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Breaking tradition: Recent cookbooks brim with new ideas

  • Cookbooks are displayed at Claire Hopley’s Leverett home. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Cookbooks are displayed at Claire Hopley's Leverett home. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pear and Chocolate Tart from “Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian” ($35) by Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Reprinted with permision Alfred A. Knopf) —

  • Shrimp in Almond Batter from “Coastline” ($35) by Lucio Galletto and David Dale (Reprinted by permission Interlink Books) —

  • Susan BellPasta ribbons with sticky red wine figs, docelatte and pecans from “The Flexible Vegetarian” ($35) by Jo Pratt (Reprinted with permission Quarto Publishing). Susan Bell



For the Bulletin
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Right about now many of us are ferreting out recipes for holiday dishes knitted so tightly into the fabric of family festivities that omitting them is unthinkable. Still, it’s invigorating to try something new – and not just at iconic celebrations like Thanksgiving, but for all those merry get-togethers that brighten our lives as winter draws on.

Recent cookbooks brim with new ideas, many from other countries. The gypsy in the soul as well as the cook in the kitchen will be especially tempted by four richly illustrated books from our local publisher Interlink Books of Northampton. They are “Coastline: The food of Mediterranean Italy, France, and Spain;” “Oklava,” which features Turkish-Cypriot cuisine; “Passione,” packed with “simple, seductive recipes for lovers of Italian food;” and “Tasting Georgia,” which explores the cuisine of the small Caucasian nation.

Renowned throughout the former USSR, Georgian food is unfamiliar here. Author Carla Capalbo describes its dishes region by region, highlighting its varied breads, vegetables, and fruits — often used in unusual ways: blackberries with duck, for example, and pears and plums stewed with onions. Other staples include cheeses, savory pies, and especially walnuts — a basic ingredient of Georgian cuisine, especially sauces. This fascinating book also investigates Georgia’s age-old wine-making traditions, and gives enticing travel advice.

Equally alluring to travelers are the lovely pictures of France, Italy and Spain and the carefully explained recipes for authentic dishes in Lucio Galletto’s and David Dale’s “Coastline.” Similarly, Selim Kiazim’s “Oklava Recipes from a Turkish-Cypriot Kitchen” will make you long to visit their island home so you can sample its boat-shaped pide — breads with savory fillings — and its luscious syrup-infused desserts.

Kiazim owns a London restaurant, and professional style refines her homey recipes. Likewise, in “Passione,” Gennaro Contaldo, a chef from Italy’s Amalfi coast, combines expert advice with inspiration from family cooks in beguiling dishes such as Tagliatelle with Tuna, Lemon and Arugula, and an Amalfi Lemon Tart that’s as easy as it is delicious.

“Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian” by Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (published by Knopf) also appeals to lovers of Italian food with 220 recipes that team tastiness, prettiness and easiness. Many are Italian classics — Beef Involtini and Pepperonata, while others — Pear and Chocolate Tart for example — are less familiar delights. All are wonderfully doable.

Celebration threads its way thematically through Bastianich’s work and also Leah Konig’s “Little Book of Jewish Appetizers” (Chronicle Books), which is packed with tasty recipes for party munchies. It includes Jewish specialties such as potato knishes, chopped egg and caramelized onions and Sephardic bulemas along with pickles and eastern Mediterranean mezes.

“Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match” by Ivy Manning (Chronicle Books), usefully teams complementary soup and bread recipes that will slot into cold-season meals ranging from special dinners to tailgates.

Jo Pratt’s “The Flexible Vegetarian” (Quarto Publishing) has another winning concept. The vegetarian recipes include interesting riffs on familiar themes such as Fennel and Radish Coleslaw, Coriander, Peanut and Chili Pesto, and Pasta Ribbons with Sticky Red Wine Figs Dolcelatte and Pecans. A huge plus are the meat or fish additions suggested for those who want them — just the thing for holidays that vegetarians and carnivores celebrate together.

Recipes — reprinted with permission from the publishers — follow for two party appetizers, two main-dish possibilities, and two luscious desserts from these inspiring books. The books themselves make perfect holiday gifts.

SHRIMP IN ALMOND BATTER

Party guests can’t resist these eye-catching Catalonian almond-covered shrimp from “Coastline” ($35) by Lucio Galletto and David Dale.

½ cup all-purpose flour

Sea salt

2¾ cups sliced almonds

½ cup dry breadcrumbs

16 (large) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Put the flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk in enough water — about 1 cup to make a thin batter, whisking until smooth. (For extra flavor, you can squeeze the liquid from the shrimp heads into the batter.)

Mix the almonds and the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Holding the shrimp by the tail, dip them into the batter and allow the excess to drain off, then coat them with the almond mixture, pressing it on with your fingers to coat properly.

Heat about 1½ inches of vegetable oil in a saucepan. When it is hot, fry the shrimp for 2 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown, turning them once. Drain on paper towels and serve.

CHOPPED EGG AND CARAMELIZED ONION SPREAD

“An undercover Ashkenazi star” is how Leah Konig describes this spread from her “Little Book of Jewish Appetizers” ($18.95). She suggests toasted rye or challah for serving.

8 eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan. Cover with water by 2 in and set the pan, uncovered, over high heat. When the water boils, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for 18 minutes.

Drain the eggs and rinse well under cold water to stop the cooking process. Peel the eggs, cut them in half, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and shallot, cover, and cook until they begin to soften, 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover the pan, season with a little salt, and stir in 1 tablespoon water. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the onion and shallot take on a golden color with some crispy edges, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the cooked eggs and half of the onion mixture in a food processor and pulse a few times to break everything up. Be careful not to overprocess — the mixture should look textured and fluffy, not smooth or pasty. Transfer to a medium bowl. Gently fold in the mayonnaise, paprika, and reserved onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold, and store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

FISH BAKED WITH WALNUTS

For this Black Sea recipe is from “Tasting Georgia” ($40) author Carla Capalbo suggests a whole sea bass or bream. Walnut paste makes this dish excitingly different.

1 pound 7 ounces whole fish, scaled and gutted

2 tablespoons sunflower or extra virgin olive oil

For the paste

1 cup walnut halves or hazelnuts

½ cup cilantro

2 garlic cloves

½ teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Medium-hot chili, to taste

Rinse the inside of the fish to remove any bitter organs or veins. Pat the fish dry.

Spread the bottom of a baking dish with a spoonful of the oil and arrange the fish in it in one layer. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make the paste by putting all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulsing until a coarse paste is reached. (If you are using hazelnuts, chop them roughly before putting them in the processor.)

Fill the cavities of the fish with half of the paste, reserving the rest. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil and cover it with parchment paper.

Bake the fish in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until it’s cooked to your liking. Meanwhile, add a few spoonfuls of water to the remaining paste and pulse it again to make a smoother sauce.

Serve the fish with the sauce on the side.

PASTA RIBBONS WITH STICKY RED WINE FIGS, DOLCELATE AND PECANS

This scrumptious dish from “The Flexible Vegetarian” ($35) can star as a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish. It is perfect, too, for other holiday meals. Author Jo Pratt suggests adding Parma ham for omnivores.

8 ripe figs, quartered

½ cup red wine

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

Small handful fresh oregano leaves

3 ounces (about ½ cup) pecan nuts

14 ounces fresh lasagne sheets

2 ounces (2 loosely packed cups) baby spinach leaves

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5 pounces Dolcelatte cheese

Flaked sea salt and freshly ground

Black pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the figs in a medium-sized roasting tray. Mix together the wine, vinegar and honey, and pour over the figs. Scatter over the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turning and basting halfway through.

While the figs are roasting, put the pecan nuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven with the figs for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cut or tear the pasta sheets into approximately one-inch long ribbons. Cook for about 5 minutes until al dente. Drain, immediately return to the pan and add the spinach and olive oil. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pasta to mix with the spinach as it wilts. Add small chunks of the Dolcelatte, then the toasted nuts, roasted figs and any roasting juices. Turn gently to mix and transfer to serving plates.

PEAR AND CHOCOLATE TART

“Just as good as it sounds” says Lidia Bastianich of this tart from “Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian” ($35). It could star among the Thanksgiving pies or at any holiday meal.

Caramel

⅔ cup sugar

Tart

16 amaretto cookies, crumbled

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup sugar

⅓ cup milk

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon dark rum

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

3 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

For the caramel, stir the sugar and 2 tablespoons water together in a medium skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted and the syrup is boiling. Once it boils, don’t stir, just swirl occasionally so the caramel cooks evenly. Simmer until the syrup begins to turn a medium amber color, about 7 to 8 minutes.

Pour the caramel immediately into a 10- inch round heatproof pie dish or shallow casserole. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Choose a roasting pan large enough to hold the pie plate, and place it on the center rack of the oven. Heat a kettle of water to boiling.

Put the crumbled cookies in a blender, and blend in bursts until finely ground. Pour in the cocoa and sugar, and pulse to mix with the cookies. Pour in the milk, eggs, yolk, rum, and baking powder, and blend at low speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender, until smooth. Pour in the heavy cream, and blend just enough to incorporate it. Scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in the pears

Pour the chocolate- pear mixture into the prepared dish, and set the dish in the roasting pan. Pour in enough of the boiling water from the kettle to come halfway up the side of the pie plate. Bake until firm in the center and lightly browned on top, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool in the water bath until you can safely remove it. Cool on a rack to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the custard to loosen. Invert a plate large enough to hold the tart comfortably, then, in one quick motion, flip the tart over and set the plate down. The tart may take several seconds to work itself loose from the dish. After it does so, gently lift off the dish, and serve the tart cut into wedges. (Possible garnishes include extra pear slices or whipped cream.)

AMALFI LEMON TART

Chef Gennaro Contaldo says this tart from his “Passione” ($30) is “simple” and store-bought puff pastry is “absolutely fine.” Just what we need at this busy season! Sunny-colored and fresh-tasting it ends a holiday meal perfectly.

½ cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

Peel of 2 Amalfi or unwaxed lemons cut into matchstick-thin strips

10½ ounces (roughly 1 sheet) purchased puff pastry (all-butter is best)

For the filling

3 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

Zest and juice of 2 Amalfi lemons or unwaxed lemons

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1 cup ricotta cheese, sieved

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting and rolling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To remove the bitterness from the lemon strips, place the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the lemon strips, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, dry the lemon strips on paper towels, and leave to cool.

Lightly grease a 10-inch loose­bottomed tart pan with a little butter and dust lightly with some flour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry to a round about ¼-inch thick

Line the prepared pan with the pastry, making sure it comes slightly over the edge. Line the pastry with parchment paper, fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes; after 10 minutes, remove the weights and continue to bake until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven to 275 degrees.

To make the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until fluffy and doubled in volume. Add the lemon zest and juice and melted butter, and mix well. Stir in the ricotta and sift in the flour. Whisk well to remove any lumps.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiffened, then fold carefully into the ricotta mixture. Pour into the pastry base, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until set. About 15 minutes before the end of cooking arrange the lemon strips over the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.