for New Yorkers since 1993 (at Coco Pazzo, Il Toscanaccio, Il Cantinori), Casella presents traditional recipes from his native Lucca that are often tweaked with ingredients more likely to be found in New York City than in Tuscany (e.g., ginger and lemongrass). Dividing the book by seasons, he offers menus built around seasonally fresh ingredients and suggests appropriate wines. Ten four-course meals (antipasto, prima and seconda piatta, dolce) contain menu combinations that evoke specific moments in Casella's life: one winter menu, L'Arrivo a New York (Arriving in New York), combines beans, mushrooms and game with Chick-Pea and Leek Salad; a smoky Pasta with Mushroom Sauce (cremini, shiitake, oyster and portobello); Rabbit, Hunter's Style cooked in white wine with garlic, sage, rosemary and olives; and a creamy Country Apple Tart. Celebrating Spring vegetables is a menu called Cesare Va in Dieta (Cesare Goes on a Diet), which features a Seven-Vegetable Salad; Do-It-Yourself Vegetable Soup (he encourages improvising); Chicken in Paper, with bell and chile peppers, tomatoes and cinnamon; and light Meringue Cookies. Although many recipes may take time to prepare, they are easy to follow and don't require special equipment or rare ingredients.
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