SMORGASBORD: Puglian cooking . . . Barney Butter . . . Steve Raichlen — a la carteThis no-nonsense guide is a solid argument for what many of us have been missing: The essence of earthiness and simplicity that is Puglian cooking.
“The Puglian Cookbook: Bringing the Flavors of Puglia Home” by Viktorija Todorovska (Surrey Books, $20) is one of the few books available in English on cuisine from southern Italy’s Puglia region.
This no-nonsense guide is a solid argument for what many of us have been missing: The essence of earthiness and simplicity that is Puglian cooking. Puglia is known as the breadbasket of the southern Mediterranean food nation — and its largest producer of olive oil.
Puglians eat what’s local, and in season, spare on meats, long on the freshest pickings from the garden and grove.
Todorovska, a cooking teacher, studied at famed Florentine culinary school Apicius and has a knack for making anyone believe theycan take on and love Puglia.
Todorovska writes for the home cook, with no fancy tricks, no hard-to-find ingredients. Recipes are decidedly to-the-point, and, as she writes, some are “so simple that they can only be appreciated when you taste them.” Which is what had us charging to the farmers market to snatch up a trug full of zucchini for the fine frittata and the sublime spaghetti with zucchini and pecorino cheese. Simple cooking is rarely so unforgettable.
What you find tucked in these pages is simple, delicious and straight from the heart of Puglian kitchens, where cooks make the peasant feel like royalty.
Can’t do PBJ?
No prob. An ABJ should fill the lunchroom bill when made with Barney Butter Almond Butter. Or try it as a dip for vegetables. Barney Butter is made with peeled almonds (less gritty texture) in an almond-only facility.
It suggested retail prices: 1.06-ounce (30 grams) single-serving pack, $1.19; 16-ounce jar, $9.99. It’s available at grocers nationwide or at barneybutter.com.
Steve Raichlen — a la carte
Steve Raichlen’s name is usually linked with barbecuing prowess. Esquire magazine even dubbed the James Beard award-winner the nation’s “master griller.” But his latest cookbook, “Bold & Healthy Flavors: 450 Recipes from Around the World” (Black Dog and Leventhal, 400 pages, $19.95), is a bit of a departure from the grill.
Instead, Raichlen zeros in on healthful dishes from around the world, everything from an Indian-spiced lamb with yogurt-tahini, to polenta with Calabrian sausage sauce. The beans chapter, for example, runs the gamut, from New England-style baked to frijoles with epazote (a distinctive, bitter herb), and there’s plenty to savor among the salads, too.