2005/12/15

Giuliano Hazan: How to Cook Italian

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

Giuliano Hazan poses a key quesiton in his preface to How to Cook Italian: With more than 225 Recipes (Simon & Schuster / Scribner 2005): "So, what is it that makes a dish Italian?" (p. x). The answer is in his cookbook -- a practical and thorough guide to Italian food and his approach to cooking. Italians combine certain ingredients together differently from their neighbors, though just how differs from North to South, according to Giuliano. Italians sauces compliment food without overwhelming taste, and they cook with the freshest, local ingredients (the latter common to many cuisines). "Because we love to eat we like to take out time doing it, and it's important to do it together with our families. Family mealtimes are sacred in Italy." (p. xi) American chefs (of last, most notably Michael Schlow in his cookbook It's About Time -- see previous article) agree.

Giuliano Hazan is the son of Marcella Hazan, an authority in Italian food in her own right, so this is as much course as cookbook, and his class is fun. He is careful to explain how a meal is built up of different courses is very different manner than the typical American appetizer, main course and dessert. There are fine easy-to-understand drawings throughout that build on the introductory chapters of My Kitchen (p. 1), Stocking the Italian Pantry (p.11), Bastic Techniques (p.23) and Base Recipes (p. 41). Included is a recipe for Homemade Sausage (p.45) with an interesting headnote that explains that the commercial "Italian Sausage" eaten in the States comes from early Southern Italian immigrants, while the sausage of the North has no fennel and is more mildly spiced. His recipe calls for just rosemary, garlic, white wine, and salt and pepper.

The Appetizer Chapter is full of terrific recipes like Bottarga and Mozzarella (p. 48), the strong mullet fish roe that is enjoyed in different forms all over the Mediterranean. Perfect for holiday indulgence is Piedmontese "Steak Tartare" (p. 57), prepared with veal top round hand chopped and sprinkled with white truffle shavings (or mushrooms). There are also good recipes with clear instructions for Frittate (p. 58-63) and Pizza (p. 64-66) and all its variations.

Giuliano Hazan

As antidotes to this cold season, Giuliano's Italian soups are hearty and traditional (p. 67). He explains the difference between an Italian version of Onion Soup and the traditional French gratineed version: "This Italian version of the classic onion soup is made with olive oil, a light Italian-style broth rather than French stock, and pecorino cheese." (p. 70) For those American Southerners serving black-eyed peas for New Years, he offers a Leek and Fennel Soup with Black-Eyed Peas (p. 74-5) flavored with pancetta and escarole.

Giuliano's recipes in this his third cookbook cover all of Italy: Sardinia, Northern Italy and Rome. There are inviting photographs by Dana Gallagher of pasta dishes, Grandma's Custard Pie and Risotto with Amarone Wine presented in the pots and plates with knives and spoons ready for us to dig in. This is a cookbook to use for family dinners, or special occasions. It is straight forward and fairly complete. The only trick is finding the high-quality ingredients that make Italian food so good. Hazan writes about a recipe for Artichoke Soup (pp. 71-3):
During a week-long stay in Sardinia, we had the privilege of being chaperoned by the noted Italian food-journalist Gilberto Arru. He took us to some of his favorite restaurants, trattorias where the food is as good as home cooking. One was Trattoria Da Ricardo in Magomadas, where we shared an extraordinary artichoke soup. The secret, we are told, was not some unusual ingredient but simply using artichokes at their peak.
This is a book to celebrate ingredients at their peak -- and to rediscover Italian cuisine.

Book details:
Publisher
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

Previous articles:
Michael Schlow: It's About Time
[Cookbook Reviews - complete]

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