Artisan Breads Every Day

Artisan Breads Every Day

I started baking bread about 10 years ago using Carol Field’s The Italian Baker as my reference. That is where I learned about using a starter or biga to improve the flavor of my bread. The next important book in my bread baking education was The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. An essential volume for anybody serious about baking bread, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, taught me much more about the science of bread baking and introduced me to different types of starters and other pre-fermenting methods that help extract maximum flavor from the combination of flour, water and yeast. Bread baking can be a time consuming task. Mixing, rising, shaping, and baking bread can take hours depending on the type of bread. In recent years an answer to this problem for home bakers has appeared in the person of no-knead bread recipes, like the techniques in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. These recipes cut down on the active time required to bake bread, the principle being that you make a large batch of very wet dough with minimal kneading, place it in the refrigerator to ferment, take the dough out the day you want to bake, shape, proof for forty minutes or so and bake. While the results can be very good, especially considering the amount of time and effort put in, I find the breads are not quite as good as the ones I make when I use Reinhart and Field’s formulas. In his latest book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, America’s bread guru comes through with a solution. In this book Reinhart takes...
Seafood alla Siciliana

Seafood alla Siciliana

  In the cookbook Seafood alla Siciliana: Recipes and Stories from a Living Tradition, author Toni Lydecker takes us with her on a trek through Sicily in which she visits fishermen, fishmongers, restaurant chefs and home cooks all over the Island.  The result is a comprehensive and evocative volume on the rich culinary tradition of Sicilian Seafood that not only gives us great recipes, but an insight on how history and tradition have shaped the wonderfully eclectic cooking of the island. Lydecker gives us well written and easy to follow recipes for classic Sicilian dishes such as Pasta con le Sarde, Involltini di Pesce Spada (she gives us two variations of these typically Sicilian stuffed swordfish rolls, including a wonderful pistachio-crusted one with an escarole filling), and Tuna with Sweet-Sour Onions alongside more modern riffs on Sicilian flavors such as Aromatic Salmon Steamed in Foil and Braised Grouper Over Sweet Pea Puree.  Interspersed throughout the book are great stories about the people and traditions she encountered as she explored Sicily, including  a nice section on some of the more memorable meals she enjoyed while putting together the book. One thing I was not expecting to get out of a book on Sicilian Seafood was great sandwich ideas, but the chapter on Savory Pies and Panini surprsed me with recipes like Pizza-Panino with Anchovies and Fresh Tomatoes and Sardine Sandwiches with Grilled Eggplant.  That chapter and a one page listing of Antipasti, Presto or quick appetizers such as tuna crostini and roasted red peppers rolled up with anchovies are just two of the extra little touches that help make this one of...
Cookbook Recipe: Urban Italian

Cookbook Recipe: Urban Italian

In addition to our own original recipes, we like to feature recipes from some of our favorite cookbooks on The Italian Chef from time to time. Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while before I finally cracked it open and started leafing through it this summer (it was published in Oct 2008). The book, which chronicles Carmellini’s culinary journey from boyhood to becoming a top chef in New York, is very well written with great, accessible recipes that add a modern touch to classic Italian fare. The recipe we were given permission to reprint is Black Bass with Sicilian Style Pesto.  In the photo above, I actually substituted some nice cod, since my local fish market did not have black bass at the time. Recipe: Black Bass with Sicilian Style...
Puglia: A Culinary Memoir

Puglia: A Culinary Memoir

The first book in the new Italy’s Food Culture series of cookbooks, translated from the original Italian, by Oronzo Editions, Puglia: A Culinary Memoir (Italy’s Food Culture), covers a regional cuisine that I would venture is not familiar to many Americans.  Personally, I did not know much about the cooking of Puglia.  Being a bread baker, I was familiar with the two famous breads from the region, Pane Pugliese and Pane di Altamura, but that was extent of my knowledge, before reading this volume.  The author, Maria Pignatelli Ferrante, does a comprehensive job of chronicling what the preface refers to as “the miracle of the cooking of Puglia.” The cooking of Puglia started out as “cucina povera”, or peasant cooking, but has evolved into a substantial cuisine that still retains the character of the region.  Referred to as “Italy’s California”, the land in Puglia is bountiful, and the cooking is rooted in the crops that are grown locally. In keeping with that, there is a big emphasis in this book on vegetable dishes.  If you are an eggplant fan there is a treasure trove of great eggplant recipes, such as Baked Eggplant with Olives,  Eggplant “Meatballs”, Eggplant Mushroom-Style, and one of the recipes we are featuring, Eggplant Rollups. While vegetables are the star here, they are not the only reason to read this book.  There are some great pasta dishes, especially for the typical pasta of the region, Orecchiette, including Oricchiette with Brocoli Rabe.  Due to the prevalence of olive oil in the region, there is a large variety of fried foods in Puglia, which gives us an amazing chapter on...

Sicily: Culinary Crossroads

Italy’s Food Culture is a series of regional Italian cookbooks, translated into English, from publisher Oronzo Editions. Two volumes have been released so far, Puglia: A Culinary Memoir and Sicily: Culinary Crossroads (Italy’s Food Culture). The noble goal of this series is to give the American reader an unfiltered look into the rich regional culinary history and recipes of Italy, and it is off to a great start.  Although Sicily by Giuseppe Coria is actually the 2nd volume in the series, my Sicilian roots attracted  me to it first (nothing personal against Puglia of course). Sicily often gets the short end of the stick when discussing the cuisine of Italy, only recently here in America are chefs and cookbook authors starting to give it the attention it deserves. Coria is the perfect guide to this island’s unique and robust cooking and food culture.  He doesn’t just present us with a list of recipes, but gives us history and context, punctuated with great stories. The introduction gives an overview on how the history of Sicily and all of the different cultures that have occupied it over the years have contributed to molding the cuisine. The book is then broken down by region representing the provinces of Messina, Catania, Siracusa  and Ragusa. All 4 of these cities are actually on the east coast of Sicily, so the original Italian title of the book, La Cucina della Sicilia Orientale (The Cooking of Eastern Sicily) might be considered more accurate. But, this is a minor quibble, because Coria’s history covers the whole island and the recipes capture the spirit of Sicilian cooking in general. Each section starts off with a brief overview...

Master Recipe: Artisan Bread in Five

I recently blogged about my experiences with the no knead bread recipes from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This prompted several requests for the recipe from readers. Zoe Francois has kindly given me permission to reprint the master recipe from the book: The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf) Also, please take time to visit the authors’ websites: ArtisanBreadInFive.com – For answers to questions on the techniques/recipes. Zoe Bakes – Features baking recipes and great...
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