„Love Italian Food” by Maddalena Caruso with photos by Stefano Scata, published 2012 by Jacqui Small LLP London, in Germany published 2013 by Callwey Verlag
„Love Italian Food” by Maddalena Caruso gets *****Five Stars. It is a wonderful cookbook to indulge guests with fabulous Italian food.
The author is a passionate cook who lives on her estate in Asolo Treviso northwest of Venice. Stefano Scata is one of the top Italian photographers and works for magazines, restaurants and takes photos for books.
Already the cover photo promises a trip to the south. Then I turned the page and found myself in the middle of the kitchen of the author. Every detail is composed so beautifully. Maddalena Caruso is surrounded by dishes in beautiful colors and shapes. I was imagining how the photographer Stefano Scata arranged every detail until the composition “in the middle of the kitchen at work” was ready to take a photo. So each photo is a beautiful composition of colors, shapes and different ingredients.
The book contains 239 photos and 121 recipes that are divided into four main chapters by season (Spring, Summer , Autumn and Winter). In the appendix the recipes are listed by season in four large blocks. The recipes are written in classic blocks – left the ingredients and to the right the preparation steps – and they are good to follow.
The chapters are preceded by beautiful and atmospheric double-sided brilliant photos. You can tell how the photographer worked with such great attention to detail. Each photo describes the season in the garden and the mood: happy, cheerful, festive, lively, playful, cheerful, sunny , fresh, …. just beautiful!
Each chapter is introduced by the author with a short text. She talks about her life, her garden and their come-togethers. The sub-chapters she devotes specific topics such as seasonal cuisine, special seasonal ingredients such as asparagus, figs, pomegranate, vine.
Maddalena Caruso writes already in the preface that she prefers natural ingredients of high quality. She tells us how her day begins: “Early in the morning I go out and harvest the fresh vegetables. A few herbs, some salt and extra virgin olive oil, the easier the better.” The cookbook includes simple and delicious salads and vegetable dishes of the season. For example, she prepares the asparagus only with olive oil, salt and pepper in the oven, or presents cold soups of the season like tomato soup, pepper soup or melon soup. Her Winter soups with cabbage are colorful, easy to prepare and delicious.
The focus is on hospitality, well-being and enjoying together. For this only the best ingredients are good enough. Find time for each other and spend time and enjoy together. To celebrate this luxury due, sometimes special ingredients are needed.
The author is very experimental and combines bravely. Salmon with cougette, pistachio and rose essence, fish carpaccio with shrimp and passion fruit vinaigrette, pistachios and radicchio tart with caramel coating, spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, anchovies and walnuts, risotto with truffles, meat stew with spicy-sweet fruit mustard sauce, jam with persimmons and tonka beans …
This gourmet cookbook is not a normal Italian cookbook. It introduces the special and exceptional Italian cuisine with a few luxury ingredients. Of course, Maddalena Caruso is also cooking pasta, but with broad beans, pecorino cheese and guanciale (Italian bacon), or with asparagus, almonds and mint, or with pistachio puree and scampi, or with anchovies and walnuts, or ravioli with fish filling or lasagne with wild hare sauce.
This sounds at first maybe a little extravagant. Perhaps the ingredient list also discourages readers. Therefore I checked the book once more from the standpoint of “how many recipes I would have to postpone to get the right ingredients”. Therefore I sorted out recipes with fresh Mediterranean fish, particularly Mediterranean vegetables ( tender artichokes) and fruits (such as figs and persimmons) or certain types of alcohol (Marsala Cremevo, Armagnac, Cognac). Even recipes with fresh fillet of venison, quail, truffle and crab did I take out. The result was amazingly positive! From 121 recipes I had to get “special ingredient” for up to 25 recipes. All other ingredients you can get at the weekly farmers’ markets or well-stocked supermarkets without problems. Lets keep in mind: This cookbook offers more than 90 recipes for “normal” everyday use dishes and about 25-30 recipes for the special and festive occasions.
The cookbook is written for readers and cooks who love to use natural and fresh products and also like to spend the little extra to treat their family and their guests. It is a gourmet cookbook with measured luxury. For this target group this cookbook meets all requirements: Easy to prepare, special ingredients and delicious compositions.
Therefore, the declaration of love from the passionate cook and author Maddalena Caruso gets full marks from me : five stars. “Love Italian Food” is a beautiful cookbook for pampering your guests. Each recipe a delight, a harmonious and delicious composition of ingredients, pampering taste buds, heart and soul. The message is: Natural beauty of the ingredients to celebrate and enjoy together.
I have compiled a list of the recipes that I had to try.
I started with the pumpkin gnocchi. The composition of pumpkin gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and Italian salami and thyme was delicious. The guests looked happy and expressed great interest in a repetition. The porcini mushrooms can be replaced by other good fresh mushrooms.
Since I had broccoli, I had to try the green soup. The list of ingredients is clear: broccoli, a few potatoes, milk, sour cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Everyone wanted to have a second helping. Simple and delicious.
Then I got three different radicchio varieties, so I could try out the radicchio salad with cider. To accompany this I also made the cream cheese balls with pomegranate seeds. Simply delicious .
The sweet potato soup with parmesan pomegranate hip is simply delicious, the sweetness of the potatoes with a spicy Parmesan and fruity pomegranate seeds is a dream. Only my soup is orange from sweet potatoes and not as bright as in the photo in the cookbook .
As a Sunday tea time cake it had to be the apricot cake with canned apricots. However, I must confess that I replaced yeast by baking powder, because to me a packet of yeast for 200g flour seemed a bit strange (maybe a translation error ). Therefore, I replaced yeast by baking powder. The result was simply sweet, soft and fruity delicious.