The Bottom Line: Slim, but jam-packed with plenty of interesting recipes, photographs that make you hungry and a light style that never wieghs you down.
Mention Italian food and nine times out of ten most folks think of such standbys as spaghetti, pizza or lasagne. Happily, this trend is changing. With a renewed interest in mediterrean cuisine, this delightful, healthy style is quickly catching on with many cooks.
What separates Mediterrean style cooking from everything else is the freshness and use of intense flavor to perk up dishes. Unlike northern European or French cooking, butter and cream are not the bases of sauces, but herbs, spice and the best olive oil is what makes those dishes taste great. Not only will your tastebuds rejoice, so will your waistline, as olive oil is one of the best sorts of fats that you can use in your cooking. It will even make your heart healthier and happier.
Subtitled "Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen," by noted cookbook author, Joyce Goldstein, with many color photographs by Ellen Silverman, I found myself more than eager to find recipes to try from this collection. Usually, most cookbooks will have several photographs sandwiched together to tempt the browser. Not this one. Every few pages it seems, there's a full-color spread to make one's mouth water.
Starting off with an excellent introduction that covers not only a brief history of the Jews in Italy, Goldstein also gives us a brief coverage of the kosher -- or dietary laws -- and an overview of Jewish holidays along with sample menus to try. Then we're onto Antipasti, or appetizers, and go all the way through soup, vegetable, fish and poultry to Dolci -- or desserts. There's also an extensive bibliography and index, along with a table of equivants for those who use metric measuring.
All in all, this is a great book. I especially enjoyed the appetizers, as that's something I'm always struggling to produce something new and tempting. The beef and veal dishes are also flavorful, with the Stracotto di Manzo or Beef Braised in Red Wine being a particular knockout. And my housemates went nuts over the Roast Chicken in Orange, Lemon and Ginger. Each recipe gives both the Italian name and an english translation of it, and some notes on the dish or ingredients. The design of the book is also great to look at with plenty of balance and beauty, which makes it just as much fun to look at as well as to cook from.
I heartily endorse any of Joyce Goldstein's books for anyone interested in a flavorful, rich heritage of cooking that will not only impress your guests, but also feed the soul.