It’s the Little Things that Count
Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way
By Rolando Beramendi
St. Martin’s Press, 2017
Rolando Beramendi, enthusiastic cook and founder of Oakland-based Italian food importer Manicaretti, has published a very good cookbook that’s about much more than pasta. Drawing on his experience as a trusted purveyor of Italian foods, he focuses on the ingredients and preparations that can make Italian food so special and distinctive.
The 364 pages include a forward by Ina Garten, one of many chefs Beramendi has taken to Italy to meet the families and farmers from whom he buys his inventory. San Francisco photographer Laurie Frankel supplies colorful images of Italian landscapes, food, friends, and family. Extensive sections on what to include in your pantry are particularly helpful. Learn about the differences in canned tomatoes, the special taste of Sicilian pistachios, and the seven basic tools a cook should have on hand for preparing these recipes (Beramendi is a minimalist).
Among the 120 recipes, you’ll find Tellicherry Black Pepper Beef Stew, Pork Belly with Wild Fennel (includes more of those Tellicherry peppercorns found in many of Beramendi’s dishes), Risotto with Radicchio, and a lamb stew redolent with a rich mix of spices. Among the enticing desserts are Meringata with Bitter Chocolate Sauce and a simple, moist, and succulent Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake.
Beramendi offers several pages on what he looks for in a good oil like those he sources from various regions of Italy. He also suggests wines to accompany each dish.
A particularly appealing Italian Christmas tradition is panettone, a dense cake studded with candied oranges, raisins, and other dried fruits like those Manicaretti imports from producers Acetaia Leonardi and Rustichella d’Abruzzo. The cookbook includes a recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding, which uses panettone, cubed and then baked with eggs, sugar, and milk, to make a delicious holiday dessert that Beramendi recommends topping with a spoonful of amarena (sour cherries).
Among the many Italian cookery books out there, this one seems especially useful for reliable, tasty meals that can be prepared any day of the week. A lovely gift for a favorite cook this holiday season!
Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.