The Austin Chronicle

Red, White & Greens: The Italian Way With Vegetables

November 8, 1996, Food

by Faith Willinger
Harper Collins, $25, Hardcover

Italian restaurants in America have long under emphasized vegetal offerings. Thus, save for those folks lucky enough to have grown up in an Italian-American home, people on this side of the Atlantic remain largely unaware of the extensive variety of Italy's produce as well as the simple, delicious ways in which Italians transform even the most humble of vegetables into something special. Fortunately for anyone interested in Italian cuisine beyond pizza, pasta, and pesto, cookbook writer and Gourmet magazine contributor Faith Willinger has compiled over 150 rustic, vegie-centric recipes in her new book, Red, White & Greens: The Italian Way With Vegetables.

In true homestyle Italian fashion, Willinger, an American who has lived in Florence for twenty years, presents recipes that maximize flavor and mimimize ingredients. Starting with the essentiality of virgin olive oil, the author describes the few basic items needed to create a host of intriguing, flavorful dishes from eggplant baked with currants and pine nuts to squash dressed with onion mint sauce, vegetable rissottos that span the Italian garden from artichoke to zucchini, and the unfried new-wave eggplant parmigiani, a welcome twist on a caloric standard. In addition, the recipes are not strictly vegetarian, featuring such gems as polenta soup with leeks and sausage, and the humble boiled beef and onion simmered in tomato pulp and wine. And, yes, there are plenty of pasta dishes. And although most of them probably will not ring a bell, what they lack in familiarity they compensate with creativity, e.g., spaghetti with broccoli and skate broth, penne with kale and potatoes, and squash gnocchi.

Lastly, a nod to designers of Red, White & Greens. The recipes, arranged in chapters alphabetically by vegetable, combine a practical layout with a pleasing presentation, complimenting Willinger's refreshing recipes to produce the perfect holiday gift for anyone who loves vegetables and perhaps even more so for those who don't think they do. -- Patrick Earvolino

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