Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cucina Povera

I received a review copy of Pamela Sheldon Johns most recent book Cucina Povera about the time I broke my shoulder.  During my convalescence, I was able to read and savor this wonderful book, and to imagine how much she enjoyed writing this book, a combination of memories and recipes of the area that she lives in.
Like all of her books, it is a joy to read. The recipes are simple, and all are doable in the home kitchen.  Some ingredients may require a little scouting, like wild boar (well worth the search) but others with humble ingredients are transformed by the simple preparation into food to celebrate.
You will see the requisite ribollita a twice cooked minestrone,
 
dishes containing the grain of the moment, farro,
Insalata di Farro
 panzanella the familiar bread and tomato salad,

polenta,




 and humble pasta dishes sauced with tomato sauces infused with the flavor of wild boar, rabbit, and other local meats.
 

Literally translated, Cucina Povera means poor kitchen; this is the cuisine of the land.  Celebrating what Johns says is "good food for hard times", this is good food period.  Simple, yes, but simple doesn't have to be ordinary, and none of these recipes is ordinary, even the familiar ones.

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

Using memoir and recipes is a technique that many writers are using, some better than others.  The fact that Pamela Sheldon Johns has lived among her neighbors for a long time gives a more personal touch to this book, and I found it engaging, and endearing.



 The photos, not only of the food, but the people mentioned in the book, also make this book one that you will want to read cover to cover.
Chicken in Vin Santo
 If you love all things Tuscan, and want a book that is simple, and filled with interesting vignettes about the countryside, this is the book for you!


This is a recipe for an olive oil cake that I found intriguing; although I haven't made it yet, it's on the list!

Ciambellone
Makes one 12-inch tube cake

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
5 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat the inside of a 12-inch tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir with a whisk to blend.  Set aside. 
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs until blended, then gradually whisk in the sugar.  Stir in the milk, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Fold in the flour mixture just until blended.  
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  6. Remove from the oven, invert on a cake rack and let cool completely.  Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate.  Cut into wedges to serve. 
Buon Appetito!
 

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