Thursday, February 08, 2007

Is There a True Tuscan?

Heck if I know. However, Cesare Casella, the proprietor of Beppe and Maremma, thinks he does. And he has put it in print, in a book aptly titled True Tuscan: Flavors and Memories from the Countryside of Tuscany. I would like to thank one of our "school friends" for giving me this book as a gift. As I a man who both loves cookbooks and am to cheap to buy them, I always appreciate getting them. So I took this one for a spin.

A few comments. First of all, Mr. Casella is more opinionated than I am, and that takes some work. Despite his little "we Italians do what we want, so variations are great" introduction you sort of get the feeling that its Cesares way or else. Purists for regional Italian cooking will not like this book. The author's view is that, since he is Tuscan, anything he makes, even if it is fried chicken and ribs, is Tuscan, too. A better title for the book might have been "True Cesare." There are a tremendous amount of fish and seafood recipes, which would have been great if I had any desire to make them.

Having said that, the recipes that I reviewed are quite doable and the three that I made (focaccia, hammin alla Toscana and Stewed Beans) quite edible, even as a first effort. The hammin, a very unkosher version of a traditional Jewish Shabbat dish is pictured here. It was actually easy to make and looks like "something" when it was finished. Tonight we ate the leftovers with the foccacia and they tasted great.

The focaccia, which, according to the author, is not the bastardized version we usually eat here in the United States, but the real Tuscan deal, was very easy to bake and tasted great with the hammin. I will list the recipe tomorrow, including some comments that I think will improve preparation.

"True Tuscan" has many interesting looking dishes, many of which look easy to prepare. The recipes are the type of food I like to prepare, and I am happy its on my shelf.

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