The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
Salt to Taste by Marco Canora
Salt to Taste by Marco Canora is a welcome addition to our cookbook collection. It reveals the passions and techniques of one of New York's most talented chefs whose work we have admired for many years.
In fact, the meals we have eaten recently at Hearth and nearby Terroir were some of the most satisfying eating experiences we have had for a long time.
The two page introduction by legend Tom Colicchio is very generous and traces Marco's progress through restaurants at Gramercy Tavern, his time at his mother's trattoria on Martha's Vineyard, his stage at the iconic Cibrčo in Firenze and his time with Colicchio at Craft prior to moving on to his own establishments.
We love the progress to simpler dishes (which, in turn, paradoxically require more finely-honed cooking skills) and to those dishes that he loves to eat.
The chapters are presented in a fairly traditional progression from pasta and risotto, to soups, salads, vegetables, fish, chicken, meats and desserts. There are also chapters on 'Stocking the Shelves' and the 'Pantry'.
Many of the ideas are just so simple and easy to implement, but they raise a dish from the mundane to the interesting. Take his idea of roughly chopping florets of cauliflower to a soffritto before adding to a simple Tuscan tomato sauce.
And his Bolognese sauce adds mortadella, the meat product beloved by the denizens of that city, to add an extra dimension to the flavour of the sauce.
For cooking pasta he urges us to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce so that the starch released helps the sauce cling to the pasta and also allows the pasta to absorb some of the flavours from the sauce. His recipe for rigatoni with cauliflower, pecorino, peppers and bread crumbs uses the soffritto and cauliflower idea and the dish is lifted even further by placing it under a grill and browning a mix of breadcrumbs, butter and pecorino.
All of the soup recipes are simple and delicious, but the chicken soup with escarole and dumplings is particularly inviting. A good chicken soup is strengthened with diced carrot and celery and lots of onions. The soup is then used to cook rich chicken dumplings at the last moment. This is a very beautiful dish.
similar, but equally delicious winter soup is the famous Ribollita made with
Another subtle message that comes through while reading the book is one of the importance of balance. Thus, for his lovely fava bean and diced pecorino salad he urges the use of a young pecorino so that the flavour of the cheese does not overwhelm the delicate flavour of the fresh beans. He also tempers the white wine vinegar with the same quantity of white wine to reduce its aggressiveness.
As you peruse the book you will also note Canora's love of rosemary. He chops rosemary finely and includes it in his chicken dumplings. He uses leaves of rosemary in his perfectly simple roast cauliflower dish. It appears again teamed with braised artichokes and again with stewed romano beans and is also used in the rustic 'patate alla contadina' and even with Tuscan fries.
Moving on to the seafood section there is a great recipe for Cacciucco, that seafood stew that so defines coastal Tuscany. He uses fresh squid to deliver the base flavour and then white wine and tomato puree to bind and carry the flavours. Parsley and lemon rind add highlights at the end.
We had to get nearly to the end of the book to find our favourite dish. On our visits to Terroir Wine Bar in New York these stunning orbs of meat and ricotta formed the backdrop to our exploration of the mind-boggling wine list. Equal parts of finely minced veal and fresh ricotta are combined with heaps of grated Reggiano and formed into meatballs. They are fried and then simmered in a deeply-flavoured tomato sauce. They are truly delicious and a perfect accompaniment to many of the wines served at this iconic establishment.
This is a great book from a passionate chef. It is not a trophy book to put on your shelf for others to admire. Rather it is a 'kitchen' book to have close at hand for everyday cooking!