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Mario Batali Holiday Food Hardcover – October 10, 2000
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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With the infectious enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning, Mario Batali--who presides over a culinary empire that includes the popular Food Network television show Molto Mario, four acclaimed New York restaurants, and a wine store--presents four complete menus for the holidays and captures all the fun and festivity that epitomize Italian celebrations. True to the commitment to simple cooking evident in his first book, Simple Italian Food, the dishes here deliver maximum flavor and enjoyment without being overly complicated.
Batali's version of the famous Italian seafood extravaganza traditionally served on Christmas Eve--known as the Feast of Seven Fishes--includes no fewer than 15 enticing dishes. Marinated Fresh Anchovies are both surprisingly delectable and delightful in their simplicity. Salt Cod with Capers and Mint, Grilled Lobster with Herbs and Arugula, and Sea Bass Ravioli with Marjoram and Potatoes would each be showstoppers as the centerpiece of any meal. Served together, they comprise a truly unforgettable feast.
The Christmas Day menu is equally lavish, centering on a succulent boned turkey breast stuffed with chestnuts and prunes, while the New Year's Day spread is pure decadence. The latter begins innocently enough, with a refreshing aperitivo of tangerine juice, Compari, and soda, then proceeds through a parade of richly flavored dishes, from the hot-pepper-spiked Octopus in the Style of the Prostitutes of Napoli, to the meatball-filled "mythic pasta dome" known as Timpano di Maccheroni, to the prosciutto-wrapped Braised Pork Roll. An irresistible selection of dolci (sweets), including Cinnamon Chocolate Pudding with Pine Nuts and Waffle Cookies, rounds out the meal. New Year's Day welcomes a relaxed daylong open house replete with an ever-changing spread of antipasti, pasta, and dolci, most of which can be prepared at leisure and served at room temperature, enabling the hosts to enjoy the party as much as the guests.
Photos, along with helpful wine suggestions and practical advice on technique, accompany each menu. Throughout, Batali paints a portrait of his Italian-American family that reminds readers that the simple joy of being together is what the holidays are really about. The 60 simple yet elegant recipes can be mixed, matched, and adapted for any occasion. Served together or separately, each is cause for celebration. --Robin Donovan
From Publishers Weekly
Americans tend to think of Italian cooking as easy: we have come to rely on 15-minute pastas and hearty, seasonal dishes like minestrone. But here, Batali of Food Network's Molto Mario presents the most cherished Italian dishesAthose served, often after days of preparation and with fanfare, during the holidays. Batali focuses on the seafood-rich Amalfi coast, beginning with a Christmas Eve menu that includes Vongole Origanate (clams oreganato), Baccal? Vesuviana, Ravioli alla Spigola (Sea Bass Ravioli with Marjoram and Potatoes), and in case you still have any room for dessert, Classic Cannoli. The book consists of traditional Italian menus that take you through the four holidaysAChristmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's DayAbut the recipes can be used for an impressive meal or snack any time. (There is also a separate section on the wines of Campania.) Cooking from scratch is the name of the game, so don't expect shortcuts; however, instructions are generally to the point and the results are well worthwhile. Recipes like Mythic Pasta Dome (a sort of pasta torte) capture the elaborate and festive nature of holiday Italian cooking. Beginners might be intimidated: Baba (lemon cake) requires a yeast rising and the insertion of fine holes in the cake into which a lemon mixture is "infused." But once practiced, recipes become easy, and there are some simple yet gratifying recipes, such as No-Bake Chocolate Cookies. If you want to enliven your Italian repertoire with authentic, celebratory dishes, this book is invaluable. Photographs by Quentin Bacon. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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First, the book only covers Christmas and New Year. I would hardly expect Molto Mario to cover Thanksgiving, but what about Easter? There are also the hundreds of festivals in both Italy and the United States where food is a major element of the festivities. The whole point of `carnevale' is food, as the meaning of the word is `a farewell to meat'.
Second, the book only covers Campania. What about the other 21 provinces of Italy? The best part of this selection is that it is the region from which the Italian food most familiar to America comes. I think Mario would have been much better to name the book `Holiday Food of Campania'. Joe Bastianich contributes some notes on the wines of Campania, reinforcing the impression that the book covers a limited range.
Third, the book is two-thirds the price for less than half the book you can find in Mario's first and third books.
If you are really interested in Italian Festival Food, check out the book of that name by Anne Bianchi published by Macmillan. It even includes a blurb from Mr. Molto himself on the dust jacket and I got it at a deep discount. Highly recommended.
All is not lost. This is still, after all, a cookbook by Mario. It's best feature is to give us recipes in order that we may do a Christmas Eve feast of the seven or ten or thirteen fishes (take your pick). It strikes me that this is another example where Italian food traditions depart broadly from the more formalized doctrines of France or Japan. While Richard Olney, our most analytical writer on French cuisine, dispairs of writing on improvisation in cooking, the Italians seem to revel in it. Like the Japanese, the Italians seem to really enjoy small portions of a lot of different dishes, at least at holiday meals. Mario warns us that because of this, portion sizes may be tricky.
The photographs of the food are much more colorful and more plentiful in this book than they are in Mario's first. They add some value to this rather slim offering. The list of sources at the back of the book is very good for a resident of New York City. I am especially happy to see DiPalo's cheese shop included.
If, like me, you are a Mario fan, you must have this book. This is especially true if you live vicariously through books and enjoy writers' tales of their holidays. If you are really looking for something with more meat on it's bones, check out the volume by Ms. Bianchi.
Perhaps you are like me and enjoy cookbooks with vivid pictures. I like to know what my efforts are going to look like. This book has some of the best food photographs that I have seen. Some of this is the chosing of attractive dishes, some of it is just fabulous photography.
While I really enjoy the photographs in this book, some of that is the skill of the photographer, while the larger part of that is the choice of recipes. Mario Batali, seems to like earthy, rustic food. I like that you do not have to measure everything so exact. I like that there are natural flexibilities added into the recipes, like if you don't have xxx, use this instead. Italian cooking is all about the freshness of the ingredients, and you see this theme throughout his book.
I also like that he explains why he chose those recipes, what the significance of those recipes are. This is helpful is chosing what drinks you will serve with the food, what side dishes or desserts you will pare with the food and so much more.
I highly recommend this book to you, it really isn't just about holiday food, but more. I rate this book with 4 stars simply because the book is smaller, and for the money, if your just starting out with him, I would go with one of his standard cookbooks if you are looking for a greater resource of Italian recipes.
Based on my experience with this book, I am eager to buy Mario's other cookbooks.
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