Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review - La Cucina Italiana

Rizzoli Publishing has just released "La Cucina Italiana, The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking"  by the editors of La Cucina Italiana.  The encyclopedia is based on the popular Italian Magazine "La Cucina Italiana" which has been in publication since 1929.  Do you like to cook Italian?  Would you like to learn to cook Italian?  Do you just plain like to eat Italian food?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this book is for you!


Don't let the word encyclopedia throw you because this book is so much more.  It contains over 3000 step-by-step photographs and more than 500 recipes that will delight and excite the beginner as well as seasoned chefs.  La Cucina Italiana is geared towards many levels of cooking expertise - easy enough for new cooks, more challenging levels for those who want to try something more difficult, and finally, chef secrets and new techniques for those who are more experienced in the kitchen.

The encyclopedia consists of 21 chapters, ranging from basic ingredients to complete dishes and contains lots of history about the different cuts of meats, cheeses and pastas.  I particularly liked the way each chapter is broken down into different sections:
  • Ingredient Guide
  • Essential Methods
  • Feature Recipes
  • From the Experts
  • The Right Tools
Each recipe name is listed in both Italian and English with Italian words sprinkled throughout the book.  This  lends a fun sense of authenticity while providing me a chance to translate using my meager Italian skills.  The recipes go quite in depth on ingredients and technique.  The gorgeous accompanying photos are guaranteed to make your  mouth water while they easily demonstrate how to do something or what it should look like.  This book is like having a cooking school in your hands and is very user friendly.

Some of my favorite chapters included...
  • Breads and Flatbreads.  If you're a bread lover like I am, this is where you will begin.  The very first recipe I tackled was the Focaccia and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to make because the directions are so well explained.  More on this later.
  • Sauces, Stocks and Broths begins with a brief history on the different types of each and the regions in which they originated.
  • Vegetables.  This chapter will show you ways to use vegetables that you never imagined, as well as introduce you to some that I bet you've never tried.  This chapter is extensive.
  • Legumes. One of my favorite things to eat is traditional Italian beans and now I know how to make them properly.
  • Pork & Pork Products. It's mind boggling to read about the wide variety of ways that pork is used.  Nothing goes to waste.
  • Dairy.  Italy produces over 450 different types of cheese.  I enjoyed reading about how to make homemade Ricotta and I guarantee Chablis is going to want to make the Pasta Ai Quattro Formaggi.  Anyone??  That means pasta with four cheeses.
  • Cakes, Cookies & Spoon Desserts.  Enough said!
I decided to put the book to a little test of my own, just to see how easy or difficult it was to follow.  My husband will be the first one to tell you that my cooking skills are adequate, yet uninspired.  He is quite fond of saying that I am the "one pot wonder."  As such, I was anxious to try my hand at a few of the recipes.

The first thing I tried was the Focaccia recipe...

1) Easy to follow directions and look at the gorgeous photos in the book....



2)  So far so good.  It's ready for the oven.



3)  And here we have the finished product.  It didn't sit on the cooling tray for long....


Tony and Alex spied the book on the counter and in no time at all they were flipping though the pages and making a list of recipes they wanted to try.  I urged them to make something for dinner and they immediately rolled up their sleeves and tackled Gnocchi.

Gnocchi is another favorite of mine and for those who aren't familiar, gnocchi is made from potatoes and flour.  First you boil potatoes until they are just done....


Do you have a "potato ricer?"  It's sort of like a huge garlic press.  I love mine!



Alex and Tony shaping the gnocchi....



The finished product, with butter, olive oil and parmesean cheese.  It was excellent!


In conclusion, La Cucina Italiana is a book with something for everyone.  I found it to be filled with traditional Italian recipes coupled with beautiful photos and easy to follow directions.  Nothing in the book looked to be too hard to try.  I thought that the "From the Experts" sections were the most interesting.  These "words of wisdom" are practical and helpful.

The holiday season is just around the corner.  "La Cucina Italiana, The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking" would make a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys cooking.  This is a book that will get used - a lot!  Plus, you'll get the added benefit of eating the meals that get cooked because of this book.  That sounds like a win-win to me.

Arrivederci!

(cover photo property of Rizzoli Publishing.  Do not reproduce)

I was provided an advance copy of the book for review purposes and asked to give an honest review. All opinions are my own.



15 comments:

  1. Excellent review! I know someone who would love to use this book :) Your Focaccia and Tony's Gnocchi look so gooooooood!

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    1. It came out just in time for Christmas. It would make a fantastic gift!

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  2. I've always wanted to try making gnocchi. Sounds like a winner!

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    1. It was really a lot easier than I thought it would be and I was surprised at how light and pillowy they came out.

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  3. I love Italian dishes and always liked to make Focaccia bread! This looks like a cookbook I would enjoy! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

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  4. Hey Kim -- send a heads up next round of recipe testing and I will volunteer as taste tester!!
    Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
    xo
    Cathy

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  5. Hi Kim,

    How wonderful that the kids took such an interest! So special when a family cooks together. Your two creations look scrumptious! Thanks for sharing and for stopping by my place!

    Happy cooking!

    Poppy

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  6. That is so wonderful. Cooking with family. Happy the kids took part. The food looks amazing. I love Italian food.I am happily your newest follower. Happy Thanksgiving.....

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    1. Hi Linda: The food IS amazing! Thanks for joining us over here at Snug Harbor. Have a wonderful holiday!

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  7. The food looks so good!! Don't you just love cookbooks and trying new recipes? I bet you find some family favorites in there.

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  8. It's a good thing I'm reading this post after an overindulgence of turkey, stuffing etc! Otherwise you'd have made me hungry! :p

    It all sounds yummy!!! Keep sharing your experiments with us! ;o)

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  9. Oh my! This looks like a good Italian cookbook, which I don't happen to own one amazingly, haha

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  10. Sounds like the book I need! Do the recipes include metric as well as US measurements?

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    Replies
    1. No, I'm sorry, it does not have metric but don't hold that against it. It's still a really fine book.

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