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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Take on Tuscan Cuisine. Buy It!!!
`true tuscan' by restauranteur / chef Cesare Casella is another attempt at capturing the cuisine of Tuscany with the same depth and interest shown in the many excellent treatments of Lazio (Rome), Liguria (Genoa and the Riviera), Emilia-Romagna (Bologna and Parma), and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Trieste, San Daniele). Some of these regions such as Lazio have been the...
Published on December 31, 2005 by B. Marold

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars dissapointing
The book came from amazon took almost a month which is far too long compared to similar sites, the sleeve was dirty and looked like it had been sitting in a warehouse dusty corner for years, that wasn't the disappointing part the book has no images just recipes, for an amateur cook it's very annoying and hard especially for new dishes I have never tried. Probably wouldn't...
Published on November 27, 2011 by Cooking


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Take on Tuscan Cuisine. Buy It!!!, December 31, 2005
This review is from: True Tuscan: Flavors and Memories from the Countryside of Tuscany (Hardcover)
`true tuscan' by restauranteur / chef Cesare Casella is another attempt at capturing the cuisine of Tuscany with the same depth and interest shown in the many excellent treatments of Lazio (Rome), Liguria (Genoa and the Riviera), Emilia-Romagna (Bologna and Parma), and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Trieste, San Daniele). Some of these regions such as Lazio have been the beneficiaries of several excellent treatments. For some reason, all the treatments of Tuscan cuisine in general have been too heavily oriented toward the travelogue or too self-serving to the business interests of the author. One notable exception is `The Tuscan Year' by Elizabeth Romer' which, however, is much more a personal memoir than a good survey of the region as a whole.

To be sure, good regional cookbooks come in at least three different flavors. Romer's work and Vincent Schiavelli's `Many Beautiful Things' (on Sicily) is the culinary memoir, Mario Batali's `Simple Italian Food' and Suzanne Dunaway's `Rome, At Home' are examples of personal interpretations of home cooking from a region, and Lynne Rosetto Kaspar's `The Splendid Table' and Fred Plotkin's `La Terra Fortunata' aim at giving us a fairly representative survey of a regions most distinctive dishes.

Cesare Casella's `true tuscan' falls somewhere between the personal treatment and the more scholarly study. But, the fact that it does not fit into an easy pigeonhole is definitely not a reason to consider it a poor book. It is, in fact, a very, very good book of Tuscan dishes. The means by which the author certifies this as a representation of Tuscan cuisine is by the simple fact that it is his cuisine, he is a professional chef, and he is Tuscan, at least originally. One thing this means is that there are more than a few dishes herein that originated in Liguria, Lazio, and points south. This is not really surprising since this book tends to confirm Fred Plotkin's statement in `La Terra Fortunata' that Tuscany is really in the middle of the pack among Italian regional cuisines, after Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Campania, Liguria, and even Puglia. And, my respect for this book is based heavily on the fact that it is one of the very few Italian cookbooks, which exemplifies the poverty of the historical Italian cuisine. In fact, Tuscany boasts two major influences to interesting cuisine in that during the Renaissance, it had one of the most powerful noble houses in Italy, that being the Medici's of Florence. And, a noble court is one of the four underpinnings of great cuisine stipulated by Paula Wolfert.

This is one of the very few books which shows the importance of inexpensive ingredients such as beans, greens, stale bread, cheap fish, and organ meats in a lot of different dishes. One or more of these ingredients appear in virtually every recipe. At the same time, the book celebrates another hallmark of Italian cuisine, the celebratory dish, especially the now very famous timbale seen in Stanley Tucci's film, `Big Night'. This is specifically the `Pasticchio alla Fiorentina' with a pastry shell rather than a pasta or bread based shell. Like all the other `big' timbale recipes, this includes everything but the kitchen sink, with both a bechamel sauce and a meat ragu similar to ragu Bolognaise.

I really like the fact that Casella has organized his recipes by the five major traditional courses of an Italian meal. These are:

Antipasti, featuring several dishes which are a lot more complicated than the simple crostini. Tarts made with vegetables and organ meats plus dishes based on octopus, cuddlefish, and squid are heavily featured. There is even a recipe for an octopus salami. One of the most interesting I found is an oven fried calamari. It also includes a very Sicilian salad of shrimp, blood oranges, and fennel.

Primi Piatti (Soups, Pastas, and Risotto) with lots of soups based on cheap vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and leeks. True to the doctrine laid down by Mario Batali, the chicken stock is not your typical French production requiring many hours. It needs nothing more than some chicken legs, celery, carrots, onions, salt, and an hour to cook. I am also surprised to find three different gnocchi recipes. I am becoming more and more convinced that gnocchi is even more universal in the various Italian regions than either fresh or dried pasta, as everyone seems to have a recipe for it. Swiss Chard, the true Tuscan leafy green (not spinach) is the featured ingredient in one of the gnocchis. The most interesting recipe in this chapter is a technique for cooking pasta `al cartoccio' (in parchment).

Secondi (Seafood, Poultry, and Meats) which includes the original recipe for monkfish `osso buco' and a cowboy style `Tuscan Spareribs' (`Maremmana') which the author delights in clarifying by noting that there are, in fact, cowboys in Tuscany, in the district known as Maremma.

Contorni (Vegetables, Beans, and Other Side Dishes) , has the most typical Tuscan dishes containing either green leafy vegetables or beans, plus beets, potatoes, peas, and mushrooms.

Dolci (Desserts) is a rather small chapter, quite in keeping with the conventional wisdom that the Italians are not big sweet dessert eaters. And, one of the features in this chapter is the molten chocolate cake made famous by the very French Jean-Georges Vongerichten. But, even this short chapter has some treasures such as bean fritters `Fagioli Fritti', with a little plug for Casella's `Republic of Beans' business for importing dried Italian beans.

The book ends with a decent bibliography and list of sources, but you probably know everything there already if you have three or more good Italian cookbooks.

For a list price of less than $25, this book is a great find, and the very best book of recipes I have yet found based on the cuisine of Tuscany, even if the author colors outside the lines a bit. Historical Sidebars are also of very high quality for this inexpensive book!

Very highly recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars dissapointing, November 27, 2011
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The book came from amazon took almost a month which is far too long compared to similar sites, the sleeve was dirty and looked like it had been sitting in a warehouse dusty corner for years, that wasn't the disappointing part the book has no images just recipes, for an amateur cook it's very annoying and hard especially for new dishes I have never tried. Probably wouldn't recommend it but there are a few good recipes such as fresh ravioli etc
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True Tuscan: Flavors and Memories from the Countryside of Tuscany
True Tuscan: Flavors and Memories from the Countryside of Tuscany by Cesare Casella (Hardcover - September 6, 2005)
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