The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
Recipes from the Italian kitchen of Frances and Edward Mayes
By Tricia Brown
When Frances Mayes fell in love with Tuscany and wrote about creating a new life there in Under the Tuscan Sun, she started an affair that led to millions of readers around the world sharing her dream.
So naturally, in her first cookbook, Frances and her husband, Edward, welcome readers to their beloved Villa Bramasole, introducing their Tuscan friends and offering a deliciously tangible toast to la dolce vita by sharing a collection of favourite recipes and stories from 21 wonderful years of feasting in Tuscany.
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook is a great read evoking a life that we all (secretly or not so secretly) long for: one of days spent gathering chestnuts, almonds, blackberries and porcini; baskets full of bright red tomatoes and seasonal produce from our own garden; simple meals lovingly prepared and eaten with large numbers of friends.
In all her bestselling books about Tuscany, food plays a starring role as both cooking and eating with family and good friends are natural pleasures in this wonderful part of the world (while in Italy, the Mayes have eight or ten friends over at least twice a week) and the very essence of life in Tuscany.
The recipes are a collection of their own versions of Italian classics plus those from their Tuscan friends and neighbours. A few are from favourite hotels and restaurants and some, like Summer Shrimp Salad, have a twist in that they happily travel between the kitchens in Tuscany and North Carolina in the USA, the Mayes' other home.
The book includes a helpful chapter on the essentials of the Tuscan kitchen, then the expected sections of antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, dolci, finishing with aperitivi e digestivi. The contorni (vegetable) section is full of great recipes for abundant seasonal produce from the market or your own garden.
All recipes have exact quantities; you will not find the q.b. system here. Quanto basta is the Italian expression for "as much as you need" or "it is up to you" – something my Italian friends tell me drives many cooks mad, especially Americans, as they like to know exact measures for ingredients.
Beside each recipe there is a helpful comment on preparation or alternative ingredients as well as a wine suggestion. The photography of longtime collaborator Steven Rothfeld is luscious.
This is one of those cookbooks that makes you want to start at the beginning and just cook right through to the end. It's simple cooking but done with love using the best produce and shared with friends and family. Can life get any more dolce than this?
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes is published by HarperCollins Publishers (Australia, April 2012; sc, 224 pp) and retails in Australia for A$35.00.
- Italy - all (IT)
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