Two things I love- Italian food and mysteries. And Donna Leon has found a great combination with Brunetti’s Cookbook.
Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series is one of my current favorites, and for those who’ve read the books, you know why she needed to add a cookbook. If you haven’t read the books, let me tell you a bit about them. Brunetti is an inspector for the Venice Questura, so the mysteries are basically police precedurals, not the food-based cozies that are so popular now. But the descriptions of Venice transport you there, and the food is just mouth-watering, whether he’s eating at a neighborhood trattorio or at home where his wife, Paola, cooks delectable multi-course meals. That’s not to mention the pastries, the wine, the coffee.
In Brunetti’s Cookbook, Roberta Pianaro has brought these dishes to our dinner table, with Leon interspersing the recipes with excerpts from her novels and essays about food and Venice. It’s a marvelous cookbook to actually sit down and read, not only to cook from.
So far I’ve tried two of the dishes, the Zucchini Risotto with Shrimps and the Pancakes with Spinach and Ricotta. The pancakes by the way are more like crepes, I’d say, and then you wrap them around the filling. Both were delicious! They were a little time-consuming though, not work-day meals. It’s actually rather amazing that I haven’t tried one of the pasta dishes yet. I will, don’t worry, and a couple of the desserts sound perfect for me, especially the Oven-Baked Apples with Confectioner’s Custard and Cream. Yum!
Brunetti’s Cookbook doesn’t include any photos of the food, but there are some cute illustrations. I think it works better that way. I don’t think photos would really have fit the way the book is put together.
Forgive my photos of the Pancakes with Spinach and Ricotta. I don’t quite have food photography down yet. Trust me, they tasted better than they look.
- 1 2/3 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups milk
- 1 oz butter, melted
Place the flour eggs and salt in a bowl and mix. Add the milk, a little at a time, and finally the melted butter. The resulting blend should be a farily liquid, lump-free cream. (If not, use a whisk to remedy.) Leave to rest, covered, for 1 hour.
Place a non-stick frying pan 9 inchese in diameter over a hight heat and add 1/3 cup of the batter, spreading it over the entire surface. After a few seconds the pancake will start to set. Turn it with a spatula ad continue cooking on the other side, very briefly. It only takes a few seconds to cook. Continue in the same way with the rest of the batter. Arrange the pancakes, one on top of the other, on a plate. When cold, wrap them in clingfilm to stop them from drying out.
With Spinach and Ricotta
- 12 pancakes
- 2 packages frozen spinach
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cups shallots, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 9 oz mild ricotta cheese
- 1 cup fresh cream
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Thaw the spinahc and squeeze well to get rid of excess water. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the shallots with the salt and a bit of water. Add the sspinach and cook until any excess liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool, then stir in the ricotta. Divid the mixture into 12 portion, spread on on to each pancake and roll them up. Place them side by side in an ovenproof dish, add the cream and Springkle with the Parmesan. Put into a hot oven (475ºF) and bakd for about 20 mintues. The pancake rolls should be golden in colour . Serve hot.
David and I both gobbled them up. Amd I have to say the reheated leftovers were just as good.
I borrowed this from the library, but I am definitely going to be buying my own copy.
Weekend cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
Published May 4, 2010
Book source: Library