California meets Italy in this fresh, accessible take on America’s favorite ethnic cuisines.
Waxman (A Great American Cook, 2007), chef-owner of the Manhattan restaurant Barbuto, offers recipes that rely not on shortcuts but on maximizing flavor using a limited number of ingredients. There has been no shortage of Italian cookbooks by star chefs, but Waxman focuses on seasonal ingredients and straightforward recipes broken down by course. Traditional offerings like pizza and pasta are here, but the author’s California roots appear in dishes like "Raw Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Toasted Walnuts," a delightful blend of tartness and crunch. Waxman usually avoids hard-to-find ingredients, but he occasionally suggests a pricier alternative to the supermarket brand—no doubt the Brussels sprouts would taste even better with a Napa Valley or Ligurian olive oil, as Waxman recommends. Fortunately, the author provides an index with a list of relevant websites for rarer ingredients. The index also includes a helpful glossary of terms and a list of equipment that every "simple" kitchen should have, although home cooks may question the necessity of items like a Japanese mandolin or a French fish knife. Waxman contextualizes each dish by offering background notes that include the recipe’s origins or cooking tips. Simple yet not simplistic—a welcome introduction for home cooks to the seasonal flavors of Italian cuisine.