From the first page, Nancy Harmon Jenkins draws you deep into the soul of Tuscany, where she lives part of the year and where tradition heavily shades daily life. Jenkins calls Tuscans "the Yankees of Italy" because they are as frugal and plainspoken as the New Englanders with whom she grew up. Their food is elementally simple, relying heavily on the region's unique, salt-free bread, pane scicco
, the intense olive oil that has become famous around the world, and beans slowly cooked in a tall clay pot, or fiasco
Jenkins enthralls the reader as she discusses Tuscan food and how her friends and neighbors gather, raise, and prepare it. Flavors of Tuscany is dense with good food. There are roasts, the bread-based soup ribollita, crostini, and less-known pleasures such as tomato-studded High Summer Risotto and Braised Sweet Pepper Stew. Jenkins's observations about a fast-changing way of living resonate with anyone who cares about quality of life. Her culinary descriptions may inspire you to build an outdoor brick oven or plan a trip to taste the wines, olive oil, and other special flavors of Tuscany. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
Rarely does an author so comprehensively connect gastronomy to geography as Harmon Jenkins does in this beautifully mapped and lovingly detailed collection of Tuscan delicacies. Having owned a house near Cortona for 25 years, she spends good blocks of text introducing us to the landscape and the neighbors from whom she draws inspiration. Foodstuffs are tagged to their specific Tuscan regions (e.g., a Rice and Onion Tart with ricotta, we learn, is typical of the Lunigiana hill in northern Tuscany). Simple ingredients are the hallmark of this cuisine, so these recipes demand the freshest of vegetables and meats, Italian-style flour and, if possible, access to a pig liver or two. This is no cuisine for vegetarians, Harmon Jenkins enjoys pointing out: even the Meatless Ragu includes a couple of ounces of prosciutto. So, pastas with meat sauce, chicken, pork and rabbit claim most of the glory until it's time for the desserts. Drawn from the recipes of Cortona dessert master Emilio Banchelli, these include Fried Rags for Epiphany or Carnival (pastry flavored with sherry and aniseed) and a Rustic Torte of hazelnut. Harmon Jenkins surpasses most regional cookbooks with captivating prose notable for her smart use of similes to bring exotic dishes down to earth. Her Crostini is "what we might call Etruscan egg salad." In addition to a bibliography, there is a section on where to eat when you go to visit, a short chapter on Tuscan wines and one devoted to the only potable that takes priority over vino: olive oil.
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