THE BABBO COOKBOOK
Mario Batali, . . Clarkson Potter, $40 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60775-6
This book reads not only as a guide to modernized Italian cooking, but also as a very successful advertisement for its phenomenally successful namesake New York City restaurant. While it offers recipes for signature dishes such as Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage and Beef Cheek Ravioli, it also includes descriptions of some of the workings of the restaurant, such as a brief essay on the difference between side dishes offered in traditional restaurants in Italy and the side dishes offered at Babbo. The recipes are excellent—clearly written and easy to follow and carefully edited for the home cook—but some of the ingredients and equipment called for will be difficult for laypeople to acquire, and many recipes are quite complex. Planked King Salmon with Cucumbers and Balsamic Vinegar calls for an 8-by-12-inch cedar plank; Bollito Misto requires calf's tongue, a capon and cotechino sausage. And Marinated Fresh Anchovies with "Giardiniera" and Lobster Oil requires boning fresh anchovies but fails to provide instructions. Still, the mixtures of flavors in dishes such as Whole Roasted Branzino with Braised Fennel and Lemon Oregano Jam and Joe's Veal Chop with Chanterelles, Roasted Garlic, and Campari are irresistible. Desserts follow the same traditional-Italian-with-a-twist formula just as successfully: Olive Oil and Fresh Rosemary Cake is a refreshing version of an Italian "keeping cake," and Pumpkin Cake with Toasted Pine Nuts and Olive Oil Gelato combines traditional flavors in surprising ways.
Reviewed on: 01/21/2002