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As many of you know I love to bake bread. And it's through baking that I first became familiar with Nancy Silverton in the mid-1990s. I own both her La Brea Bakery books and have used them many times. Over the years, Silverton has been involved with a number of food ventures, cooked and baked at restaurants, lived in Italy, and written several cookbooks.
Her latest book, out just a few weeks ago, is The Mozza Cookbook, which brings the dishes from her Los Angeles–based restaurants to home cooks everywhere. The restaurants are a collaboration of a small group, including chefs, bakers, and a wine expert. Mario Batali is one of those chefs, though he is not hands-on.
The philosophy and tastes behind the two Mozza restaurants—a pizzeria and a more formal establishment—is traditional Italian cusine, not (as Silverton puts it) " 'Cal-Ital,' or 'Ital-inspired.' " When writing the cookbook, Silverton and her team of cooks and recipe testers worked hard to make sure the recipes "include all the information the reader would need to successfully replicate our food at home." As a consequence, the recipe directions are wordy, making you feel as if Silverton were in your kitchen with you. This style works well, and I particularly like the little hints, tips, and words of encouragement found directly in the directions right when I might need them.
Each recipe is introduced with a bit of history and includes information about how to serve the dish and how to store it. As a sometimes-unsure wine enthusiast, I also appreciate the wine suggestions found with many of the recipes. There are stunning photographs throughout, although not many dishes are shown on the plate.
The chapters are divided into traditional Italian courses, from drinks and starters to dessert and coffee. This is not a cookbook for the rank beginner, but anyone who is confident following a recipe will have no trouble at all. A few ingredients may be exotic to some of you (game, for example), but most are available everywhere, or a good substitution can be found.
As you know, I love to make pizza, so I was immediately drawn to the pizza chapter. Silverton has included a pizza for every taste from the traditional margherita to one with fresh goat cheese, leek, scallions, garlic, and bacon. Yeah. Must make that soon. Her pizza dough is unique and is more complex (not harder to make, more flavors) than mine. I definitely plan to try it.
Here are some other recipes that caught my eye:
- Nancy's Chopped Salad: I love chopped salad and make it often, but this one is mouth-watering with its Italian meats, chick-peas, and oregano vinaigrette.
- Meatballs al Forno: This appetizer is easy to make and uses a mix of pork and veal. The dish is topped with a spicy homemade tomato sauce and garnished with Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley.
- Orecchiette with Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard: Umm do I need to say more? This is my kind of dish.
- Garganelli with Ragù Bolognese: This is the familiar tomato and ground meat sauce, cooked with plenty of garlic, white wine, and a little milk.
- Pumpkin and Date Tart with Bourbon Gelate: Pumpkins, dates, and bourbon says Thanksgiving to me, regardless of its Italian origins.
A couple of other notes: The index is thoughtfully put together. In fact you can look up recipes by herb, so if you come home from the market with a beautiful bunch of rosemary, simply look up rosemary to find five recipes. Vegetarians will find a fair number of dishes to fit their diet; vegans, however, will have a rougher time of it.
For more on Nancy Silverton, including some recipes and a video see The Los Angeles Times site and StarChefs.com. For more on the restaurants, see Mozza's website.
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Source: review (see review policy).
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