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Book Review: Hazan Family Favorites

Marcella Hazan. When I was growing up even all the way away in Australia, her name was synonymous with “real’ Italian food. She was the queen of Italian cooking. So you can imagine my delight on discovering her son, Giuliano, himself an accomplished cookbook author (and he also offers cooking classes. In Italy) and his wife Lael, a talented food writer, a couple of years ago in the food blogosphere.  Fast forward to a month or so ago when I was contacted by the folks at Abrams wondering whether I would like a review copy of Giuliano’s new cookbook, from Stewart Tabori & Chang: Hazan Family Favorites.  This book celebrates delicious recipes from the entire Hazan family (Marcella, and Giuliano’s grandmothers, Nonna Giulia and Nonna Mary), prepared just as Giuliano prepares them for his own family today.  Rescued from a fifty-six-year-old notebook and taste memories, this book contains the culinary legacy of America’s foremost authority on Italian cooking. The book contains 85 recipes for every course in the Italian meal, including Appetizers, Soups, Pastas and Rice, Meats and Seafood, and Sides and Desserts. With recipes from Swiss Chard Tortelloni to Strawberry Gelato to everything in between, Hazan Family Favorites offers an intimate look at this iconic family and their most beloved recipes.  In my mind there was no doubt that I needed to take a look!

What immediately struck me about the book was the simplicity of the recipes. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Most of the recipes featured only have very few steps and the majority of them don’t even take more than a page. My kinda cookbook.  I love that the book includes family photos – summers in Italy, Shabbat dinners and Giuliano’s life with Lael and their daughters. It’s an intimate, friendly cookbook and one that I couldn’t put down once I started leafing through it.  A fun READ, something you can’t say about every cookbook. I like that the recipes include “time from start to finish” – this is a key consideration when I am cooking during the week and it’s something many recipes do not include.  The recipes are not overly complicated and don’t include any “out there” ingredients – these  are simple flavours, yet they shine in the plate.

I wanted to try most of the recipes in the book and honestly could not decide what to make first. As it turns out, I brought it with me to a weekend away with friends where I had promised to cook a dinner and as soon as she saw it, Charlotte (turning 10 tomorrow, she of the excellent roast chicken recipe) commandeered the book and stuck about 15 post-it notes in marking recipes she thought we should make for dinner that night. I had to let her down gently and suggested we narrow it down to two. She finally chose Baked Tomatoes (p 39) and Farfalle with Sausage and Peas (p 85).  In fact, I ended up with not one but two helpers – James, 8, was a keen petit chef himself and between the two of them, with a little instruction from yours truly, we had quite the team going in the kitchen!  Check out the busy little hands….

We started out with the baked tomatoes – which the kids managed to make pretty much by themselves. I loved these as did all the adults – light, bright and flavourful.  James had a little taste and Charlotte managed one on her own, proclaiming it “delicious”. Score 1 for Giuliano Hazan!

The farfalle took a little longer to prepare but involved shelling peas which was pretty fun for everyone.  We had “gigantor” peas which Charlotte and James loved discovering as they opened the pods!

We also got to work with raw sausages, removing the casings and cutting the meat up into small meatball-like pieces.  We grated some cheese and learned to chop onions!  Then when I was making the sauce, I was even allowed to add some of the red wine Mr Neil was drinking in place of some of the water the recipe called for.

Result?

A flavourful, spring pasta dish – very much enjoyed by the adults – Charlotte took a few bites and James enjoyed the pasta sans meatballs and peas.  I do consider this a huge success though -  James is quite particular about what he eats but the fact that he was so eager to help in the kitchen makes me think that he might just be like many of my petits chefs – those who are so keen to make the food but who take a while to come to tasting. And they do, eventually.

What I mostly loved about this meal and this book, in fact, is that it proved the point I made over on Jamie Oliver’s site a while ago – that kids don’t need their own cookbooks.  THIS is a cookbook for kids. It’s a cookbook for families. For families who cook together. For families who eat together. “Beloved Italian Recipes” from the Hazan family to (y)ours – we are indeed lucky they have chosen to share!  I’ll be cooking many more recipes from this book – destined to become my new “go to” Italian cookbook.

I cooked the Risotto with a Mushroom Medley (p 97) for a friend last week during a very very busy few days and am pleased to report that not only was it very tasty (though we both thought we might need some cheese next time round) but super easy to prepare – even in a kitchen full of macarons waiting to be baked!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of “Hazan Family Favorites” from Abrams. I was not obliged to write a review and I did not receive any other compensation for writing this post.  All opinions expressed are 100% mine.

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14 Responses to Book Review: Hazan Family Favorites

  1. Mr. Neil June 11, 2012 at 07:17 #

    Well now, the red wine Mr. Neil was drinking at the time is a grape that might be new to many of you: Zweigelt. Named after the man who developed it (it’s a cross), this is the most-planted grape in Austria today. (Interestingly, it’s showing up in the NIagara region of late…)

    A spicy red with peppery overtones, think of it as a European cool-climate Shiraz. Sort of. Beautifully lower in alcohol, the peppery notes offer more of a vegetal tingle than hard spice. Imagine 2/3 a glass of Chianti with 1/3 glass of Aussie Shiraz. (Please don’t try this at home folks…)

    As for the tomatoes, I have to plead the fifth as I usually find that a way to rin perfectly good tomatoes. The pasta was fine, but a bit light on flavour all-round. Perfect for a hot summer’s evening, though.

  2. cat June 11, 2012 at 10:46 #

    charlotte had a blast cooking with you! i *love* the idea of using a regular cookbook with kids and having them be a part of the whole process, from choosing the dish to chopping and preparing to cooking. i admit that i don’t do as much of this as i could/should, primarily because dinners are often hurriedly made and helping kids to prepare things takes considerably more time, but with summer vacation here, it is one of my goals to do more of this. thanks for the jump start!

    • Mr. Neil June 12, 2012 at 07:21 #

      I think she espeically *loved* Mr. Neil getting her hands all gunky in the meat, and letting go of her controlled cautious side…. ;-)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 4, 2012 at 14:05 #

      Well you could totally leave Charlotte in charge in the kitchen, you know!

  3. Martha June 11, 2012 at 12:19 #

    I still can’t believe that James actually *touched* meat! He especially enjoyed chopping the onion. I thought the tomatoes actually tasted better reheated the next day. Thanks again for taking the time to teach the kids!

  4. Geoff June 12, 2012 at 00:07 #

    The “start to finish” time is an interesting point. Often, when you watch TV chefs and cooks, it all looks very quick, easy and smooth (allowing for the inevitable judicious editing) but when you look closely, there are six to ten small dishes ready on the bench containing various, already-measured ingredients. This must take time but it’s rarely admitted on the program. Possibly, the book also reflects another truth: sometimes the old recipes, despite modern experimentation, are still marvellous. Note to Mr Neil: a chianti/Aussie shiraz mix – on paper it reads as ridiculous but it is possible to imagine it, I think.

    • Mr. Neil June 12, 2012 at 07:20 #

      I think that was my last bottle of this particular Zweigelt…will try and bring one to France this summer to share with you.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 4, 2012 at 14:04 #

      I totally agree that sometimes the old recipes are best!

  5. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction June 13, 2012 at 20:02 #

    I have been wanting to pick up a copy of Hazan Family Favorites for a little while… And, after seeing this, I am going to go order it right now. I love Italian food, and i think it will be a great addition to my collection.

  6. Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings June 14, 2012 at 23:57 #

    Hi, Mardi! I got the Bonne Femme cookbook :) Thanks!

    A boy I dated ages ago (who coincidentally loved cooking and went to Tante Marie Cooking School in SF) introduced me to Marcella Hazan! Since then, I always looked to her for authentic Italian recipes!

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