Top positive review
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Exciting, workable, fresh, bright-tasting "restaurant" recipes
on June 18, 2013
I'm not usually a fan of restaurant cookbooks, but the words "Simple, Seasonal, Italian" on the front cover called to me, and hinted that this might not be a typical restaurant cookbook. (Meaning: Full of regionally-sourced, hard-to-find and expensive ingredients and complicated, fancy cooking; at least that's been my experience lately.) And even though my research told me that Franny's became popular because of its pizza, I knew--just by looking at the cover--that this was not (just) a cookbook of pizza recipes. Looking through the Table of Contents didn't give much insight into the type of recipes I might find inside. But my heart started thumping as soon as I read the names of the recipes in the first chapter "Crostini". Yes, this book was not only calling me, it was hollering to me!
And I'm so glad I listened, because I've not been disappointed. I could rely on this single cookbook all summer long and be happy. This is the nicest and most user-friendly "restaurant" cookbook I've ever run across. There are so many good recipes that are mouth-watering just reading through them. They are not difficult recipes either. (For the most part, that is; I'll get more into that later in my review.) Plus, as I went through, page by page, there was the alluring realization that the authors of this book actually care about what they do and the love shines--brightly--through. It is obvious that the people involved in this restaurant are attentive, conscientious, and very good at putting flavors together.
But I can't disregard the fact that this is, first and foremost, a book featuring recipes from an Italian-oriented restaurant, and the recipes were created by the people who prepare the meals in this top quality and busy place. While this fact doesn't faze me, it may turn you off. So, excuse the length of this review, but I've decided it would be helpful to the reader (and helpful to promoting this cookbook) if I gave a lot of examples. I found the "Look Inside" feature did not tell me what I wanted to know and thought you might feel the same way. So, keep on reading, or don't.
For instance: The cucumber salad* calls for several varieties of cukes, cut in different ways, (I used two varieties from my garden and it turned out just fine); the tomato and herb salad* calls for four varieties of tomatoes, different sizes and colors and flavors, some are marinated, some are fresh, plus three varieties of basil, and all together 15 ingredients, (Lucky me, I have all those ingredients in my garden and my pantry). You will find ingredient lists that call for Italian cheeses and cured meats that you might have to research and find alternatives for, depending on where you live. And these are not one-pot recipes--you will find several steps/processes in many of the recipes, (I do not mean complicated or tedious--these recipes are not difficult to prepare and directions are very clear.) If you have some cooking experience under your belt, I think you will be able to find work-arounds for any challenges you may find in these recipes. Plus "tips" are scattered frequently throughout the book.
What got my heart beating in the "Crostini" chapter? These toppings: Slowly-cooked in olive oil zucchini with garlic and basil, smashed cherry tomatoes and Pantaleo (or Pecorino) cheese*; Grilled whole Japanese eggplant, whipped with garlic and oil, seasoned, then topped with anchovy*; fresh beans cooked with herbs and garlic--some pureed, some left whole (I even kept the cooking liquid, it tasted so good.)*; whipped tuna, anchovy, butter, lemon and capers, seasoned, then topped with chopped olives.
Liking this book as much as I say I do, you might be surprised to learn there are some chapters that I will probably never use: Deep-frying is something we don't get into at home, so I won't use the 15 recipes that utilize the recipe for Zeppole batter. (But I will use the anchovy mayo and chili honey condiments that I found in that chapter.) I may or may not find time to get interested in the "Meat" chapter that is all about making your own pork sausage and curing pork. And I won't be making the 15 recipes in the "Pizza" chapter. No matter how good it tastes, we are just not that into a pizza crust that necessitates pre-heating a pizza stone at 500 degrees for an hour. I will use some of those topping recipes, though, to top other things. And there is a chapter on drinks that appear too sophisticated and time-consuming for my taste, (although I look forward to researching some of the liquors that I've never heard of.)
In the "Salad" chapter, besides what I mentioned above, there is a wonderful red rice and fresh veggie and herb salad* and a radicchio and bean salad. In the "Soup" chapter, we've already tried the zucchini and basil soup*. Between the cooking techniques and the combination of herbs, onions, garlic, oil and seasoning, the flavor (of a normally bland veggie) was astonishing.
There are 19 veggie recipes: To highlight a few: Sugar snap peas, ricotta, mint and lemon*; zucchini with mint, garlic and chili*; stewed zucchini, mint, olives and tomatoes; pole beans with potatoes, olives, anchovies and egg; marinated rainbow chard; roasted Brussels sprouts with almonds and pecorino; spicy raisins, pumpkin and almonds; roasted beets, with pickled hot peppers, walnuts and ricotta salata*; a refrigerator pickle containing carrots, celery, fennel, onion, and peppers (giardiniera pickles).
The "Seafood" chapter contains several squid recipes that look interesting (I'm allergic, so I've not tried any.) Plus there are a few others using fish I can't find fresh in my area. But there is a tuna confit with fresh beans, potatoes, onion, lemon and herbs that I look forward to trying, and mussels with white beans and fennel seeds.
There are 25 recipes in the "Pasta" chapter: Penne with zucchini, mint and garlic; spaghettini cooked in shrimp broth; pasta with swordfish cubes, olives, capers and mint*; penne with spicy, caramelized cauliflower; pasta with guanciale, chili flakes and ricotta; and linguine with Meyer lemons.
In the "Dessert" chapter there are 11 gelato recipes, small 6"crostatas, and familiar cakes.
Last, but not least, you will find a recipe for a very special, simple condiment: "Cheater's Moscato Vinegar". (It gives me similar--better--results as when I use Alessi Orange Blossom Honey Balsamic Vinegar that I can no longer find in my area.) Moscato Vinegar is truly a gem of a condiment.
Other info: The type style and size are readable, layout is easy to follow, pictures are beautiful and well-done.
Did you notice several asterisks? Those are recipes that I actually made and my family ate. All were accurate and will get made again.
I highly recommend this cookbook--although it would be especially helpful if you grow your own veggies and herbs, patronize a large farmers' market or live near a quality Italian-oriented grocery store.
I received a temporary download of the advance copy of this cookbook from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a review.