In the year 1950, when most Americans lived in the dark ages of cuisine, equating Italian food with cans of Chef Boyardee, a book called Il cucchiaio d'argento (The Silver Spoon) was published in Italy. Italian cooks in every region took the book to their hearts, poring through this culinary bible to expand their own horizons. In the years since the good Chef Boyardee dominated the kitchen, Americans left the dark ages to discover and embrace the glories of Italian cooking. Just as we are ready for more, Italy's classic has appeared in translation as The Silver Spoon.
Hats off to Phaidon Press. They have maintained the authenticity and integrity of the original while adapting this classic work for contemporary use outside Italy's borders. Phaidon has painstakingly adapted each recipe, testing and rewriting for suitability, and to accommodate cultural differences, while maintaining the authenticity and integrity of Italian cooking. Their work has been so respectful that the heart of Italian cooking is open to both novice and expert cook alike. With respect for the original book as well as for the reader who is searching for the essentials of Italian food, Phaidon has given us a book never talks down to the reader. The Silver Spoon is comprehensive, authentic and highly workable.
There are over 2,000 recipes in The Silver Spoon, gleaned from every region in Italy, utilizing every foodstuff in every category. From gnocchi to pasta to risotto to polenta, from soup to sauces to sweet dolci for dessert, you will find a recipe for all of the most loved Italian foods. Some are classics, presented in their authenticity; others will expand the cook's repertoire. Using three major categories, vegetables, meats and cheese as an example, let us explore this book.
Italy is a country of varied produce and not one ingredient has been overlooked. It is not surprising that there are 15 recipes for eggplant alone, but it is a happy discovery that the lesser-known cardoon, loved by Italian-Americans, is in these pages with five distinct recipes. In the list of broccoli recipes is one that uses bottarga to lead us on to further discovery.
In addition to the meat recipes we love, (each cut represented by numerous and varied recipes), The Silver Spoon includes Italian classic recipes for lesser-known meats, such as guinea hen (said to be sweeter than chicken) or oxtail. If meatballs appeal, try them cooked with spinach or with potato or with anchovy, perhaps with a tasty onion garnish. Italians are inventive with their foodstuffs.
Cheese is an important part of the Italian diet, eaten on its own and an integral part of Italian recipes. Pages offering tips on storage, serving cheese, etiquette and tasty combinations as well as some sage advice, precede the cheese section. Here you will find the logical, but startling advice to sprinkle grated cheese on pasta BEFORE the sauce to soften and melt it.
When we have discovered the recipes, a deeper investigation tells us why this is a classic that belongs on every bookshelf. Each section, indeed each ingredient, has a clear, concise explanation of the ingredient and the Italian way of using it. As a randomly chosen example, open the pages to radicchio, finally used outside Italy as a colorful, crisp salad ingredient, and learn of the varieties of radicchio. Then go on to the recipes and make Radicchio and Walnut Rolls, or Cooked Radicchio with Parmesan.
The Silver Spoon is a masterpiece of formatting. To make the large selection of recipes easy to locate, each section has color-coding at the page tips: vegetables are coded with brilliant green, meats with orange, poultry with purple. The index, so often a jumbled list, is so clear and comprehensive that you can actually enjoy leafing through its pages to find inspiration.
Since the art of butchering varies from country to country, Phaidon has included side-by-side pages illustrating the Italian method of butchering next to the American. Each page includes a guide to the techniques used for cooking each cut.
As icing on a perfect cake, Phaidon has collected menus from superstar chefs who specialize in Italian cooking, the geographic reach extending from Italy to Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the the US. Among the chefs are Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, both of whom are devoted to bringing authentic Italian food to the public's awareness. Their menus are composed of additional recipes created by these celebrated chefs themselves.
Photographer Jason Lowe (Passione: The Cookbook by Gennaro Contaldo, Truly Italian by Ursula Ferrigno and The Gastropub Cookbook by Diana Henry) is responsible for 200 beautiful images of the recipes, all shot in natural light and against pure white backgrounds to reveal the simple beauty of the food.
Linda Doeser is The Silver Spoon’s Cookery Editor. She has worked in publishing for over 30 years and is the author and editor of numerous cookbooks worldwide, most recently World Food Italy.The Silver Spoon will also be launching for the first time in Australia and the US. To date, there is no other title in the Italian cooking booklist for the international market with comparable content and authenticity as The Silver Spoon.
Preface; A Note About Cooking; Sauces, Marinades and Flavoured Butters; Antipasti, Appetisers and Pizzas; First Courses; Eggs; Vegetables; Fish and Seafood; Meat; Poultry; Game; Cheese; Desserts; Menus of Celebrated Italian Chefs; Glossary of Ingredients; Index