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Yummer Reading

By Claudia Alarcón, June 8, 2007, Food

Lidia's Italy: 140 Simple and Delicious Recipes From the Ten Places in Italy Lidia Loves Most

by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali

Knopf, 384 pp., $35

I have long been a fan of Lidia Bastianich's many public television series and companion books. Her latest is quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks. Lidia's Italy takes the reader on a culinary tour of "ten places in Italy Lidia loves most": Istria, Trieste, Friuli, Padova and Treviso, Piemonte, Maremma, Rome, Naples, Sicily, and Puglia. Written in her characteristic easygoing style, the book's 140 recipes are enticing, and her encouraging voice gives readers the confidence to actually try recipes they otherwise would consider daunting. In my case, the challenge was risotto. I have always loved it but have never been satisfied with my own attempts. Using the last of the spring spinach from my garden, I made her Friuli-style spinach risotto, and it turned out to be the best risotto I've ever made. With a simple green salad and a Pinot Grigio from Friuli, it made a satisfying and delicious dinner. From the same region, the addictive crispy Swiss chard cakes with Montasio cheese are the perfect vehicle to enjoy the abundant chard from my garden. The shrimp Buzara style, a dish from Istria (now part of Croatia), where Lidia grew up, was ridiculously easy to make and so delicious that I'm sure it will be part of our household menu all summer long. I look forward to trying the sardines in onion-wine marinade, as well as the poached fresh figs that will be plentiful in my back yard come July. With Lidia's guidance and my newfound confidence, I may even attempt to make gnocchi.

Each chapter of Lidia's Italy offers a short introduction to the specific region. At the end of each is a section called Tanya's Tour, written by Lidia's daughter and co-author, Tanya, who runs a tourism company in Italy. This section features descriptions of cultural treasures and places of interest that are a must visit on your next trip to Italy. In my case, I daydream about going to Italy while enjoying Lidia's tried and true recipes and a glass of Prosecco.

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