by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Dana Gallagher (Photographer), Stephanie Tevonian (Designer)
Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s authoritative first book, The Splendid Table, explored the food and culture of Emilia-Romagna, Italy’s culinary heartland. In The Italian Country Table, a collection of 200 regional recipes gathered from farmhouse cooks, Kasper once again provides cultural investigation and authentic, workable recipes. The resulting cookbook-cum-chronicle will appeal to anyone seeking delicious, down-to-earth dishes and an introduction to cherished culinary traditions. Covering every course of an Italian meal–from antipasti through pasta to vegetables and, of course, dessert–the book weaves recipes with vignettes exploring, for example, Puglia’s ritual drying of winter tomatoes. Included also are notes on buying tips, special cooking techniques such as glazing, and discussions of culinary moment, like the nature of a true risotto Milanese. The immediately inviting recipes include such temptations as Mushrooms Stuffed with Radicchio and Asiago, Hot and Spicy Eggplant Soup, Leg of Lamb Glazed with Balsamic and Red Wine, and Espresso Ricotta Cream with Espresso Chocolate Sauce. Kasper also offers a chapter on focaccia, pizza, and bread, as well as menus, shopping sources, and a useful discussion of ingredients. (Taste before you buy, and then pause, she advises. “Aftertaste can reveal how a food’s been stored, careless production, or foods going from mature to over the hill.”) Concluding with a guide to Italian guest farms, folk life museums, and places to eat and shop, the book is a comprehensive introduction to basic but inspired home cooking and the traditions that both contain and nurture it.