Marcella Hazan might not be a lady familiar to many UK readers unless you are a collector of some of the best Italian cookbooks. She is the Empress of Italian food in the US, where she was often seen on TV demonstrating her recipes. She has taken a bit of a step away from the rigours of media but has passed on her passion to her son who has carved his own successful culinary career around Italian food. Hazan Family Favorites is a testament to good food.
Giuliano Hazan was born in Manhattan and, yes, that is a long way from Italy but he had Italian parents and grandparents, and that made all the difference. He spent his summers with other grandparents in Italy and that has given him a particular perspective.
Giuliano is a member of the last American generation that had meals at home rather than going out to eat, and has fond memories of family meals and of watching two generations of ladies cooking family food for breakfast, lunch and dinner – the dishes that are flavourful and practical and don’t cost an arm and a leg to make.
Hazan Family Favorites is indeed a beautiful catalogue of recipes from one particular group of people with their own unique history, and this family has a degree of diversity that is common to many of us. Here we find dishes with a Jewish influence, and others giving a nod to Egypt, but predominantly those that reflect the vibrancy of Italy.
I am like every cookbook lover: I pick up the volume and flick through the pages for that all-important initial impression. I first noticed the striking photography and second the lack of ingredients! Yes, every recipe has its list of ingredients, as one would expect, but Giuliano has chosen dishes for Hazan Family Favorites, that are not only simple to prepare but that generally have a short shopping-list. For instance, the chocolate mousse here has only four ingredients, and one of those is optional. This is family cooking, although my friends wouldn’t sniff at the majority of these dishes if I presented them for a dinner party. Perhaps that’s the philosophy of good food – that it’s appropriate for almost everyone at almost any time.
A simple yet stylish meat dish is Tagialata with Garlic and Parsley. It’s a platter of grilled, sliced and dressed rib-eye steak that commands attention. One could use the barbecue or domestic grill to cook the meat to a rare pinkness, sauté garlic and parsley in olive oil, slice the meat, add to the pan, toss the steak with a flourish, and present with the applause of guests ringing in your ears. Now, how easy is that?
Giuliano’s wife Lael offers an American staple – Meatloaf! Food snobs can click away while I tell remaining readers that meatloaf is popular because it’s delicious …or can be. Lael’s version is particularly good and is made with beef and pork, although one can also add veal. The mix of meats gives the loaf more the flavour of sausage rather than (less interesting) plain beef. There is a little ketchup in this recipe: it’s an underrated ingredient that offers moisture, sweetness and seasoning and, let’s admit it, we all have it in the fridge. In the unlikely event that there will be any leftovers, use slices of the loaf as a sandwich filler.
Maccheroni soup with sausage and porcini is a hearty one-pot meal. The success of the dish relies on the quality of the sausage meat used, as it’s the main flavouring ingredient, although the dried mushrooms are essential to give that authentic taste. It’s a winter warmer that will fill the family for very little money. When the summer comes try Baked Tomatoes. Inexpensive, with bread as the main filler, it’s worth waiting till the tomatoes are at their best. Serve hot from the oven or at room temperature as a side dish or starter.
Hazan Family Favorites is not only a practical and attractive cookbook, it’s also a charming personal insight into the cuisine of a family of food lovers. Giuliano Hazan appreciated that exceptional food does not have to be fussy or technically taxing. It’s about presenting delicious dishes that your family will take to their hearts. They might not be part of your culinary heritage at the moment, but they could well become just that with time.
Hazan Family Favorites
Author: Giuliano Hazan
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018