Italian

seafood-alla-siciliana.jpg In the beginning of the new cookbook, Seafood Alla Siciliana: Recipes and Stories from a Living Tradition, author Toni Lydecker quotes Goethe:"To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything". And you'll certainly feel this way after reading this beautiful book. When the publisher contacted me and sent me a copy, I couldn't wait to read it   after all, this is where my mother was from. This is not just a collection of recipes but an in depth look at Sicily itself   its history, its food, its wine, its culture.

Lydecker is a noted food writer, specializing in Italian cooking. When she finally goes to Sicily to learn the regional seafood cooking there, she immerses herself, learning dishes from home cooks to restaurant chefs. She visited winemakers and toured food processing plants. She toured the Agostino Recca anchovy plant, the makers of my beloved anchovies. Her stories and notes about these visits are well worth reading and really add to this book.

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fabioLike many people I was first made aware of Fabio Viviani on Top Chef Season 5. It was clear from his no-nonsense style of cooking that he wasn't going to win the title. He didn't exactly stretch himself creatively in the kitchen, making what he knew and liked, usually always Italian, and never apologized for it. He grew up cooking with his grandmother, in an effort to control his high-octane energy and keep him out of trouble, but eventually he learned to love it and that's apparent in all of the food he cooks.

He moved to the United States in 2005 at the age of 27 with a lot of experience under his belt. He first started working in a professional kitchen at the age of 14 and currently has two restaurants in Los Angeles. Thankfully one of them, Firenze Osteria, is close by, so I've had the pleasure of eating his food many times. I even took a risotto cooking class from him one Saturday afternoon to try to help my homemade versions get better. They have, and yours will too, thanks to his new cookbook Fabio's Italian Kitchen, which contains six different versions, as well as another 100 traditional recipes he grew up cooking for his family.

He grew up poor, so the book features mostly traditional Italian dishes that don't require a lot of fancy ingredients to be good. Many of them have ingredients that can be found in almost everyone's pantry and while they may be simple, it's the techniques and years of experience at the stove that elevate them to the next culinary level. There are no shortcuts to making great food. Time being the biggest luxury item required from Fabio. Uncomplicated does not necessarily equal quick.

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jaimesitaly.jpg In our house, we think Jamie Oliver walks on water.  Every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy rocks.  And all you have to do is follow the directions.  The variation on spaghetti carbonara with chicken instead of ham is genius.  The Prawn and Parsley frittata is totally great (and I don’t even like frittatas and neither does Jamie Oliver). 

And it’s just so simple to use!  And it’s kind of like having a friend in the kitchen.  The grilled swordfish with salsa di giovanna is an exercise in simple bliss.  And the whole fish baked in salt is something you didn’t think you could try at home.... 

Buy Jamie's Italy

VeneziaVenezia: Food & Dreams is a love letter to Venice. Reading it and cooking from it is a bit like looking at a Caravaggio painting. The dreamlike colors of the photos, the lovely setting of Venice, the simple yet forthright recipes. This book is written, photographed and designed in a dreamlike fashion; one that is so often associated with Venice. Tessa Kiros knows her subject well.

In addition to the wonderful recipes, Kiros sprinkles in her thoughts, and comments; her experiences in the city in the form of poetic moments. Many of the photos are of the city itself and its citizens, or of the colorful buildings, or of Carnival; not only of food and recipes. This book is one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have come across in a long time. And the food and recipes, as I came to find out, are as delicious as the book is beautiful.

Kiros divides the book into sections that mirror an Italian menu: Antipasti, Zuppa/Pasta/Gnocchi, Risotto, Secondi, Contorni, and Dolci — with additional sections on Essential Recipes and Cicchetti, small bites unique to Venice.

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wineloveritalian.jpgHow could I not get this book? The title is me. What makes this better than most wine pairing books is that it really delves into the recipes and specialties that make each region unique, explaining wine types, laws and labeling terms along the way. The recipes aren’t always quick or easy, but they are authentic and quite flavorful.

How can you go wrong cooking Spaghettini with Shrimp and Ginger, Macaroni and Cheese with Truffle Oil (better the second day), Osso Buco Emilia-Romagna Style or Slow-Baked Lamb with Potatoes? Plus, they choose the wine for you. A book that makes learning and eating a pleasure.

As recommended by Lisa Dinsmore

Buy The Wine Lover Cooks Italian

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