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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading, for the first time, my copy of "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" (which became available yesterday). I'll be going back to it, of course, later in the day.....but my first thought is "Oh, I'll be giving this to so many friends" .

"The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" is just a lovely, really generously-spirited book. I was immediately reminded of another most-favorite book of mine, Robert Arbor's "Joie de Vivre". Both his and Mayes's books gently (unlike Signora Marcella Hazan's markedly strict skoolmarming) suggest/remind the reader that you don't have to actually be Italian or French, or own a villa or a chateau (or have more-time-on-your-hands-than-God-does) in order to ENJOY cooking and entertaining in a way that eventually might become second-nature to you. Both books remind me of Julia Child's superb (and very useful) "The Way to Cook".

All three books make a basic, quite practical point: Stop turning yourself into some harried, anxiety-filled kitchen-drudge, as though you were opening a restaurant or auditioning for your own Food Network show...when you're supposed to be enjoying your friends, family, and the actual cooking/eating.....and keep it (the food, table-settings, "dinner party etiquette", etcetera) refreshingly simple. The Mayes, Arbor, and Child have all obviously hit the right note....particularly during these days when (as I've noticed all too frequently) folks set themselves up for anxiety/"failure" by acting as though they have to compete with restaurants and whatever-they've seen in magazines. It's good (particularly since no one among my friends or in my family is in the least a "professional" cook) to have found a third book that emphasizes the self-defeating futility of approaching cooking&entertaining as though they were a competitive sport.

In short?.... "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" very clearly suggests how folks could be having a lot more fun both in the kitchen and at the table. I'll be happily giving away copies of "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" to a number of family members and friends (I've already made my list for next Christmas and various birthdays).

Rather obviously, "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" isn't an exhaustive ( which too often translates into "exhausting" for most people), encyclopedic compendium of Italian cuisine. Nor does it in the least pretend to be such (which is a good thing, in my own book, so to speak).

Thanks to the Mayes for their obviously sincere and genuinely joyful work. I don't, as a very general rule and over the past twenty years, write gushing reviews....but this book (including the photography and layout) hits all the right notes. I expect that many people will get a lot of pleasure and inspiration from it.

Sincerely,

David Terry

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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I am a huge fan of Frances Mayes' books. This cookbook is a culmination of all of her books. Through the readings, I've come to know Frances and husband Ed, and her friends, and the foods they love and cook together. So glad the recipes included in her books have now come together in a beautifully done book, and beautiful pictures too! I've already made a chicken and wine dish that was absolutely delicious and easy to prepare. I have flagged numerous pages of recipes I plan on making. I love the stories that surround each page and recipe. If you love Frances Mayes, and Tuscany, you must have this book in your collection. You can vicariously travel to Tuscany by reading and cooking these easy-to-make recipes. Enjoy!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A beautifully written and photographed book that transports the reader to hills of Tuscany. Following the true course of "la cucina povera" (the poor kitchen) you'll learn how to create masterful Tuscan and Italian dishes utilizing only a few quality ingredients. If you enjoyed the luscious prose and delicious artistry of "Under The Tuscan Sun," "Bella Tuscany" and "Everyday in Tuscany," let Frances and Ed Mayes whisk you to a Tuscan paradise in your own kitchen.

Breathtaking photography takes this up another notch and the book inspires creativity in both the food you can create and the inviting tablescapes the authors have prepared for their lucky guests. Accompanying stories and anecdotes allow the reader to sit along side at the Mayes's table as they create their food as you would. Food prepared not by professional chefs but by people who have genuine love for good food, well prepared. A glass of a fine wine is all that is needed to create a total sensory experience. This one is a "don't miss" and sure to become a treasured favorite in your collection.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Ahhhhhhhh, the food of the peasants! Earthy, pure, simple, fantastic! That about sums up my love for the recipes within the Bramasole walls of Frances and Ed Mayes cucina!

In a most simple, but most elegant way of preserving some of the most basic foods that graced the table of those that worked the Italian fields, this is a compilation of dishes that fulfilled, and filled, the souls of the working people, way back when.

In yet another wonderful book offered from the life that is Frances Mayes, and her wonderful husband, Ed, these recipes focus on the Tuscan region of Italy. In her previous books, Frances has taken us into the history of the Tuscany, from the golden days to the current days. This business that began as a journaling of sorts, of buying an old run down farm house, has blossomed into Tuscan life, history, and now, food. And now, through their years of dividing their time between Tuscany and California, they have come to know and love the country, the region, and the food.

Each region of Italy is known for different styles of cooking, with its respective area pretty much dependent on the region it's located, whioh would dictate whether they were strong on seafood, or grains, or wine, etc. For the Tuscan region, which is lcoated just about center of the "boot", it encompasses a little of everything, and the Mayes have done well by their writing to leave you wanting more.

The photography is close and clear; beautifully done through an amateur lens of Frances and her friend, which increases your appreciation of their efforts. The lighting, the settings, the staging of the final dishes are all inviting. A string of garlic cloves, fresh vegetable and fruits, fields of sunflowers, pasta being tossed, friends around a table, make this a wonderful book that can literally pull you in to the moment if you give it a chance.

What this isn't is a teaching manual; with the exception of making Agnolotti, there are no photographic tutorials. But unless you have never cracked open a cookbook or even know what pasta is, you would be hardpressed not to be able to make any of thses fantastic dishes. Each recipe has a little sidebar of facts and information that help you to understand what and why you are making this dish. And though there is not an accompanying photo for each dish, it will come together for you as you see what becomes of your efforts.

In most Italian homes, there are about 6 courses starting with ANTIPASTI, then PRIMI, SECONDI, CONTORNI, then ending with DOLCE and APERTIVI to help you in perfectly digesting your meal. Many of the friends, and family of friends, helped to produce this lovely book and the Mayes give beautiful credit to all. For fear of being labeled as a "Ralph Kramden blabbermouth" for giving away too many recipes and/or details of books/cookbooks, I'll try to be general. But I guarantee that anyone will be very happy to sit at your table if you serve any of these dishes! So....the book is presented as:

LA CUCINA: A thank you and/or introduction of sorts to all those who helped make the book possible. Old history, recent history, and local legend help bring the joy of the Tuscan region into the pages and it is done so with gratitude.

KEYS TO THE PANTRY: Your list of hints, suggestions, and do's for stocking a good Tuscan kitchen.
A couple of basic recipes are also included which are the foundation for some of the other dishes.

ANTIPASTI: In any part of Italy, you wouldn't start of meal without first getting your gastronomic engines started, hence "anti" pasti (before the pasta, which is what many ate back then and now). So there are numerous plates of bruschette with tasty toppings, veggies, and cold meats to serve.

PRIMI: Your "first" round of good food to entice and tingle the palate! There are pasta's, lasagna (which is a pasta, I know, but it's prepared differently), soups, risottos, and pizza's.

SECONDI: The "second" entree which usually are the meats such as chicken, pork, rabbit, steaks, fish. For me, the "Chicken Under a Brick" was fantastic; add the "Polenta" as a side dish with the "Prawns and Cherry Tomatoes", and it was a meal fit for a Tuscan king!

CONTORNI: These are the side dishes that embellish the plate and palate. Baked peppers, fava beans with potatoes and artichokes, zucchini, chard, and fennel are all able to find their way to your table courtesy of the Tuscan heritage. along with more ideas.

DOLCI: The best part of any meal, if you still have room. Now in general, most Italy Italians aren't known for being eaters of heavy pies and pastries. They tend to prefer fruits with a light cream, an easy tart, and such, so that is what you will find in this particular section. But wait! Don't get emotional! There are definitely enough recipes for cakes, bread puddings, etc for those of us who couldn't imagine dessert without some sort of flaky or sweet dough.

APERTIVI/DIGESTIVI: The last note of this gastronomic symphony; an apertif!!! The perfect end to a most perfect meal. And while there are only 2 recipes, there is a listing of different liqueurs that can accompany any meal, depending on your preferences.

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INDEX

Well, I guess I didn't give away too much, so hopefully you'll want to know what is exactly within the lovely pages of this book. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic and the sights and dreams of Italy have an inexplicable pull for me. But though I am lost within the covers of this well-written book, my family and friends seem to be gastronomically making out rather well, so not bad, hey? Peace!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Wow! We have made several recipes out of The Tuscan Sun Cookbook and it has already become one of our favorites. Try the Pesto recipe on pg 26,Cannellini Bean and Sage on pg 44, Orecchiette With Shrimp, pg 77, Pappa al Pomodoro, pg 96, Ossobuco, pg 130,Fried Zucchini Flowers, pg 49, Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Vinegar, pg 135...Sumptuous!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The "bard of Tuscany" and her husband have captured the sweet and savory joys of Italian food and friendship in a cookbook that dazzles the eye, tempts the taste buds and warms the soul with its generous spirit. The next best thing to a long meal with friends on a Tuscan terrace. Look, read, cook, invite, enjoy! La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It was 1995 that I had the wonderful opportunity to be in the Tuscan area and visit Cortona where Frances Mayes' home is located. And, in 2010, I was married on the Amalfi Coast, Italia. September 2010, before heading to Positano & Amalfi for my wedding, I met Frances Mayes, who lives part of her year in NC, where I live. She was signing her book, "Everyday in Tuscany." She is an amazing woman with such a special gift - writing and sharing parts of Italia and the world with each of us who reads her works.

Last week, one more of her books, "The Tuscan Sun"....Recipes From Our Italian Kitchen was added to my F. Mayes collection. And, it will be a gift from me to several friends. Even on paper the recipes are mouth-watering. I can't wait to prepare many of the recipes she so generously shares in her book. Also, the pictures are vibrant and inviting. In addition to great recipes, the book will be a nice display for our kitchen.

ENJOY and Grazie Millie, Frances!!!!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I bought the Tuscan Sun cookbook because I love Frances Mayes' books and, let's face it, we all want to imagine that we are living the good life in a villa in Tuscany. In the introduction, she says, "If you came to visit me in Tuscany, we would cook the food described in this book."

Of course the cookbook features great writing with the introductory section and descriptions of how Frances and her husband live in Tuscany. There are many personal notes giving credit to locals from whom they have learned the recipes and providing a back-story to many of the images and recipes.

The book is organized in the following sections:
- La Cucina - the background of how she came to live and cook in Tuscany at Bramasole
Keys to the Pantry - kitchen essentials are described, including ingredients, tools and basic recipes, such as tomato sauce, focaccia, pesto.
- Antipasti - bruschetta and crostini and other starters
- Primi - ragu and many varieties of pasta, soup, risottos, and pizza
- Secondi - chicken, quail, rabbit, pork, veal, ossobuco, steak, lamb, beef, polenta, seafood
- Contorni - peppers, potatoes, beans, fennel, eggplant, zucchini, chard
- Dolci - gelato, sorbetto, pears, panna cotta, berries, peaches, pudding, tarts, crostata, cake
- Aperitivi e Digestivi - nocino, limoncello

Browsing through the cookbook is a visual feast. The photography is gorgeous, both the environmental images as well as the food images. I uploaded 4 sample images of the stunning photography (see above). I have tried many of the recipes and they are easy to follow and produce consistent and delicious results. The ragu recipe alone is worth the price of the book - I will use it over and over. It makes a large batch and freezes well. The page format is well designed with a clear list of ingredients, followed by easy to follow instructions. Many recipes have photographs of the end product, which are very enticing.

Though I love the overall look and feel of the cookbook and plan to use it frequently, I gave it 4 stars rather than 5 because a few of the recipes could have used better proofreading (incomplete instructions and typos), and some of the photographs on the pages don't actually support the recipe with which they are associated. Additionally, some of the ingredients aren't all that accessible to a suburban cook.

Nevertheless, I love this beautiful photography / recipe book and will use it for many years to come. I plan to organize a Tuscan dinner party and will use "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" as my main source of inspiration.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I wish I could've loved this book. There are few photos & too many excerpts from her other books. I understand that she is presenting the food where she is in Italy, so the ingredients are local to the area but please, inform us of possible substitutions.
However, the book reminds me of the Hamptons elite who look down on you for not owning a $200 chestnut roasting pan. I'm probably going to be attacked by her fans, of which I am not one. I recommend looking at this book at your library or local bookstore before buying. I'm happy that I did since only a few recipes appealed to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I have read through this book more times than I can count. It is also enjoyable as a "coffee table" type book. The photos are vibrant and the text is inspiring. At first glance I was intimidated by the perceived "gourmet" sort of presentation, but don't let that scare you! The food is simple, but very elegant. The recipes are delicious and we have discovered surprising new family favorites such as the "Baked Peppers with Ricotta and Basil" and "Lemon Cake". We have come to love so many of the items in the Antipasti section that many have become favorite summer staples enjoyed outdoors on our Northern Michigan deck or packed up for strolls on the beach. This book was such a pleasure to receive and has become one of my treasured "cookbooks". In reality, it is an inspiring book about life appreciation that happens to include good food.
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