Summer in the UK. Where better to be …well, apart perhaps from Italy. And if we have that vision in our mind’s eye then perhaps we see ourselves sitting in the shade of a honey-coloured stone villa with vistas over shimmering sea, a table laden with antipasti of marinated vegetables, bruschetta with ripe tomatoes, probably a salad garnished with some creamy mozzarella. So if those foods are part of our culinary rêve then why don’t we realize that dream here at home and save the plane ticket?
Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style was first published in 1991. Perhaps some of the veggies mentioned might have seemed a bit exotic two decades ago, but you’ll find them all in the UK these days. Most will be from our own producers and I am sure with another century of global warming we will be able to purchase olives grown in Bognor Regis.
This excellent cookbook offers inspiration. Its recipes are not over-taxing even for those wary of the interior of a kitchen. This is, after all, vegetable cookery. The techniques are simple, with a host of tempting salads for those days when real cooking is less than appealing. And there are soups aplenty for when the summer turns fickle.
Viana La Place is American, although her book reflects her Italian heritage. Its modern and light recipes consider today’s lifestyle. We want good and healthy food without being a slave to the stove. Vegetables are economic and that is a big consideration in these times of fiscal unease. There are recipes for such a wide range of vegetables here that one need never resort to carrot sticks and a jar of mayo …although they do have their place.
Pears, Parmesan and Celery is a classic combination. The addition of a handful of walnuts just increases the epicurean joy. A good example of recipes being faithful to their roots without the use of any rare ingredients. Mozzarella, Roasted Yellow Peppers and Tomato is another dish bursting with the flavours of the sun-kissed south. The success of the dish will depend on the quality of the cheese. Buy the best you can to ensure that the end result is delectable and creamy.
It’s too much to hope that the British summer will last till mid-October so you’ll be looking for some hot and hearty fare for the rest of the year. Country-style Vegetable Stew, Cianfotta, is warming and zesty. There are chilli flakes listed and that’s not a modern inclusion. Italian savoury dishes often feature the spice although it’s used as an aromatic rather than a heating challenge.
Italian desserts are the stuff of legend and there are delicious ones featured in Verdura. Golden Dream Pears, pere al sogno dorato, are stuffed, baked pears. Amaretti biscuits, almonds and Maraschino liqueur provide the filling for the tender and juicy fruit. A stunning pud but not over-taxing to execute.
Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style is a charming book of amazing food. The recipes can easily be tackled by even those living beyond the boot of Italy. Plenty for the summer months but this is an all-year-round cookbook. A bargain at only £12.99.
Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style
Author: Viana La Place
Published by: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018