Breaking Bread in L’Aquila is the perfect Italian cookbook for those lacking a “nonna” to pass down the fresh & zingy stalwart recipes of L’Aquila, Abruzzo, and Southern Italy.
This book’s author, and possibly your new best friend, the thoroughly modern NY-based signora Maria Filice, provides an effortlessly readable narrative. Superbly blending simple instruction with extensive background knowledge, the Italian-Canadian author stimulates curiosity and counters ignorance with each dish. The stunning photography entices you to keep turning the pages whilst sipping a glass of one of Abruzzo’s very drinkable wines and waiting for the water to boil so you can dunk your pasta for your Primo Piatti.
My favourite thing that Abruzzo’s four provinces share in their cooking style is that every dish allows each of the ingredients centre stage, albeit briefly; fresh flavours get to shine rather than have their unique spirit subsumed in an overachieving & underwhelming hotchpotch of overworked elements. Maria’s carefully selected 49 recipes for Breaking Bread in L’Aquila combine simplicity with a clever structure of flavours perfectly, and allow the flexibility to move & mix each day’s suggested menus according to the season, and of course your own personal favourite ingredients!
These are tried & tested basic recipes for those who want to impress with tasty & visually delightful dishes, but who don’t want to be tied to a stove and left feeling stretched & exhausted by the cooking process. Instead, you’ll be ready to share & enjoy each dish whilst catching up with friends & family like any good Abruzzesi; and if anyone wants to know the basics, you can direct them to the useful Abruzzo pantry page so that they too can stock up and get ready to cook.
I experimented with Maria’s recipe for ‘Caramelised Fennel with Onions & Orange Zest’ and paired it with a simple smoked roasted gammon joint, sublime and the perfect early Spring dish. Although I am not the biggest dessert maker or lover of fig jam, Maria’s easy ‘Apricot Tart’ with the suggestion of apricot being subsituted with fig jam has planted the idea what to do with my neighbour’s ‘figgie’ conserve, and will be the first dessert that I’ll bake in 2010; it looks light & easy and perfect for elevenses with a macchiato! My partner wants to try the lasagne that looks more like a scrumptious timbale than the heavy lasagnes that are served in London, where I am writing this from.
Personally I always enjoy cookbooks that have a bit more meat to them, so to speak, than just a series of recipes reiterated tome-form in unimaginative homage. In this case it is a love story woven around and the author’s late husband, L’Aquila-born Paul Piccone, founder of the Telos Press. Paul introduced Maria to L’Aquila and the region of Abruzzo, and fortunately its culinary delights. There is a song called ‘When Love Comes to Town’ by a very famous Irish rock band; this is an Italian cookbook for which those words resonate, particularly in the love that grew in the author for L’Aquila and which continues to develop as a result; all net profits from the sale of this cookbook will be donated to help the people that brought these yummy recipes to life, and who suffered in last year’s tragic earthquake. Do you need any more reasons to get online and buy!
Click here to buy Breaking Bread in L’Aquila
Read more about the Maria Filice on her blog Food & Fate or from Russell Berman the Telos Editor