“When I cook, my favorite everyday dishes to make for family and friends are uncomplicated ones — recipes that honor both ingredients and the seasons, with a nod to my heritage.” — Domenica Marchetti
You may find yourself asking why I am reviewing a cookbook that isn’t a cookbook specifically about some aspect of outdoor cooking. The answer is quite simple, you can learn something from every cookbook about outdoor cooking. Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge about what flavors go together or looking for recipes to adapt to outdoor cooking you should consider reading as many books about cooking as possible.
Rustic Italian: Simple, Authentic Recipes for Everyday Cooking by Domenica Marchetti is a great book for learning about Italian foods and how flavors might fuse with more traditional BBQ/Grilling processes. Of course there are some nice looking grilling recipes included in the book. And there is nothing better than chilled grilled veggies with some cured meats and cheeses.
Anyone who has been a regular reader of this website knows that the “barbecue” culture is something I appreciate more than anything else about cooking outdoors. One of the greatest things about cooking outdoors is that it is almost impossible to not foster a feeling of friendliness and camaraderie. At my house the gathering of people happens around a hot smoker, grill or patio table. At Domenica’s house it’s gathering around the a dining room table where those feelings of friendliness and camaraderie are found.
“I grew up in an Italian family. At the dinner table we spent more time debating what we should eat tomorrow night than politics or the news of the day.”
Reading through the chapter descriptions, headings and introductions to recipes made me realize that one of the reason people feel so special at outdoor cookouts is because they lack what used to be normal. Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons cookouts are so special is because they represent something most of us, deep down inside, know are vital to a strong society…family. (Don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into a blog post about social and family issues.) Reading Rustic Italian made me appreciate sitting down with my family and enjoying a good meal and each other.
As I write this review I am coming to realize Domenica may have actually written more of a grilling/outdoor cooking cookbook than she realized. I don’t know about other grilling and BBQ enthusiasts but I do get a little tired of the same old traditional “BBQ” side dishes. Don’t get me wrong sometimes nothing can replace the flavors of a good pot of beans, a bowl of cole slaw or some cornbread on the outdoor cooking menu. Traditional sides with traditional mains are, well, traditional and shouldn’t be messed with.
But, what if I’m grilling a steak with an Italian flavor profile? Wouldn’t a side dish that pairs well with the steak be important to have? I certainly believe so. “Rustic Italian” will give you not only with some traditional side dishes to pair with your grilled Italian cuisine you can also use some of the mains in the cookbook as side dishes. In actuality, Domenica doesn’t call them mains so everything in the book, for the most part can either be a main, an appetizer or a side dish.
“Most of my favorite preparations for vegetables are the simplest; they involve lightly seasoning with high-quality olive oil, sea salt, and fresh herbs and then grilling…”
There are times when only a giant rack of ribs with cole slaw and pot of beans will satisfy your guests. Or maybe a heaping pile of pulled pork and some greens with fat back will make them happy. But when something less traditional is planned its cookbooks like Rustic Italian that make life easier for the backyard cook.
Why not combine the “small plate” trend to your BBQ/Grilling menu. “Rustic Italian” will give you plenty of simple recipes with simple ingredients to offer your family, friends and guests with great flavors. Pairing the Spaghettini con Zucchine E Speck (Spaghettini with Summer Squash and Crispy Speck) or Risotto con Radicchio ( Prosecco Risotto with Radicchio) would pair nicely with some grilled medallions of pork and/or beef. Or maybe some small plates with grilled sausages with Peperoni In Padella con Balsamico (Sauteed Mixed Peppers with Basil and Balsamic). There are endless combinations you can come up with to please lots of guests.
When it comes to pork, I’ll take mine with a little fat, please. Why eat pork that has been bred to be so lean it is flavorless and cooks up tough as shoe leather? Good pork from heritage producers and small farms in increasingly available, so see it out.”
Domenica also is an advocate of locally grown ingredients. I enjoyed the book was not a hard sell on using locally sourced ingredients but took a subtle more subtle approach to encouraging the use of local meats and produce. One of the challenges with getting people to try different ingredients is the lack of knowledge on how to cook them.
One of the things I look for in a cookbook is do the recipes use complicated ingredients and methods to get complex flavors or do they use simple ingredients and methods to get those complex flavors. The recipes are indeed simple and easy to follow and the ingredients are not intimidating. With Rustic Italian the author keeps the ingredients to a minimum and that can only encourage home cooks to try them.
If you’re going to buy this great cookbook would you please use this link to buy it? I make a couple of pennies if you do and it helps to offset the cost of running this site.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- Fine sea salt
- 1 lb (16 oz/500 g) extra-large shrimp (about 32)
- 16 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 2 lemons, cut into 16 wedges
- In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, minced rosemary, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon salt and whisk until well blended. Add the shrimp and toss gently to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
- Drain the skewers, and thread each with 1 shrimp, 1 lemon wedge, and then 1 more shrimp.
- Arrange the skewers on the grill grate and grill, turning once or twice, until the shrimp and lemons are nicely browned in places and the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the skewers to a serving platter and serve right away.