Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table
By Elizabeth Minchilli
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018)
Elizabeth Minchilli’s new book, Eating My Way Through Italy, brings to mind the best qualities of the Lonely Planet guidebooks, which many of us discovered in the mid 1980s. We loved these guides because they recommended great places—many off the beaten track—to stay, eat, and explore on the cheap. Written in a candid, opinionated style, like a friend giving advice, they were a refreshing contrast to more mainstream guidebooks dispensing general advice to reach as large an audience as possible. The Lonely Planet books were bibles for travelers with little money but lots of curiosity. Although my days staying in $2 group dormitories with shared bathrooms are mostly behind me, my interest in local, personal, and authentic are not. I often find myself wishing for guidebooks like those old favorites, written with the candor of real people with specific interests.
Author Minchilli divides her time between Rome and Umbria, blogs about eating in Rome, and has created a phone app called Eat Italy. She also runs well-attended and highly regarded local food tours in Italy, if the more than 100 reviews on tripadvisor.com are any indication.
The author of nine books about Italian life, Minchilli writes in her latest guidebook about how to eat well in Italy. She’s packed the book’s 289 pages with personal recommendations for restaurants, descriptions of local specialties, recipes for local dishes, personal anecdotes, and cultural and historical references. She also serves up bits of advice. For example, “Truffle oil: Just say no. This applies to anywhere, at any time.” Capers preserved in salt are much more flavorful than those preserved in vinegar. Some of the best honey comes from bees that feed on cardoons and artichokes.
Minchilli’s style is light and conversational, often wry and humorous. About her favorite restaurant in Santa Marinella (like “eating in someone’s garage”) she explains that you need a car to get there, and “it kind of looks like the type of dive you’d not only pass up, but probably not even notice: a rusty sign out front, cars almost driving through the dining room, and architecture that is reminiscent of an illegally built addition to an illegally built strip mall.” Not just for travelers, anyone interested in Italian food will find much to enjoy.
Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with
Elizabeth Minchilli’s Goat Cheese and Kale Salad
Excerpted from Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table by Elizabeth Minchilli. Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin. Photo and recipe by Elizabeth Minchilli.
Kale, or cavolo nero as it’s known in Italy, is almost never used in salads. Italians tend to have a fear in general of raw or undercooked vegetables. And the thought of chopping up cavolo nero for a salad makes most Italians I know shake their head in bewilderment at my crazy American ways.
For this salad I also use another one of my non-Italian secret weapons: chives. I believe chives are one of the great underused salad ingredients. Whenever possible I use a huge bunch in any salad I make. And by huge bunch I mean at least ½ cup chopped. Everyone loves my salads. Even people who say they don’t like salad love mine. And I am 100 percent convinced it’s the chives.
5 cups chopped salad greens (I use endive, but romaine will do fine), washed and chopped
3 cups chopped cavolo nero or Tuscan kale, well-washed
1 bunch fresh chives (½ cup finely chopped)
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
For the dressing
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Place all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
Whisk the mustard and honey in a small bowl until well blended. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to emulsify. Add the salt and pepper, then add vinegars and stir to incorporate.
Pour the dressing over the salad, toss, and serve.