Michael Chiarello is the real thing--a nice guy and a great cook, enviably telegenic, and privileged to live in the Napa Valley, northern California's Eden, where he's surrounded by the best raw ingredients and the most enthusiastic dinner guests on the subcontinent. On top of all that, he's absolutely generous about sharing his secrets--and his pleasures--with the rest of us, delivering a warm and inviting new world to the home kitchen.
Casual Cooking is a big, beautiful, and friendly guide to "cooking smart"--that is, by the author's definition, making the very best meal possible in the time available and with the ingredients you have on hand. His recipes, of the Italian cucina rustica by way of California persuasion, are thorough and clear. Without being patronizing, they leave nothing to guesswork. The flavor, the texture, the moisture, the appearance, the behavior of the dish and its synergy with other foodstuffs are all respectfully and lovingly noted in these pages. "Michael's Notes," in red, share the kind of tips and cautions only a tenured chef and terrific home cook would know. Some credit should no doubt go to Chiarello's mom, at whose elbow he began picking up these nuances and appreciations. The illustrations are plentiful and elegant enough to make this a coffee-table book, the content thorough enough to make this a serious working cookbook. --Schuyler Ingle and Joyce Thompson
From Publishers Weekly
Chiarello is founder of the Napa Valley restaurant Tra Vigne, and his recipes combine his Italian heritage (from Calabria, the toe of Italy's boot) with local produce to mixed results. Some innovations are wonderful: Warm Peach and Prosciutto Salad is a great variation on traditional prosciutto with melon, and the flavors of succulent peaches and salty prosciutto marry so well it's a wonder no one's come up with the combination before. His four seasonal takes on panzanella-a traditional tomato bread salad for summer, Autumn Panzanella with mushrooms, Winter Panzanella with squash and brussels sprouts, and Spring Panzanella with asparagus and peas-also stand out. Occasionally, Chiarello gets whimsical with titles, as with Green Eggs and Ham, a rustic dish of prosciutto, poached eggs and basil oil on toast. Sometimes, though, he goes just a bit overboard with the food itself, as with Brodetto di Mare seafood stew served over risotto, which sounds like a runny combination, and Baby Back Ribs with Espresso BBQ Sauce. Photography and layout are beautiful, making this book as much a pleasure to page through as it is to cook from, and the more appealing fare, such as a Spring Pea Soup with a confetti spray of chive flowers and Radicchio Slaw with Warm Honey Dressing, makes up for the occasional odd duck.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.