cover image Pleasures of the Good Earth

Pleasures of the Good Earth

Edward Giobbi. Alfred A. Knopf, $23 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56130-1

Preparation means a great deal more than cooking in this intriguing collection of recipes, mainly Italian, from noted food expert Giobbi ( Italian Family Cooking ). From the year-long process of curing prosciutto to canning tuna or tomatoes, baking bread, making sausage (sweet Italian, lamb, venison), or preserving olives, Giobbi calls on old, usually unelaborate family traditions that are as much fun to read about as to follow. No note, pedantic or haute, obscures his direct approach, particularly in the chapter ``Vegetables and Wild Edibles.'' Whether discussing how best to grow beans for drying, how to rid squash blossoms (for frying or stuffing) of insects, or the demands of hunting and freezing wild mushrooms, he aims for simplicity and wholesomeness. Pasta dishes often feature vegetables, such as rigatoni salad with broccoli and tuna sauce, or lasagna with eggplant, mushrooms and ``meat sauce my way.'' (There's also a pasta with clams ``my way,'' and another with pesto ``my way.'') He never utilizes fresh pasta, which cooks into ``a tangled, gluey mess.'' Giobbi's easy familiarity with fish and shellfish, leading to recipes for skate and razor clams, among others, is matched by his clear, brief instructions on how to butcher and dress a chicken (which one may have raised at home or, perhaps, ordered from Sears Roebuck) before roasting it, stuffed with polenta or swiss chard and ricotta. BOMC alternate. (May)