Friday, May 01, 2009

Divina Cucina's Recipes: Cookbook review

Divina Cucina's Recipes


Can you imagine a cookbook with ingredients but no measurements? My cookbook that I got from the school I attended in Florence many years ago is like that. So is the cookbook A Tuscan in the Kitchen. Tuscans are funny that way. Because they grew up cooking without measurements, they can't imagine why anyone else should need them.

Thank goodness for Divina Cucina's Recipes, because my ability to write down recipes back in the day was not what it is today, and I actually appreciate measurements with my recipes. Judy Witts Francini is an American who has been living in Florence for over 25 years. She's a fantastic cook and cooking instructor and also has a lovely blog that really gives you a feel for shopping, cooking and eating in Italy. When I heard she was publishing a cookbook of recipes, I couldn't wait to check it out.

The dishes in the book are absolutely what I remember from living with a family in Florence. Included are the recipes for what local people actually eat--classic antipasti from the region, plenty of soups, and main dishes that use generally inexpensive cuts of meat and poultry. It's real Tuscan food, and not restaurant food. You won't find "Bistecca alla Fiorentina" because frankly, no one cooks that at home. One thing I experienced in Florence is that vegetables are never served plain, and Judy includes lots of great recipes for vegetables that use a bit of flavorings such as prosciutto, garlic, tomato or lemon. Once you cook vegetables this way, you will never eat plain steamed vegetables ever again!

Now of course, each person cooks slightly differently, and there are no set in stone recipes for classic dishes like Pappa al Pomodoro or Involtini. One person uses a red onion another a leek, one person uses fresh tomatoes another canned. My recollection of certain recipes is not exactly the same as hers, but I have tried plenty of Judy's recipes and they always work for me. Because she's been a cooking instructor for so long you'll find her recipes very easy to follow.

The only downside to the book is that I love Judy's writing and wish she had included more notes about the recipes in her book, but for that, you'll just have to head over to her blog Over a Tuscan Stove.