12 November 2011

Weekend Cooking: Molto Batali by Mario Batali

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Whenever I pick up a celebrity chef cookbook, I'm always worried that the techniques will be fussy, the ingredients hard to find, and the equipment too expensive. Mario Batali's Molto Batali is thus a breath of fresh air; it suffers from none of these flaws. The cookbook is truly for the home kitchen.

Printed on heavy, glossy paper and filled with stunning photos of almost every dish, Molto Batali is a book you'll turn to again and again throughout the year. In a very brief introduction, Batali explains that this book emphasizes seasonal cooking and features vegetables and grains. Meat plays second fiddle here, making this a versatile resource for both vegetarians and omnivores.

The cookbook is divided by months, starting (naturally) in January. Batali's no-nonsense style is refreshing. Nothing cute here, just good solid recipes with basic ingredients and straightforward directions. All but the most rural of readers will be able to find the majority of ingredients easily. A few, like soft-shell crabs, may be difficult in the heart of the country, but home cooks won't be frustrated by unavailable items.

A couple of things I love: the varieties of pestos, many of which are not herb based, and the desserts, which are blessedly simple in presentation and not too sweet. I also like the easy to follow directions, and it's fun to spot the occasional nuggets of Batali's personality--for example (from his Brussels sprouts with pecorino and thyme recipe):
4 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into 1/4-inch cubes as best you can
Carefully add the Brussels sprouts to the pan (they will cause a spattering ruckus) . . .
The back of the book contains a glossary of ingredients, a list of mail-order sources, and a very usable index.

Here are some dishes that call to me:
  • Rabe, Potato, and Ricotta Ravioli
  • Semolina and Lemon Torta
  • Wilted Arugula with Pine Nuts and Lemon
  • Cellentani with Kale and Sausage
  • Warm Polenta with Spinach and Robiola

The other thing I love is that my dishes look pretty much exactly like the photos in the book. The other night, I made a small leg of lamb roast inspired by a recipe in the cookbook; I served it with Batali's turnip recipe, which I followed almost exactly (I threw in a couple of parsnips I wanted to use up). To the left is a photo of my dishes and the photos above and below are scanned from the book (click to enlarge). Not too bad, eh? By the way, if you don't like turnips, try this pesto on potatoes, pasta, or toasted peasant bread.

Turnips in Green Olive Pesto
Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3 pounds of turnips, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 1 cup pitted large or jumbo green olives, such as Acolana or Cerignola
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh marjoram leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a soup pot, and add the salt. Drop the turnip pieces into the water and cook until tender but al dente, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the olives, onions, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor, and blend for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and blend until it forms a thick, smooth paste.

When the turnips are done, drain them well in a colander and immediately toss them into a mixing bowl. Add the olive pesto, marjoram, parsley, and lots of black pepper, and mix gently. Allow the turnips to cook, and serve at room temperature.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rebecca Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Molto Batali at Powell's
Molto Batali at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, October 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062095565
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 11/12/11, 5:39 AM  

It's always fantastic when your dish turns out to be something like the one in the picture, and then even better if it tastes good too!

Little Nell 11/12/11, 6:45 AM  

I like the idea of a different pesto sauces. I’m going to try that one. I’ve got some Canarian foods and wines in my post this week.

TheBookGirl 11/12/11, 7:08 AM  

Spattering ruckus? I love that :)

I just happen to have some turnips in the fridge so your featured recipe couldn't have come at a better time for me!

I have always just assumed that Batali's cookbooks would be too advanced for me. I am happy to hear that that is not the case, at least with this one. I will see if I can get this one from the library (I like to do that with most cookbooks first) to see if it would be a good purchase for me.

Kaye 11/12/11, 7:35 AM  

That warm polenta sounds good. We love turnips in our house - I'm definitely going to try that recipe. Thanks for sharing!

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 11/12/11, 8:21 AM  

Not bad? Your lamb and turnips look fantastic!
I love Mario's books, his recipes have turned out well for me, too! Just got this one delivered the other day, I had bookmarked some of the same recipes you mentioned, definitely the spattering brussels sprouts!

Heather @ girlichef.com 11/12/11, 8:40 AM  

Oh, I haven't seen this one yet, but I do like the sound of it. Added to the "never-ending" list! =)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 11/12/11, 8:44 AM  

You told me what you cooked the other night, but I didn't realize the recipes were from (or inspired by), this cookbook - green olive pesto = yummy!

Your dishes look remarkably similar to the photos in the book - well done!

bermudaonion 11/12/11, 8:48 AM  

This sounds like the cookbook for me - first, I love the fact that meat is secondary and second, I love his style! Those turnips in green olive pesto sound divine!!

Anonymous,  11/12/11, 9:21 AM  

This sounds like my kinda cookbook!
The turnip recipe you posted has me thinking I need to give turnips another chance!
Have a great weekend.

kalenski,  11/12/11, 10:15 AM  

Ooh, that turnip recipe looks great.

Sharon Galligar Chance 11/12/11, 10:40 AM  

I don't normally care for turnips but my husband loves them! So maybe I'll give this recipe a shot! :)

Margot 11/12/11, 11:12 AM  

I like the idea of pestos made with a variety of ingredients other than basil. This olive recipe sounds delicious. I have to try it.

Memory 11/12/11, 11:23 AM  

I'm a pesto addict, so I'll have to check this out for those recipes alone!

Lynne Perednia 11/12/11, 1:49 PM  

How fabulous! I've been watching Mario on The Chew via DVR; he and Michael Symon have had some great ideas in between the all teh other stuff I'm not interested in.

This morning was the second time I've picked through the huge box of ripening tomatoes and blanched another two-gallon sacksful for the freezer. The shiny variations of red fruit, the jackets as they slipped off, the fresh smell of the still earthy tomatoes in the box and the sweet tomato odor made for the perfect way to say goodbye to last summer.

Beth Hoffman 11/12/11, 2:15 PM  

I'm intrigued by this cookbook, so much so that I'm going to buy it right away and give it to my husband. He's a MUCH better cook than I, and I think he'll have a blast with the recipes.

Thanks, Candace. Happy weekend!

Anonymous,  11/12/11, 4:37 PM  

I don't know that I've ever eaten a turnip. I'm sure they're tasty with that pesto, though!

Julie P. 11/12/11, 4:53 PM  

I'm not sure I would find anything to make in this cookbook, but it sure sounds like fun!

Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post 11/12/11, 7:06 PM  

I do like Mario! Not sure I would like the turnip recipe though, but I will try anything once!

caite 11/12/11, 7:18 PM  

I used to watch him on TV sometimes..he is entertaining..but I have never tried any of his recipes..

Of course, I am a little miffed with him recently, for his fast and loose use of the word Nazis to refer to some people he seems not to like. I so, so hate the cheapening of the reality of the Nazis..so Mario, I will not be buying your book.

Uniflame 11/13/11, 2:40 AM  

Olive pesto, I woudn't have thought of that myself. Very interesting :)

Beth S. 11/13/11, 9:58 AM  

I just requested this one from the library. Ever since I ate at one of Batali's restaurants in NYC, I have been absolutely head over heels about his food. It was one of the first restaurant meals I'd ever had that was akin to a religious experience.

BookGeek 11/13/11, 10:50 AM  

I have yet to try one of Batali's recipes, but I love watching his shows. He is amazing on Iron Chef too!

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/13/11, 10:57 AM  

I'm going to try the Pear & Hazelnut Cake recipe. Great photo of the turnips!

Peppermint Ph.D. 11/13/11, 2:39 PM  

I've enjoyed watching Mario Batali on the Food Network and am intrigued by your descriptions of the recipes in this book. Normally I'm a little wary of the professional recipes bc they can definitely leave me behind quickly. I'd like to look at this one though :)

Becky 11/13/11, 3:00 PM  

He's been doing some of these recipes on his new show "The Chew," so I've noticed the nice variety and ease of some of these recipes. Thanks for the review! I'll ahve to check it out.

Anonymous,  11/13/11, 3:21 PM  

My burning question today: Does Mario use bread or bread crumbs in soup as a thickener? - Fay

Peaceful Reader 11/13/11, 8:28 PM  

I don't use turnips very much but with pesto they sound delicious! I love Mario's easy style.

Christine 11/13/11, 8:40 PM  

Hi Beth!
I'm going to look for this cookbook at my library--I'm sure I can find several recipes I'd love to try. I love cookbooks that emphasize seasonal cooking!

Daryl 11/14/11, 8:17 AM  

Some fun foodie signs and windows from my visit to Philly .. home of the Philly Cheesesteaks and hoagies!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 11/14/11, 10:07 AM  

The book looks fantastic! It is fall and I am in a cooking mood.... rare for me :)

Anonymous,  11/18/11, 4:41 PM  

I see turnips at the farmers market every week but never buy them because I didn't know what to do with them. I want to try that recipe so I'm def buying some tomorrow.

Michelle 11/23/11, 2:32 PM  

You are such an amazing chef. I just can't even begin to fathom being able to do what you do!

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