TUSCANY COOKING AND WINE PAIRING
BY FRANCES MAYES
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
(Clarkson Potter) ISBN 978-0307885289 0307885283
Frances and Ed Mayes share recipes from their home in Cortona, Italy, as well as from friends, neighbors, trattorie and restaurants in Tuscany. Combined with wine pairings and descriptions of Tuscan food and outdoor feasts, they give you insights into the Italian lifestyle.
Exquisite photos of food and wine enhance The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, along with stories about the Italian kitchen, from how to choose the best extra-virgin olive oil to making pizza in a wood-fired oven.
Bruschette and crostini
Organized by Italian meal course, from appetizers to after-dinner drinks, this 223-page cookbook makes you want to go on a Tuscany trip. Each chapter begins with a quote from a Frances Mayes book, a recipe index and an introduction about cooking in Tuscany.
The chapter on antipasti, for example, explains the differences between bruschette and crostini. Bruschette are grilled or toasted large slices of bread with toppings. Crostini are made from thinner stinco (shinbone) baguettes and are rarely toasted.
Introductions to the 150 recipes include serving suggestions. Frances Mayes recommends serving her spicy olives with breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto, chunks of aged pecorino and finocchiona (fennel-scented salami).
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook features many pasta recipes made with pici (thick spaghetti-like pasta, popular in Corona, Tuscany) and Pasta di Gragnano lumaconi or conchiglia (shaped like large snail shells), as well as more common rigatoni (used in the recipe for baked pasta with sausage and four cheeses).
Frances Mayes also includes Tuscan recipes for soups (yellow and red pepper), risottos (shrimp), pizzas (caramelized onion and sausage), meat (honey-glazed pork tenderloin with fennel), vegetables (baked peppers with ricotta and basil), fish (rolled sole with fennel and citrus) and desserts (lemon hazelnut gelato).
Wine from Tuscany
Wine pairing suggestions accompany most recipes. For example, Frances Mayes recommends Mazzei IGT Toscano Belguardo Rosé and Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino to go with her recipe for wild mushroom lasagne. Even desserts have recommended pairing wines, e.g., Duca di Salaparuta Ala Liquorvino Amarascato with Il Falconiere restaurant's chocolate cake with vanilla sauce.
Many of the Italian recipes come from Cortona, Tuscany, restaurants such as the delicious wine cake make with vin santo by Daniela and Massimo at Bar Tuscher. Other Tuscan recipes come from Il Falconiere restaurant (located near Cortona, Italy), owned by Riccardo Baracchi and Silvia Regi and their son, Benedetto, e.g., Silvia's pasta with duck sauce and ricotta tart.
Fried zucchini flowers
Some sidebars provide information about Tuscan ingredients, e.g., types of pecorino cheese: creamy, semi-stagionata (aged three to four months) and stagionata (aged one year until hard and flaky).
Others suggest ways to combine recipes, such as serving garlic flan with short ribs Tuscan-style. Italian cooking tips range from removing bitter sprouts from older garlic cloves to making fried zucchini flowers from male plants since their flowers don't develop into zucchini.
Travel in Tuscany
Frances Mayes enlightens readers about customs in the Tuscan region of Italy, e.g., not sprinkling Parmigiano-Reggiano on pasta with seafood.
She also discusses travel to Ascoli Piceno, in the Marche region, where residents eat large green Ascolano Tenera olives, fried and stuffed with ground meat or salami.
The final chapter of the Tuscan cookbook is devoted to after-dinner drinks, including vin santo (made from partially dried grapes), grappa (distilled wine) and bitters, such as Averna, Montenegro, Cynar and Fernet Branca (called digestivi).
Frances Mayes's recipes describe how to make your own limoncello from lemons and homemade nocino from green walnuts.
Photos by Steven Rothfeld depict Tuscan foods, wines and ingredients so lusciously that you want to eat the pages on which they are printed. Photos of appealing table settings in Tuscany lure you to sit down, invited or not.
His step-by-step images of Tuscan cooking show you how to make delicious dishes such as pear agnolotti with gorgonzola and walnuts.
Keys to the Pantry
- Aperitivi e Digestivi
Frances Mayes is the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and Every Day in Tuscany and co-author of In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home, with her husband, Edward Mayes.