This post is about a Christmas gift I received from my son and his wife.
Many years ago Marcella Hazan authored The Classic Italian Cook Book. It was hailed as a "Bible" for Italian cooking. That was followed by More Classic Italian Cooking a few years later. Some recipes have been revised and both books have been incorporated into a single volume titled, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. And that is the book my son gave me.
The recipes are wonderful. Most are simple enough for the novice cook, yet sufficiently complex for the experienced cook. The book contains an encyclopedia of ingredients in a chapter entitled "Fundamentals," beginning with "Where the flavor starts."
The cookbook is good reading and I really learned a lot about Italian cooking. I was amazed that many of the recipes are so simple and there are fewer spices than I would have imagined. Time and patience seem more important than specific ingredients.
Marcella Hazan lived part of her childhood in Egypt. It was an accident that sent her and the family to Italy for treatment of Marcella's broken arm. The family remained in Italy where Marcella's teen years were spent at the height of World War II.
When she married, she and her husband moved to America. At the time Marcella did not speak any English at all. She knew few recipes, but tried recalling her favorite dishes from childhood. She gradually built up a number of Italian recipes. She took a class in Chinese cooking and some of the students asked if she would teach them Italian cooking. She started giving cooking lessons in her kitchen and that was the beginning of a career.
Marcella Hazan and her husband now live in Florida. She is more than 80 years old and still cooking.
So what, you may ask was your first dish from the cookbook? It was chicken cacciatora, and it was wonderful. The recipe has few ingredients; chicken, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, wine, and tomatoes. I was skeptical. No basil? No oregano? No parsley? No thyme? I had prepared myself for a rather bland dish.
Here is the chicken cooking.
I hope you cannot see the grease on the stove. The chicken must be browned in the olive oil which makes for a bit of splattering. Don't worry, I cleaned it up afterwards.
----------The dish was outstanding! I couldn't believe that so few ingredients and so little spice could result in such a tasty dish. I served it with some penne and a salad. Several wines would accompany this dish well. We had a good chianti. (No, not the cheap ones you used in college. You know...with the straw basket that you later used as a candle holder.)
----------It was a wonderful meal. Thanks, son, for this great gift that will definitely keep on giving.