We all know how to make food, right? I mean, I think I know how to cook a carrot, or peel a potato. This latest book for my reviewing put to question whether or not I know much of anything about food. Turns out I do know some things, but also learned some new things that will probably make my cooking so much better.
Have you ever come upon a recipe or cookbook that made you rethink how you cook by simplifying it down from a process and taste, to the ingredients themselves. The only book that I’ve read like this, was by Alice Waters, in The Art of Simple Food. Amazing in its simplicity, it showed the best ways to cook something is often the simplest. Now, thanks to the publishers at Scribner I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Marcella and Victor Hazan’s Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market.
If any of you are not already familiar with Marcella Hazan, she is known in the cooking world as the queen of cooking Italian food when you are not Italian! Her recipes are simple and focused on the ingredients.Marcella Hazan died in 2013, but her husband collected papers and notes from Marcella’s collection of writings and compiled them into this book as a posthumously published work of her masterful thoughts on using ingredients in best way possible to bring out their natural flavors. It is arranged as an A-Z reference book covering each ingredient in a most thorough way: Produce, The Essential Pantry, Salumi, and finally a little section at the end that serves as a buying guide on where to find the best ingredients from purveyors that will ship to you!
Her focus on ingredients is so simple and direct, focusing on how to choose the sweetest vegetable, or the crispest leaves; continuing the coverage of the ingredient, to say how to store it and for how long it will last once you get it home and before cooking it. Amazing. No recipes per se, but here’s an example:
Blanch spinach, sauté it in garlic and olive oil, and you have a dish that summarizes the simplicity, directness, and satisfaction of vegetables cooked the Italian way.
One of my favorite recipes of hers that isn’t in the book is a classic simple red sauce that takes just minutes to make and has but tastes amazing with just butter, salt, onion and tomatoes.
If you love to cook, and read about the finer points of the ingredients that you choose, then this is a great book for you. If you love pictures and actual recipes, this is not your guy. None here. This would be a good reference book to have, since Marcella Hazan was such an authority on choosing Italian ingredients and creating easy, beautiful food.
Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market
By Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan
256 pages, Hardcover, $20.US