The central Italy region of Umbria offers earthy dishes heavy on black truffles and pork products, and della Croce (The Vegetarian Table: Italy) manages to do it justice in this slim cookbook that serves as a useful overview. Chapters are clearly organized but brief: a chapter on breads includes only five recipes, one of them a master recipe used in the others. First courses include soup made with the famous lentils of Castelluccio and Spaghetti alla Norcina with reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms, sweet sausage and cream. For a land-locked region, Umbria offers a surprising number of fish and shellfish dishes, using locally found items such as snails and trout from freshwater streams. Ingredients sometimes seem impractical or out of reach: Trout with Truffles calls for two black truffles. Photographs are enticing, and della Croce scatters bits of Umbrian history and folklore throughout. Her prose is awkward in places, though, and there are strange touches, like a description of ordering trota ai ferri in Todi that is, for no discernible reason, presented in the form of a letter to the author's daughters. A selection of three desserts, a recipe for hot chocolate and another for candied orange peel (not used in any of the three dessert recipes) makes for an odd finale. After an abbreviated guide to hotels and restaurants and a hazy list of local festivals, the author lists a handful of cooking schools, and takes the opportunity to plug her own classes. (May)
Forecast:There's nothing surprising here in the information or its presentation, but the growing number of tourists who visit Umbria may look for cookbooks on the region upon returning, and this will be one of their few choices.