3.21.2015

Not Born With a Silver Spoon {a cookbook review}

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

Or on my bookshelf.

In fact, it wasn't until two years ago, when my colleague Ruth mentioned that the Silver Spoon is her favorite Italian cookbook, that I even knew it existed.

Of course, Italophile that I am, I bought a copy right away.

The Silver Spoon - first published in Italy as Il Cucchiao d'Argento in 1950 by Domus, a magazine of design and architecture - is the bible of Italian cooking.

The more than 2000 recipes in the book reflect the regions in which they were created, each authentic in its ingredients and preparation. These are wonderful recipes, quite distinct from what many misapprehend as Italian cookery.

In 2005, Phaidon Press published the first English version and, since then, French, German, and Dutch editions have been produced.

Recently, Phaidon created a new series of Silver Spoon books, each devoted a regional cuisine of Italy. Tuscany was published in 2011, and  Sicily in 2013.

On March 15 of this year, we welcomed Puglia to this family of beautifully-produced books. The photos are exquisite and make me want to try each and every recipe. (Pugila, when picturing Italy as a "boot," is the heel.) Phaidon sent me a review copy for this post.

For starters, I made two - the Torta di Bietole e Ricotta (Chard and Ricotta Pie) for Pi Day, and the Pasta alla Seppia.

Both recipes were tested by friends (thanks Susan and Barbara!), and both agreed that they are "keepers." The flavors in the chard and ricotta pie were well balanced, the texture of the filling was creamy, and the olive oil-based crust was unexpectedly flaky and added a delicate crunch.

The pie did take a bit longer to cook to the requisite golden brown, but that didn't bother me at all. My friend Karen, of Lemon Grove Cake Diaries, suggests that traditional recipes like this should say, "Cook until done." Really, that is so true. Every Nonna knows exactly when her chard pie is done. But she also knows we would want a timing, so she gave us 30 minutes.

The pasta alla seppia (recipe follows) was beautiful. Beautiful as a dough, beautiful, rolled out, and stunning on the plate. The recipe was spot on, although the "1-2 cuttlefish ink sacs" could be a bit vague for a beginner. I noted (in grams) how much ink I used and it was perfect.

The book actually covers both Puglia and Basilicata (the instep of the boot), and is divided by cities and towns within the two regions: Foggia, Barletta-Andria-Trani, Bari, Taranto, Brindisi, and Lecce (all from Puglia), and Potenza and Matera (from Basilicata). Puglia and Basilicata are known as "The Garden of Italy," which becomes apparent as you see the beautiful produce in their cuisine. One of my favorite sections in the book - especially for when I travel - is "Food Festivals," a monthly list of festas and sagras throughout the regions.

I can't tell you how excited I am to have this book, and to know about this series. I have ordered Tuscany and Sicily, and very much look forward to the next book in this series. In the meantime, I have plenty of wonderful Silver Spoon recipes to keep me busy!

I definitely recommend this book; it is worth the splurge at $39.95. Buon appetito!

~ David

Linguine alla Seppia  Cuttlefish Ink Linguine
Here is their recipe word for word; my notes appear in blue.

Preparation time: 30 minutes plus 1 hour resting +/- 20 minutes drying
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves 4

For the pasta
200 grams/7 ounces (1 2/3 cups) '00' flour *
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 cuttlefish ink sacs (8 grams) **
olive oil
salt

For the sauce
150 grams/5 ounces canned tuna in olive oil, flaked
3 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons olive oil

To make the pasta, place the flour in a mound on a work counter (The ink will stain. Make sure you use a surface that is not permeable - I used a large 12-inch porcelain plate), make a well in the centre, and add the eggs, ink, and salt. Mix with your hands until a dough forms, then knead until soft and smooth. Flatten the dough into a disc. Coat with a little olive oil, then wrap in plastic wrap. Leave to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface into a rectangle about 3 millimeters/-inch thick. Flour the surface of the dough well, then fold loosely 4 times from the short end of the rectangle. Cut into strips 5 millimeters/¼-inch wide. Open out, shake off the excess flour and hang over the back of a chair covered by a towel to dry until the pasta is no longer tacky to the touch.

Alternate Method: Because I have an Atlas pasta roller, I opted to use it rather than hand cut. Run the pasta through the rollers starting at the thickest setting and repeat using thinner and thinner settings, stopping at the next-to-last setting. If it is too long to handle, cut in half, then run it through the cutting side of the machine to make 1/4-inch wide noodles. Instead of drying them on a towel and chair, you can flour the noodles well and dry them in small nests.

Put the tuna in a bowl with the capers and olive oil, and stir together.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add the linguine and cook for about 2 minutes, or until al dente (about 3 minutes). Drain well, then mix with the tuna. Serve.

* '00' flour is an Italian flour of the finest grind. It is known by a variety of names and numbers including "soft flour" (UK), "pastry flour" (US), "40" (France), "405" (Germany), and "0000" (Argentina). It can be found in Italian specialty stores, and in many grocery stores.

** The cuttlefish ink I used was a gift sent from friends Roque and Gabriella in Venice. It comes in 4 gram packets. I have looked online, and it is readily available from a variety of sources in these small packets.

26 comments:

  1. I, on the other hand, grew up with Il Cucchiao d'Argento as our ONLY Italian cookbook in our house. We had very few, including Mrs. Beeton's Book of Cookery and Household Management (or something to that effect). What did frustrate me about the Italian version was that there weren't many measurements given, which is of course due to the fact that all Italians could cook then, and just "knew" what a handful meant! My aunts and cousins in Italy still do this to me when I ask for recipes!

    I have never tried cuttlefish ink pasta, and actually don't know why I've never made anything this adventurous? It looks wonderful, David. Maybe I'll pull out my own English version of Cucchiao's Pasta book (which I bought for $5!) and make a pasta I've never made before...thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. I just saw the pasta book on their website and want to get it, as well. It's fun to make things we've near made before, isn't it, Christina?

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  2. Dear David, the Torta di Bietole e Ricotta already looked rather delicious on facebook and so do your Linguine alla Seppia - what a dark, rich color they have from that cuttlefish ink. I have never attempted to make pasta with ink but I have eaten them at an Italian restaurant before. So nice that you were provided with a copy of the Puglia book from the Silver Spoon series - I have looked so many times at the Silver Spoon cookbook at our local bookstore but never bought it, yet...
    Euch ein schönes, warmes Wochenende,
    Andrea

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    1. It is definitely worth having the Silver Spoon, Andrea! Especially if your girls like Italian food!

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  3. This is serious cooking and you pull it off beautifully. GREG

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  4. I was given the original English version to review a couple of years ago and still love how diverse it is. Definitely comes with my recommendations, as well!

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    1. I hadn't thought about its diversity, John, but you are so right. I should (and will) use it more!

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  5. Ah yes, what a wonderful book... it was given to me as a gift by a dear friend. Love it, although a couple of times when I was looking for specific Italian recipes, I could not find them in there! Panforte for one. Love your pasta dish!

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    1. I agree, Liz, finding a good recipe for Panforte has been hard for me, too. If you do find one, please share!

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  6. yupp, but you definitely need one of silver spoon for this fancy pasta
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

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    1. Thanks, Dedy! That is a great way to put it!

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  7. Best book I've seen in so long... I totally recommend it! :)

    Lazy Penguins

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    1. Thanks, Lily - I am glad to know you liked it, too.

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  8. It is a sign of a good book when you go out and buy the others in the series!! Have a great week...

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    1. Yes, Karen - it is definitely a sign... but not a good one for my sagging bookshelves! :)

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  9. I bought the Silver-Spoon when it first came out in english…love that book!
    Now I will have to look for Puglia…both your Torta and pasta look lovely!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. We were eying the chard again yesterday at the market... thinking the chard pie needs another visit to our table!

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  10. Hi David, your taste testers are very fortunate people, both recipes look delicious. Have a great week!

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    1. Cheri - I find it is always good to get lots of testers, lest I eat the entire recipe myself! (Well, I share with Markipedia on occasion...)

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  11. Gorgeous pasta, David.
    I need more practice, for sure.
    And such a lovely, Italian, elegantly simple dinner. I will have to put this on the table this w/end. xoxo

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    1. I love making pasta, Colette. It seems funny to people that it is something I will do on a weeknight after work. I wish we could make it together! :)

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  12. Your black pasta looks stunning! Love the photos.

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    1. Thanks, Fiona. Every time I look at the photos, I think of licorice!

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  13. David, this is one of my favorite of your posts -- the photographic journey you lead us through is beautifully. The transformation of the flour with egg in the well, to the ball of black dough is so cool. And I especially like the one with the couple of strands of raw pasta hanging from the pasta maker. I'm loving it.

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    1. Thank you, Valentina! It was definitely fun to make and shoot! If you look carefully at those two strands left on the machine, they are actually just starting to fall and the tops are blurred! :)

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