Spring has sprung and you’re probably dying to find some fresh recipes to spruce up your weekly cooking. Fret no more, because I have the perfect cookbook for you! Acquacotta by Emiko Davies is one of the warmest cookbooks I’ve come across, both in recipe quality and overall feeling you get while reading it.
What do I mean by that? Well, let’s start with the outside of the book-big and sturdy, but paired with a dainty little blue bookmark to keep your place…because let’s face it, we all hate it when we find a recipe, can’t find anything to mark the page, and then we have to thumb through the entire book in the hopes of finding it again. See?! Simple solution I wish more textbooks would include.
Acquacotta celebrates the food and history from Tuscany’s “secret silver coast,” which if you haven’t visited, is hands down one of the best kept secrets if you’re planning a vacation to Italy. No, really. There are still tourists, but you get this nostalgic, family-oriented feeling that I personally eek out whenever I travel. I’m not about the over priced trinkets and crowded squares peppered with selfie sticks. This part of Italy literally makes you feel like you’re traveling back through time in the best way possible.
|dainty blue bookmark|
Davies wrote this book based on a six month stint she spent in Tuscany while her Tuscan husband worked as Head Sommelier at Il Pellicano’s (a beautiful hotel in the area) well-known restaurant.
So now that you’ve got a feel for the vibe of the book, let’s talk about what’s inside! The recipes are divided into five parts:
-from the woods (dal bosco) <– how cool is that attention to detail of including the Italian translation?
-from the sea and the lagoon (dal mare e dalla laguna)
-from the vegetable patch (dall’orto)
– from the farmhouse (dalla fattoria)
Each of the dishes are seasonally based, so if you find one you like but can’t find the ingredients, maybe save it for a different time of the year when certain fruits and vegetables are in season. Or, if you live in a big city like me, almost everything is in season all year long, you just have to pay a premium if it’s not typically available (e.g. strawberries in December).
What I liked most about this book is that it seamlessly weaves local stories and history with the recipes and how the dishes came to be. There are big, bright pictures of each dish (something I absolutely love), as well as detailed instructions on how to execute each one without much trouble.
While there are definitely lots of helpful notes and backstory to each dish, I do wish there were preparation times. I mentioned this in my last cookbook review; I like to plan, so I probably won’t try a dish for the first time if I have no idea how long it might take, even if I prep ingredients ahead of time. That being said, the two dishes I tried did not take that long…and were wildly delicious.
The first recipe I tried (which I’ve posted teasers about on my Instagram), was the Risotto con le Zucchine, otherwise known as Zucchini Risotto. The portions provided left me with so many leftovers, which is always a good thing. Even though it was smothered in cheese and rice, I still felt like this dish was super light and healthy because it had lots of zucchini. It kind of reminded me of some zoodles (zucchini noodles) I made the other week, but a little heartier because of the wine and cheese in this dish.
The other dish I tried was the Insalata Gigliese, or Tomato and Celery Salad from Giglio Island. Again, super light and fresh. This one was really easy to make-chop up onions, celery, and tomatoes…then mix with olive oil and some other dressing ingredients. I made this for friends and they LOVED it. We added in shrimp to this and wow, it was such an easy to make but super tasty dish.
|onions & wine|
Both of these recipes were from the “Vegetable Patch” part of the book, but I’ve got several more recipes slated to make from Acquacotta, including a Coffee-Laced Ricotta dessert. The espresso is chilling in the refrigerator as we speak.
So big-picture overview- this is a great book if you’re looking for some locale-specific Italian cooking. It’s less generic pasta with meatballs, more locally-sourced ingredients like fish and vegetables paired with hearty flavor profiles and savory ingredients. I’d recommend this to friends and family alike, especially if you are in need of a gift to someone that likes to cook…but may or may not know what he or she likes to cook.
If you’re a picky eater and don’t like fish…this may not be the book for you, as the Tuscan region is located along a coast, so there are lots of fish recipes. That being said, my boyfriend isn’t the biggest fan of fish but he loved the recipes I made, so maybe just save that section if you’re cooking for someone that does enjoy seafood.
Also, one other thing to note is that this is another title published by Hardie Grant, an Australian-based publishing company, so if you pick up this cookbook, you’ll notice dual conversions for ingredients. It’s not that big of a deal, but worth mentioning because it makes this even more of a versatile gift if you’re gifting it from the US to the UK, or elsewhere that uses a different measuring system.
All in all, this is a really well-crafted cookbook…and if you’re dying to visit the Italian countryside but don’t quite have the funds to do so yet, this is an excellent window into the culture, history, food, and not to mention the incredible scenery.
Score Card: Cover Art 5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
I was provided a complimentary copy of this text in exchange for my honest thoughts after reading it.
|final look: zucchini risotto|
|tomato & celery prep|
|final look: tomato & celery salad|