22 October 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: The Mozza Cookbook by Nancy Silverton

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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 Rag├╣ 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.
One of the recipes from The Mozza Cookbook, Ricotta Gnudi with Chantrelles, is available, thanks to the publisher, on the cookbook's website, where you can also see some of the promotional materials.

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.

Published by Random House / Knopf / Borzoi Books, September 2011
ISBN-13: 9780307272843
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 10/22/11, 6:19 AM  

Sounds like a good cookbook to use regularly!

This post has reminded me that we have an Italian cookbook out from the library. I don't precisely know where it is - somewhere in the house!

Uniflame 10/22/11, 6:35 AM  

I love Italian Cooking. It seems that you are going to have some good times using this book!

TheBookGirl 10/22/11, 6:38 AM  

I don't think I've ever seen a cookbook index done by herb - that's really a great feature.

bermudaonion 10/22/11, 8:11 AM  

Oh my gosh, that cookbook sounds divine! I LOVE chopped salad and the other dishes sound good too.

Gnoe (@Graasland) 10/22/11, 8:14 AM  

Ha, I thought this was a cookbook all about MOZZArella! ;P

JoAnn 10/22/11, 8:29 AM  

This sounds like my style of cookbook. Extra tips and encouragement are always appreciated!

caite 10/22/11, 8:51 AM  

I must say that I totally agree the Orecchiette with Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard sounds most interesting..a lovely fall dish....hmmmm

Beth S. 10/22/11, 9:12 AM  

I always love reading your cookbook reviews because you bring attention to books I have never heard of but always intrigue and excite me. It's hard for me to get excited about cookbooks anymore because, as I mentioned in one of my posts this week, I've hit a plateau in terms of my learning. It's very rare for me to read a cookbook anymore and learn something new. So when I do, I get very excited.

I had never heard of the term Cal-Ital before. Man, California likes infiltrating all types of cuisine don't they? I didn't think it was possible to fuse Italian cuisine. ;)

Heather S-G 10/22/11, 9:12 AM  

This sounds like a cookbook I would love. I've had my eye on it from afar, but I think I'll have to actually go for it now. I want to go into the kitchen with Nancy!

Darlene 10/22/11, 12:10 PM  

Yum! This sounds like a fabulous cookbook.

Peaceful Reader 10/22/11, 1:29 PM  

Pumpkin Date Tarte sounds amazing! This needs to be on my Christmas wish list.

Anonymous,  10/22/11, 1:35 PM  

Beth, it may sound pedantic, but I love a good index! It makes the book so much easier to use.

Nan 10/22/11, 1:37 PM  

There are so, so many cookbooks out. Do you think the average person buys and cooks from them, or just 'reads' them?

I took this weekend off from posting. I've got a movie or two in mind for future weekend cookings. :<)

Beth F 10/22/11, 2:00 PM  

@Gnoe: actually you are correct. Mozzarella is very important to this restaurant. The book includes recipes for making your own.

@Beth S. I do know what you mean. Sometimes I feel the same, but I love reading cookbooks so much I can't resist.

@Readramble: A good index is important, especially in cookbook. I want to find recipes easily.

@Nan: I tend to read them more than I cook out of them, but sometimes I'll have 3 or 4 open to variations of the same recipe while I'm cooking up my own version!

Margot 10/22/11, 5:24 PM  

I loved the LaBrea Bakery cookbook. I'll look for this one based based on Nancy Silverton's previous books. Chopped Salads are something I order in restaurants but I have yet to make my first one. Perhaps in future Weekend Cooking posts you might share a recipe or two?

Meghan 10/23/11, 8:25 AM  

This book sounds fantastic, and a good way to keep on eating proper Italian food even while not in Italy. Thanks for the timely recommendation!

Serena 10/23/11, 8:50 AM  

Sounds like a good cookbook.

Chinoiseries 10/23/11, 10:14 AM  

The photos are gorgeous! I'm afraid that the descriptions are a little too "wordy" for me. I tend to drift off and get lost in the recipe if it has too much text :/

Lisa@ButteryBooks 10/23/11, 11:39 AM  

I would eat pizza for every meal if I could. My husband always wonders why I bother reading the menu when I order the pizza every time.

Karen White 10/23/11, 1:53 PM  

I just treated myself to a pizza from Mozza2go the other night - if you are ever in LA, it's Pizzeria Mozza is definitely worth a visit. (I like it better than the more expensive Osteria next door.) Here's another article in the LA Times where Nancy talks about making salads - some unique tips and 3 recipes: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-master-class-nancy-silverton-20111006,0,2766363.htmlstory

Sheila (Bookjourney) 10/23/11, 6:28 PM  

I have not had homemade pizza for years - yum.... I must get my hands on this and try a homemade pizza recipe soon.

Peppermint Ph.D. 10/23/11, 7:45 PM  

I would love to read this one as well...the recipes might be a little out of my league but I'd love to have a weekend in the kitchen to just experiment with dough :)

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 10/23/11, 9:29 PM  

I just got this cookbook, haven't looked through it yet, but definitely keeping my eye open for the chopped salad and the meatballs! Thanks for the review!

Heather 10/25/11, 7:55 AM  

this sounds like a cookbook that would be a fun to read as it would be to cook from.

Sarah (The Brazen Bookworm) 10/27/11, 7:29 PM  

I ordered this based on your recommendation and just got it in the mail today! I'm salivating over the recipes...I agree that the chopped salad looks fabulous, and I'm thinking the ricotta/egg ravioli with browned butter will be second on my list. Thanks for the heads-up about this one! :)

Michelle 10/29/11, 6:32 PM  

This looks awesome! So so amazing.

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