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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace and Flavor
By Bill Marsano. 1993 was a landmark year for cookbooks: That was the year Contessa Anna Tasca Lanza published "The Heart of Sicily." Long out of print, it is now restored to us at last. Cause for rejoicing! The Contessa seldom uses her title; in fact, she prefers to be known for her cooking and her cooking school. And so she is--internationally. The importance...
Published on December 19, 2003 by Bill Marsano

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bouillon cubes, margarine, cornstarch, gelatin, canned tuna!
The book is picturesque, the recipes are okay, but for some the use of Bouillon cubes, margarine, powdered gelatin, cornstarch instead of flour for the pastries to produce a lighter effect, vegetable oil, and canned tuna, in some of the recipes will put you off. If you read in the ingredients glossary and notes in the front of the book, you will see the notation that...
Published on July 9, 2011 by Sustainable Global Foodie


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace and Flavor, December 19, 2003
By 
Bill Marsano (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
By Bill Marsano. 1993 was a landmark year for cookbooks: That was the year Contessa Anna Tasca Lanza published "The Heart of Sicily." Long out of print, it is now restored to us at last. Cause for rejoicing! The Contessa seldom uses her title; in fact, she prefers to be known for her cooking and her cooking school. And so she is--internationally. The importance of her title is only this: It ties her to Regaleali, the great estate that has been at the heart of Sicily for centuries--since the time, in fact, of the Arab conquest, when the place was known as Rahal-Ali or Village of Ali. Sicilian cooking isn't "Italian cooking"--it's one of the 20 or so related cuisines to be found in Italy, and it is at the same time the most and least original. Most because it is so little akin to any of the others; least because it's really a composite, developed from so many other source cuisines: Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, French, Spanish. Still, it's not exactly a mystery because so many of the 19th-Century immigrants to America were Sicilians, and their food was, for many of us, the first "Italian food" we tasted. The book naturally follows a seasonal menu--Regaleali, though mostly a winery, remains enough of a farm to grow most of its own food. Also, since the sea in Sicily is never far away, there is much to be made of anchovies and swordfish and tuna. Finally, since we are in Sicily, the sweets and pastries are breath-taking. The Contessa is a non-nonsense cook, I was relieved to find. For all her fame and stature she is perfectly content with boullion cubes, noting only that pepper and especially salt must be added with great care at the end of cooking to avoid over-seasoning. Likewise she's not one of those who claim that olive oil cannot be kept for more than a year--keep it cool and in the dark, she says, and it will keep far longer. You will find here recipes familiar and recipes startlingly new to you, and there is overall a conversational approach: You feel as if you and she are cooking on the same side of the stove. Most important you will find that the Contessa's beauty and dignity infuse her prose style as well. To take but one example: "The winter sunshine in Sicily is one of the most beautiful things you can experience. I remember one magical day, one of those days I call a gift from God. The sky was blue, blue, blue, and the countryside green everywhere. From where I stood, I could see the Madonie Mountains, covered with snow, and Etna, also snowcapped, in the distance. All around me was silence, except for a few birds here and there talking to one another." The recipes are clearly laid out and easy enough to follow. You will want to take care to purchase Regaleali wines, which bear the label of the Counts Tasca d-Almerita, to serve with them (look them up at [...] The many, many photographs are spectacular.--Bill Marsano is a James Beard award-winning writer on wine, food and travel.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Way of Life: Food & Family on a Grand Estate, July 10, 2001
By 
Margaret Cowan (Vancouver, B.C. Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
Anna Tasca immerses you in the daily life of her noble, progressive, very close knit family whose life revolves around enjoying food, wine and each other's company and love. You feel like you're by their sides through all the seasons in the kitchen and on the land on their Regaleali estate. As you drool over the recipes of each season, from simple to exotic to complicated, from traditional to more modern, you feel Anna is chatting away with you. On things like how she and a team made tomato extract from 4000 pounds of tomatoes over 10 days, how her family expanded their wine business (her mum went from restaurant to restaurant selling 130,000 bottles one year), how important citrus is in Sicilian cooking (some wonderful recipes like Citrus Risotto!), how their shepherds make cheese, how they all celebrate the end of the harvest and new wine (same menu every year, her parents start the dancing). I'm an average cook so I stick to the easier recipes and dream of going to Sicily again to taste the others! A delightful book!....
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italian Cruisine, May 9, 2000
By 
Jennifer (United States of America) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
Anna Lanza heartfelt look at Italian culture and cruisine was splendid because of her personal view of Sicily. The photos contained in the book were so beautiful (and there were so many)! I have made several of the recipes and they were easy to follow and turned out exceptional.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just A Cookbook!, November 30, 2013
By 
MG (Cloverdale,CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
OMG! I cannot say enough about this book. It seems unfair to just call it a cookbook, because dispersed amongst the wonderful recipes are Anna's stories, and snippets of Sicilian history. I am savoring it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sicily at It's Best, September 18, 2013
This review is from: Heart of Sicily (Hardcover)
La TAVOLA: Adventures and Misadventures of Italian American New Yorker's This is a wonderful book. It's filled with great recipes, wonderful stories and beautiful pictures. It's a gem, but out of print and quite expensive now. If you'd like to read a great book with wonderful stories of Sicily, Italian-America and Sicilian American food, I just came across a wonderful book by New York Italian-American author Daniel Bellino Zwicke called "La Tavola" Italian-American New Yorkers Adventures of The Table .. I highly reccomend it as well of Tasca's "The Heart of Sicily" if you can find it for $30 or less, but not $84 and up. Basta!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sicily, August 29, 2012
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This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
Terrific book.Great pictures and stories. The real Sicily.
Not just about cooking, but about life in Sicily. Loved it. Great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!, December 27, 2011
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This review is from: Heart of Sicily (Hardcover)
I was given this book nineteen years ago on my 50 birthday. It sits proudly on the baker's rack for all to see. Purchase this book if only for the Caponata recipe, which I make every December 28th in double batches for a large feast we have to celebrate our anniversary. I saw the daughter Fabrizia's YouTube version of the recipe and I am saddened that it's not the same.

I wish I could have visited Regaleali during Anna Tasca's lifetime.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Sicily, December 17, 2009
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This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
Regaleali is one of the most prestigious wine estates in Sicily and it is great to use their recipes. The book is full of interesting information about the island and its customs and some of the best recipes around. I use the caponata recipe and people say its the best they've ever had! Enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have for Fans of Sicily, December 2, 2014
By 
Angelina (Manhattan, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, A Country Estate (Hardcover)
Beautiful book for cooks and even folks who just like to read about recipes. The narrative provides some context for how the recipes developed -- I'm so happy to have this book!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bouillon cubes, margarine, cornstarch, gelatin, canned tuna!, July 9, 2011
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This review is from: Heart of Sicily (Hardcover)
The book is picturesque, the recipes are okay, but for some the use of Bouillon cubes, margarine, powdered gelatin, cornstarch instead of flour for the pastries to produce a lighter effect, vegetable oil, and canned tuna, in some of the recipes will put you off. If you read in the ingredients glossary and notes in the front of the book, you will see the notation that broth may be substituted for bouillon. In most good cookbooks, the opposite notation is made. They provide the recipe for the broth, but note that you can substitute if pressed.

There are lots of travelogue photos, and not so many of the finished dishes. There are 105 recipes in all, including little ones like how to make mashed potatoes, and pizza topping variations, etc. There are around 24 photos of the dishes, including the jello molds and marmalade. There are a lot of photos (pages!) regarding cheese production but no corresponding recipe for making the cheese. What a tease!

The one bread (dough) recipe is for semolina bread, and it is baked as soon as it is risen, about 45 minutes to 1 hour after mixing. Many prefer bread doughs which have matured to develop complexity and more taste. The pages of prose and photos on bread-making cover the bread made by Carmelo, the village baker, who kneads his dough for 30-35 minutes (I am thinking we at home would use a food processor!), and leaves it to rise on a cloth covered-blanket, covered by a double quilt, for at least 3 hours depending on the heat of the day, before baking on a wood fired oven. It seems kind of weird to use Carmelo's bread and doughs as the standard used in later recipes, not provide Carmelo's recipe, and give us an ersatz recipe named after Carmelo, when that recipe is most likely to be far far from the breads and doughs that Carmelo makes. I do appreciate the description of Carmelo's techniques, but the author should have provided his recipe too, IMO, especially when she tells us about using his dough for other recipes.

Later in the book, there is a butter and olive oil pizza dough recipe which calls for hand-kneading around 13-19 minutes, rising for 45 minutes, before baking. Normally, one hour is the bare minimum to develop the flavor of pizza dough. These days, it is common to use doughs which have developed for much longer periods. The Jim Lahey and other artisan no-knead bread and pizza doughs which are wet mixed and left to sit to develop take a lot of the work out of breads and pizzas without sacrificing taste. The author of Heart of Sicily is providing what we would consider convenience pizza and bread.

Maybe I am being picky, and I am certainly not saying that this is a bad book. What I am trying to convey, though, is that it is a certain type of book. If I could have previewed this book in a bookstore, there is no way that I would have bought it, on philosophical grounds. Do the recipes taste good, probably yes. Am I going to make the ones with canned tuna, gelatin, cornstarch, etc.? No, I am not. Will I consider substituting objectionable ingredients? Yes, I am willing to replace the margarine and hope that it does not change the recipe, as it could. As for the many recipes which call for bouillon, I am not sure what to do. Many bouillon cubes have MSG, an excito-toxin which makes food taste better by using this chemical means to dupe the body. So, it is potentially a big change to substitute broth, and there are no recipes for broth, or bouillon cube substitutes.

After living with this book for a few weeks, and now revisiting it because Amazon prompted me to review or edit prior review, I find that I like the book better than the above might indicate. I am also interested in the photos of the tomatoes drying in the open. I am not sure how sanitary that open-drying is, but I am considering making screen-enclosed versions of the Sicilian drying screens which the book shows as elevated stiff metal screens with tomato halves simply laid on them cut sides up. My father's home-made drying contraptions were screen boxes (no glass) with racks which allowed air to circulate all around the items, much like the Sicilian drying racks shown in this book. He is gone now, but this book makes me think that he had a workable, valid, system for warm weather drying, despite what the books say about elevating the temperature in the drying boxes by installing plates, and enclosing the sides, etc. I am most grateful!
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