30 August 2008

Pleasure Reading

Have you ever read a cookbook from front to back? I do, especially when I am either a) hungry with an empty pantry or b) burned out of ideas in the kitchen.

My all time favorite is Mary Contini's Dear Francesca. She was one of the founding members of one of the best Italian specialty food stores in the world, Valvona & Crolla's, and her cookbook-cum-novel explains the principals of Italian cooking with all the love of a Mamma. Having lived in Italy for 6 years (I was born there!), I had always known how good food was supposed to taste. Thanks to Contini, now I actually know how to make it. The biggest game-changer for me was learning to make a soffritto as the base of all my dishes. To build a big and memorable flavor, now I know to slowly sauté (sweat, really) finely diced onion and minced garlic with salt & pepper in EVOO as the base to everything from my no-fail tomato sauce, to chicken noodle soup.

Her book was actually written with the intention of being read cover-to-cover, but I encourage you to read every cookbook this way. I find I am able to pick up subtleties in technique best as I compare recipes, and it's a great way to brainstorm new flavor combinations. The best ones explain their cooking as a single narrative. Try Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Nicholas Clee! These hyperlinks take you to my favorite books of theirs.

No comments: