Italians love their veggies and have learned over centuries to use their creative kitchen magic to transform readily available produce into a super selection of antipasti, crostini, panini, soups and sides, veggie-rich risottos, sauces and stews, and dolce for a sweet finale. The Italian Vegetable Cookbook is award-winning cookbook author and food expert Michele Scicolone’s tantalizing tribute to this mostly meatless (you’ll find a few anchovies, some pancetta, bacon or guanciale used to amp up the flavor, but you can easily omit them) aspect of la cucina Italiana. Scicolone has collected more than 200 recipes, from a very simple, one-pot supper entrée like Orecchiette with Potatoes and Arugula to a more elaborate Easter Swiss Chard and Ricotta Pie with a tender olive-oil crust. None of these dishes are very complicated, and all invite you to vary ingredients, using the fruits and vegetables that look best at the moment, as any good Italian cook would do. Scicolone is a warm, friendly kitchen companion, sharing the stories behind the recipes in her chatty header notes.
A SOUTHERN REVIVAL
Alexe van Beuren loves Water Valley, a small town not too far from Oxford, Mississippi, that had seen better days before she restored a landmark building on Main Street, saving it from demolition in 2010. She turned it into the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, a general store, and became part of the Southern town’s revival. When Dixie Grimes, a pro chef with an impressive background, came on the scene, she made the B.T.C. kitchen sing, and that song got national attention. Van Beuren tells the story charmingly in The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook, and Grimes adds 120 recipes from her superb Southern repertoire—from Skillet Biscuits with gravies galore (even chocolate gravy for the kids) for breakfast to four-star lunches that feature Shrimp and Sweet Corn Chowder, Sriracha Coleslaw, Sweet Potato and Green Chile Casserole, Honey Pecan Fish or Fried Apple Pies. Creative comfort at its best.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
A few years ago, the food world wonks proclaimed that Spain was the new France. Luckily, Spain remained Spain in all its rich regional splendor, its culinary soul intact. Now, Jeff Koehler—a longtime Barcelona resident and aficionado of Spanish food and the diverse, beautiful, bountiful landscapes reflected in that food—offers a beautiful, bountiful celebration in recipes and photographs in Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía. If you read the wonderfully informed recipe intros and the delightful asides on iconic ingredients—like saffron, pimentón, olive oil and anchovies—and on traditions and special holidays, you’ll find yourself in the hands of an expert guide. And, when you start cooking from the 200 recipes featured, you’ll begin to understand the strong Spanish connection to the land in the many unfussy dishes that originated as country fare. But, most of all, you’ll be turning out authentic, flavor-loaded wonders like Monkfish Steaks with Saffron or Chicken with Shallots and Orange and Cinnamon Sauce, as satisfying in Sioux City as they are in Salamanca.