Review: The Splendid Table:Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynn Rossetto Kasper

by Rebeca on May 10, 2009

As I previously posted, Sundays have become a day of fancy cooking and I thought that this would be an appropriate introduction to a new category: Cookbooks.

I love my cookbooks as much as my other books, and I’ve separated the ones I use often and keep them on a shelf, within easy reach, in the kitchen. My favorite one is an Italian cookbook that I was introduced to at a dinner party nearly 20 years ago. And that’s Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table.

The name might be familiar to you if you’re a listener of NPR. Kasper has a radio show with the same title.For readers who don’t know Kasper, she was named one of the twelve best cooking teachers by the James Beard Foundation. Her research for the books began in the 1980s while Kasper was living in Europe. She explored Emilia-Romagna, working with home cooks, chefs, historians, and the culinary artisans who still prepare traditional foods
in the old way

the-splendid-tableThe Splendid Table:Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food
by Lynn Rossetto Kasper
William Morrow and Company, 1992
530 pages, illustrated with 24 pages in full color
$39.95

I’m departing from third person reviews since cooking and eating is such a personal venture. I can emphatically state that The Splendid Table is my favorite cookbook. And becasue I love it so much, I’ve given it as a gift for Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and wedding showers.

If you like pasta then you’ll flip over the 56 recipes that are included in this book. But if you’re looking for more than just pasta, you’ll find something for meat, game, poultry lovers, and even vegeterians. Not sure what wine to serve? Kapser offers some terrific suggestions, as well as menu recommendations. Like some history to go with your meals? Kasper provides wonderful historical anecdotes about the Borgias, Rossini, Verdi, Toscanini, and Napoleon’s Empress Marie Louise and their devotion to the region’s food.

The first recipe I tried almost 20 years ago was Garganelli with Roasted Peppers, Peas, and Cream. As Kasper writes,

There is a lovely play of sweet, flavors here–roasted peppers, peas, cream and prosciutto. The dish is made in no time. By not reducing the cream, but merely heating it, the pasta maintains an unexpected lightness.

In terms of flavor and texture, it is very light. However, if it does become a favorite and you make it often–as I did years ago, don’t be surprised by your expanding waistline.

In recipes that require butter, olive oil or cream, Kasper doesn’t skimp or substitute with margarines or non-fat yogurts. Sometimes, she writes that you can subtitue butter with olive oil, but, in general, she always sticks to the traditional recipe.

And that’s the beauty of The Splendid Table–the ingredients. I love going to the green market and getting fresh herbs and vegetables (organic is even better). and I’m in absolute heaven shopping at specialty gourmet stores for cheeses, prosciutto, and pancetta.

When the book was first published, some of the key ingredients were difficult to find if you didn’t live in or a near a metropolitan area, but now just about every supermarket carries Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or balsmaic vinegar. If you have questions of how to select ingredients, Kasper includes, “A Guide to Ingredients” that shares the secrets of how to select, use, and store fresh herbs, mushrooms, prosciutto, olive oils and much more.

Some of the recipes can be a challenging to make. I’ve shied away from the ragus, making fresh pasta, and the
desserts mostly because of time-constraints (but let’s face it, none of these recipes are waistline friendly)

As for tonight’s dinner, it’s one that I’ve made on several occasions: Salad of Tart Greens with Prosciutto and Warm Balsamic Dressing and Spaghetti with Anchovies and Melting Onions. Here’s what Kasper has to say,

From Ferrara’s Po delta, this in one of those easily-put-together dishes, a typical Sunday-night supper of the area. I have found that even those who claim to dislike anchovies enjoy their mild flavor, where their assertiveness is tamed by the sweet carmelized onions. Traditionally, pastas with fish are served without cheese. In this dish a few spoonfuls of olive oil season the pasta just before serving.

Later this evening, I’ll post photographs of the finished dishes. If you want the recipes for the dishes mentioned, leave your name and email in the comments section.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer salt June 8, 2009 at 2:31 am

would love the recipe for pasta with anchovies and melting onions, enjoy yr blog

Charlena Kletschka January 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

A pal recommended me to look at this page, great post, fanstatic read… keep up the cool work!

Gaston Montague November 10, 2010 at 10:28 am

Thanks so much for this. This might sound a little strange, but I spent the first few years of my life in Italy, then travelled around the world. Now I’m living in Australia, with my Chinese wife, and son we had whilst living inJapan! Truly international, eh? Anyway, I’ve been trying to rediscover the smells and tastes of my youth with some authentic Italian recipe like these, best I’ve found so far! Thanks again, I’ll see if I can add the feed to my google reader tonight, though my son usually does that for me!

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