by Sybil PrattJanuary 2009
La cucina di Franco Stitti
I hope Frank Stitt, award-winning chef/owner of three fabulous restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama, will forgive me for Italianizing his fine Southern name, but he's earned it with his years of cooking and serving great Italian food at Bottega Restaurant and Café. Now, with his second cookbook, Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food, he invites us all to his Mediterranean table and makes it possible to replicate the recipes at home. Stitt's take on Italian cuisine is infused with his Southern sensibility—you can take this boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy and that's what makes these recipes sing with a unique culinary harmony. Shell beans replace cannellini beans and pair with wild American shrimp and lump crabmeat in a Southern take on a classic Italian summer salad. Zabaglione Meringue Cake is a sweet, snowy triumph of a Southern cake with an Italian accent. There are some truly simple dishes like Fennel and Parmigiano among the 150 recipes, but this is not quick-fix cooking. These are the elegant, much-admired dishes served at Bottega, made accessible by Stitt's detailed instructions and his helpful, tip-filled header notes—the results are worth the extra effort.
Heavy holiday food weighing you down? Have you resolved to go easy on the fat this year? No problem, The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites serves up 500 of the magazine's all-time greatest recipes, each with a nutritional analysis that allows you to keep track of calories, fat, fiber, etc. With such a comprehensive collection it's almost easier to say what's not here than what is. There are appetizers galore and the potables to go with them, a fabulous selection of breads, biscuits and breakfast goodies (the Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread had my name on it), more than enough fish, shellfish, meat and poultry dishes to satisfy everyone, every night, plus meatless mains with a tantalizing range of ethnic accents—just try Shrimp and Pasta with Peanut Sauce, Marinated Flank Steak with Horseradish Raita or Portobello Mushroom Fajitas. The four S's—salads, soups, sides and sandwiches—come in a wide array from the simple (Green Beans with Roasted Onion Vinaigrette), to the spectacular (White Bean, Artichoke, and Chard Ragout with Fennel Relish), and the beat goes on 'til we reach the dazzling desserts, including a to-die-for Cappuccino Cheesecake with Fudge Sauce. All the recipes have been tested and re-tested in the Cooking Light kitchens so you know you're in good hands.
Have a 'souper' year
Soup, soup, beautiful soup, warming in winter, refreshing in summer. An appetizer, an entrée, a soothing comfort or a spicy pick-me-up: soup is super anytime, any way. Here to inspire you to soup it up year-round is Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom, with fabulous photos by Charles Schiller. Betty has assembled 60 of her best soup, chowder and chili recipes—one for every week, plus a few tasty extras—and arranged them by season. Since it's January, you may want to start with a slow-simmered White Bean Soup with Chorizo and Kale, robust enough to make a meal with a salad and crusty bread; or a quietly chic Celery Bisque topped with crumbled Stilton toasts. Heavenly Asparagus Soup with dollops of tarragon-scented crème fraîche is the perfect harbinger of spring and then it will be summer, though it seems so far away now, and time for Cucumber Soup garnished with smoked salmon and dill and Zucchini Vichyssoise. Each recipe comes with suggested "soup-er sides," detailed explanations of cooking techniques and "market notes" on where to find unfamiliar ingredients.