London River Cafe Cookbook

Ruth Rogers, Author, Rose Gray, With Random House (NY) $40 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-45001-6
This compendium of simple Italian food from the owners of London's River Cafe is competent and attractive, but it doesn't distinguish itself from the abundance of Italian cookbooks already on the American market. It is widely understood that the key to fine Italian food lies in top-notch ingredients simply prepared. Thus the recipes for Raw Fennel Salad (fennel, vinegar and Parmesan) and the many grilled or baked fish recipes (fish, salt, pepper and sometimes olive oil) are familiar. The more inventive dishes suggest some unusual methods: a Rotolo di Spinaci (large filled pasta) is poached before serving; eight pounds of coarse salt is packed around a four-pound fish in Sea Bass Baked in Salt. There are also recipes for organ meats (Kidneys with Artichoke Hearts and Thyme) not often served on this side of the pond. The authors lean toward an authoritative, sometimes rigid posture that may put off American readers (""You must use salted anchovies from Greek, Spanish and Italian grocers""). Prospective pasta makers are advised to use stone-ground ""00"" flour from Piedmont, yet no next-best thing is suggested for those without access to it. Overall, these uncomplicated recipes on uncluttered pages have an eye appeal and a culinary reliability that are undercut by the somewhat stiff delivery. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
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