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Book Review: Food of the Italian South

April/May 2019 Issue
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Food of the Italian South: Recipes for Classic, Disappearing, and Lost Dishes
By Katie Parla
(Clarkson Potter)

In her new book, Rome-based author Katie Parla covers lesser-known Italian terrain, venturing deep into the rustic cuisine of the Italian South, her ancestral homeland. Parla explores the farmlands of Campania, mountainous Basilicata, coastal Puglia, quaint Molise, and rugged Calabria (the toe of the boot). Along the way, she gathers beloved regional recipes and learns nearly forgotten cooking traditions from the locals.

So much of what we consider Italian food—mozzarella di bufala, durum wheat pasta, eggplant, olives, and tomatoes—are the main ingredients of Southern Italian cooking. Those ingredients star in many of this book’s 100 recipes, some of them well known (Pizza) and others hidden gems known only to locals (Spaghetti with Dried Fruits and Nuts; Fried Eggplant Smothered in Chocolate). Until now, that is. Parla clearly crafted every recipe with reverence and restraint, balancing authenticity with accessibility for the modern home cook.

Recipe Spotlight: Frittata di Fiori. The only thing difficult about this classic Calabrian frittata of eggs, olive oil, and spring flowers is getting your hands on the fiori di sambuco (elderflower blossoms), which are essential to the authentic dish. I urge you to do whatever it takes to get some (and it might be as easy as looking in your own backyard), but it’s OK to substitute nasturtiums or any other edible flower.

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