Eating Between the Lines
Books for Cooks
Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbookby Alfred Portale with Andrew Friedman
Broadway Books, 400 pp., $45
Alice Waters taught us all many years ago that we ought only to cook with what was in season. And we all learned how right she is; peaches in December, while obtainable, are not good. So we've come to embrace and utilize this philosophy, dividing the year into four quadrants. Spring? Here come the asparagus! Summer brings on the corn. Etc., etc. That's all fine and good, but über chef Alfred Portale proposes that that method is too confining.
In his gorgeous new book, Portale defines 12 seasons, one corresponding to each month. With equal time devoted to the stunning creations and the related text, this is a book to read like a novel. Some of the accompanying text is like a whispered confidence. Some of it is almost dishy. All of it is enlightening and just plain entertaining. And the photos! Suitable for drooling over and strictly about the food. Some of them can be intimidating, however. How many of us can or will construct the architectural creation known as Pasta With Summer Vegetables and Pecorino Romano? On the other hand, your attempt at the simple and sumptuous Roasted Rosemary Chicken With Root Vegetables will emerge exactly like the pics; you'll burst with culinary pride to have produced a bird like that of one of the true stars of American chefdom. A note for us in these tropical regions: These 12 seasons are clearly the ones experienced in New York, not Texas. Our October is rarely "Sweater Weather," so you'll need to adapt the calendar to our seasons. You'll be spending a lot more time in the May through August section and won't crack the fall section until November. It's a treat to be privy to some of Portale's tips and creations and while the book is opulent, it's destined to become splattered and dimpled with the effects of seeing a lot of real time in the kitchen.
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