Veneto: Recipes from an Ital­ian Coun­try Kitchen

Va­le­ria Nec­chio

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - RACHEL JAGARESKI

Faber & Faber (DE­CEM­BER) Hard­cover $29.95 (288pp) 978-1-78335-108-4

In this cook­book worth sa­vor­ing, en­tranc­ing cook­ing instructions in­volve lots of snap­pi­ness, whoosh­ing, and wine.

Tourist-trod­den Venice may be the star at­trac­tion of Italy’s Veneto re­gion, but for na­tive food writer Va­le­ria Nec­chio, the rus­tic land­scape of the sur­round­ing agri­cul­tural dis­tricts is more al­lur­ing. Veneto show­cases the food bounty and dis­tinc­tive tastes of these hin­ter­lands, while dol­ing out a gen­er­ous por­tion of the author’s food mem­o­ries and fam­ily sto­ries.

Nec­chio de­scribes her­self as “the sort of food fa­natic who … moves to a tiny vil­lage to study gas­tron­omy.” Her book neatly di­vides prose and one hun­dred recipes be­tween the tra­di­tional foods of her youth, the more so­phis­ti­cated but still Vene­to­cen­tric cook­ing of her adult­hood, and a de­light­ful third sec­tion that of­fers up dis­tinc­tive pick­les and jams, and other ways to pre­serve sea­sonal abun­dance.

The book pre­sents tra­di­tional Veneto cook­ing as rus­tic and homey, em­pha­siz­ing sim­ple, slow prepa­ra­tions that coax the fullest fla­vors from fa­vorite lo­cal ingredients like ar­ti­chokes, rab­bit, radic­chio, bor­lotti beans, and even po­lenta. Veneto res­i­dents es­pe­cially like bit­ter, herbal, and sweet-and-sour tastes (see the tempt­ing recipe for Fried Mar­i­nated Pump­kin with Onion, Pine Nuts, and Raisins), as well as desserts that are not overly sweet. Pasta, risotto, and seafood dishes also fea­ture heav­ily in these pages.

Nec­chio’s recipes for such re­gional de­lights don’t call for laun­dry lists of ingredients nor mas­ter­ful kitchen tech­niques, though the recipes of­ten fill up a page or two or more with her ex­ten­sive notes dol­ing out culi­nary history, fam­ily lore, mem­o­ries, recipe vari­a­tions, and tips for procur­ing and prep­ping ingredients. In­for­ma­tive, evoca­tive asides take on a dreamy, time­less qual­ity when paired with her many light-in­fused color pho­to­graphs.

The apoth­e­o­sis of her tal­ents comes in her pre­sen­ta­tion of Wild Hop Risotto. Nec­chio de­scribes tramp­ing through the woods with her Un­cle Re­nato to find br­us­can­doli, the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for this iconic spring­time dish redo­lent of musk, resin, and the wild. Then she lay­ers on ex­quis­ite shots of the curl­ing br­us­can­doli ten­drils and her en­tranc­ing cook­ing instructions that in­volve lots of snap­pi­ness, whoosh­ing, and wine.

Veneto is a great book to sa­vor and to cook from. It should send many off to Veneto, or to scour up some wild hop shoots, or at the very least, off to the kitchen to cook up some­thing won­der­ful.

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