The first thing that you notice about the book is how beautifully designed it is. It's quite substantial; a good size without being unwieldy. It is printed on high-quality cream colored paper with dark green ink, and nearly every page features hand-drawn illustrations. There are no photos, but each recipe is prefaced with a descriptive introduction.
The premise of this unique book is that “Italian meals are structured in a way that keeps family and friends at the table. " Italian families sit down together to eat; a custom that is rapidly becoming obsolete in our busy American lifestyle. From that point of view, cuisine becomes one of the most important ways to spend quality family time.
Italians know that food tastes best when prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients and to that end the book is structured around the four seasons, featuring recipes and menus for spring, summer, fall and winter. It also features recipes and menus for the major holidays of each season. There are many other menus built around themes such as “A Quiet Summer Dinner, " “A Simple Spring Dinner for Company, " or “A Sexy Fall Dinner. "
The recipes are fabulous and fascinating to read through, let alone cook. The one difficulty I had with the book was that a good many of the recipes called for ingredients that aren't available at most supermarkets, such as tripe, fresh morels, onion blossoms, cardoons, puntarelle or cranberry beans. However, sophisticated palates with access to gourmet food stores and farmers’ markets will delight in the many recipes that will allow them to make use of the variety that is available to them. That said, there were enough recipes that didn't call for exotic ingredients that I didn't have any trouble putting this book to good use.
Some of the unique and delicious recipes in the book are: Zucchini Flower Frittata, Butternut Squash and Rice Soup, Farfalle with Green Tomatoes, Eggplant Rolls, Chicken with Lobster, Duck Baked in Salt, Linguine with Blue Crab Sauce, Spaghettini with Maine Shrimp, Risotto with Crabmeat, Parchment-Wrapped Sausage with Fennel and Onions, Orange-Clove Souffle, Pannettone Bread Pudding, Lemon Sorbet with Spumante, Jaques Pepin's Rhubarb Galette, Lemon-Glazed Ricotta Balls.
Adventurous chefs who enjoy trying new recipes will enjoy exploring this book filled with healthy, homey and uniquely Italian recipes.
Mimi Cummins is webmaster of SeasonalRecipes.com , a website devoted to seasonal cooking.
Italian Family Dining can be obtained at http://www.rodalestore.com .