Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Italian
Flavors of Tuscany
Published: May 11, 1998
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From the first page, Nancy Harmon Jenkins draws you deep into the soul of Tuscany, where she lives part of the year and where tradition heavily shades daily life. Jenkins calls Tuscans "the Yankees of Italy" because they are as frugal and
plainspoken as the New Englanders with whom she grew up. Their food is elementally simple, relying heavily on the region's unique, salt-free bread, pane scicco, the intense olive oil that has become famous around the world, and beans slowly cooked in a
tall clay pot, or fiasco.
Jenkins enthralls the reader as she discusses Tuscan food and how her friends and neighbors gather, raise, and prepare it. Flavors of Tuscany is dense with good food. There are roasts, the bread-based soup ribollita,
crostini, and less-known pleasures such as tomato-studded High Summer Risotto and Braised Sweet Pepper Stew. Jenkins's observations about a fast-changing way of living resonate with anyone who cares about quality of life. Her culinary descriptions may
inspire you to build an outdoor brick oven or plan a trip to taste the wines, olive oil, and other special flavors of Tuscany. --Dana Jacobi
For the last twenty-five years, Nancy Harmon Jenkins has spent a good part of her
time with her family in the hills of eastern Tuscany in an antique stone-walled farmhouse surrounded by fields, vineyards, and forests of oak and chestnut. Working through the seasons, gardening, marketing, cooking, and sharing food and its lore with
Tuscan friends and neighbors, she has developed a deep attachment to the cuisine of the Tuscan countryside, to which she brings a unique perspective as one of this country's foremost food writers.
Often imitated but seldom clearly understood
outside Italy, Tuscan country cooking is hearty and appealing in its simplicity and its straightforward insistence on fresh, authentic, unadulterated avors--fragrant, homey herbs like parsley, sage, and rosemary; the lush, peppery aromas of newly pressed
extra virgin olive oil; the appetizing redolence of farm-raised chickens braising in a wood-fired oven; or spitted pork loin, basted with garlic and wine, roasting on the hearth. Drawing on her extensive firsthand experience, Jenkins has re-created for
American cooks and the American table the rustic, robust way of cooking and eating that is the heart of Tuscan life, the avors of Tuscany.
Flavors of Tuscany features more than one hundred recipes for the dishes that provide the foundation of
Tuscan cuisine. In addition to finding simple instructions for baking the salt-free bread that is more essential than pasta in Tuscan kitchens, cooks will learn the ways that frugal Tuscans use leftover bread in soups like ribollita and in salads like
There are also recipes for bruschetta and crostini, the delightful bread crusts piled with toppings that are served as antipasti, light meals, and snacks. A garden-fresh array of vegetable recipes ranges from humble potatoes braised
with tomatoes or sauted with garlic and rosemary to creamy beans stewed with olive oil in a traditional Tuscan fiasco; from elegant spring asparagus with butter-fried eels to a series of sformati, little unmolded puddings of seasonal vegetables that are
a favorite Tuscan first course. Handmade eel pastas, gnocchi, polenta, and rice are also savory first courses, often served with robust meat and wild mushroom rags or delicate seafood sauces.
More than a cookbook or a recipe collection, Flavors of
Tuscany is a celebration of a way of life and an attitude toward food that is as seductive as it is simple. Along with unforgettable sketches of people and places that have appealed to her over the years, Jenkins has included an indispensable section,
"When You Go to Tuscany," that includes favorite restaurants and specialty shops.
To all this, Jenkins brings her special combination of skills: a journalist's air for anecdote, a historian's passion for the story of the past, and a gifted cook's
appreciation of fine traditional food and the people who create it, as well as a deep and abiding love of
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