This week, you saved me from the tawdry and ultimately unproductive vanity cookbook rut that I seemed to have found myself in for the last few weeks. It was like I was back in my twenties, having the same relationship with the same vapid, just-barely-interesting person over and over again. Thank god I have you guys to set me straight.
This week I reviewed my first reader-recommended cookbook, The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. And, it was splendid. In fact, this book – with its scholarly feel, historical introduction, substantial ingredient notes, and reassuringly thorough voice – was the perfect antidote to the mediocrity that was last week’s rendezvous with Marcus Samuelsson.
I love a cookbook that I can sit down and read. Because this book is focused on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy, it has a center, and substance. It reminded me of Macella Hazan’s cookbooks, but for me it captured even more of the culture and personality behind the dishes.
Also, I happen to love Northern Italian food – if I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would probably be a stuffed pasta (putting aside, of course, the obvious nutritional folly of such a course of action).
So, of course, I had to try a stuffed pasta recipe. I decided to make the Cappellacci with Sweet Squash, an oversized version of tortellini stuffed with a mixture of roasted butternut squash and sweet potato and blanketed in sage butter. I have tried and loved many versions of this dish, but I thought that the addition of sweet potato in the filling here made it particularly luscious. However, in a moment of delusional bravado, I did decide to try Kasper’s instructions for rolling out the pasta by hand. It was really fun and interesting to try, but next time I’ll stick with the manual roller, thank you. Let’s just say that some of the resulting pieces more closely resembled doughy kreplach than paper-thin pasta. Purely my own fault, of course; and the filling was so good with the sage butter that I am obsessed with making these again with my usual pasta methods. If you are fanatic enough to make your own pasta, I highly recommend that you try these. Next time I might try it with one of the other types of winter squash available, like Kuri or Kabocha.
The Taglietelle with Ragu Bolognese was also delicious. Beefy but light, it filled the kitchen with the kind of wondrous, slow-cooked aroma that makes you feel all is right in the world. The Pan Fried Veal Chops with Tomato Marsala Sauce was also delectable. Crispy with breadcrumbs on the outside and partially covered with a juicy tomato topping, it was a lovely Sunday night dinner. We served it with Kasper's Oven Roasted Radicchio, raddichio roasted in the oven until it miraculously turns into something crispy, caramelized, sweet and inexplicably artichoke-like. Definitely my favorite radicchio preparation.
Just when this blog was starting to feel a little daunting, this book – suggested by one of you! – reminded me why I love reading and trying out new cookbooks. I feel like I have been introduced to a distinguished new friend, one that I hope to keep around for a long time.