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Even if you haven't heard of Hazan before, I bet you've heard of her famous, simple pasta sauce. It's the one that incorporates butter. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to the New York Times site and the recipe for the deceptively simple three-ingredient sauce (see the photo from the NYT).
Anyway, I've always liked Hazan's down-to-earth approach to cooking the everyday food of her native Italy. When she died in 2013, I was sorry that we had lost her voice. Thus it was a true treat to discover that in the last years of her life, she had written Ingredienti, a guide to buying and using her favorite ingredients.
The heart of the book: Ingredienti is divided into four main parts--fruits and vegetables, pantry items, and pork--and ends with a guide to online sites if you want to mail order any of the ingredients you can't find at local markets. Note that the book does not include any recipes per se, but Hazan does provide cooking tips and describes the ways she incorporated the ingredients into her cooking.
The first section is a guide for buying, prepping, and storing Hazan's favorite fruits and vegetables. We learn, for example, that there are two common types of garlic and the difference between them. She talks about how she likes to prepare cauliflower, the best way to grill eggplant, how to choose a bell pepper, and so on.
Then Hazan turns to pantry items. Here, she talks about pasta, oils, vinegars, and herbs, including brand names and when to splurge on the best and when to save money. I learned a few surprising things in this section, such as which herbs are actually better to use dried instead of fresh.
The final section of Ingredienti focuses on pork, especially the famous Italian hams. I can't help but wonder if she had planned red meat, poultry, and fish chapters as well.
Not all facts: The text is filled with Hazan's personal stories. I love how her enthusiasm for cooking and eating really shines through. She talks about the food she ate when she first got married in the 1950s and foods she ate in grandmother's kitchen when she was a child. We also learn about how she adapted her ingredients when she and her husband moved to America. Ingredienti also covers some of the difference between U.S. and Italian tastes. The book is a true delight to read and is almost as much memoir as it a useful reference.
Two things to know:
- Ingredienti was never meant to be comprehensive. It's a celebration of the foods Hazan loved and relied on and has a distinct Italian bias.
- The book is filled with fantastic information and cooking ideas but you need to keep in mind that there are no actual recipes.
Published by Scribner, 2016
Source: review (see review policy)
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