Cookbook is warm and homey

Books on the burner

October 30, 1991|By Gerald Etter | Gerald Etter,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

"Ciao Italia" (William Morrow, $20) is the companion cookbook to the popular PBS television cooking show by the same name, hosted by Mary Ann Esposito. And like the TV series, the book is a warm, homey and insightful look at Italian cooking.

Though Esposito writes about things we put into our stomachs, she does so in a style that comes straight from the heart. When she combines her ingredients, there's the sense that years of tradition are coming together.

Esposito's cookbook has more than 200 recipes -- from antipasti to dolci -- with dishes as simple as crostini to regal desserts perfect for gracing the holiday table. Many will be featured on her new "Ciao Italia" shows.

Rice Milan Style

1 tablespoon saffron threads

2 tablespoons warm water

4 1/2 to 5 cups chicken broth

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely minced white onion

2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the saffron threads in a small bowl and add the warm water. Set aside to soak. In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until very soft; do not allow to brown -- it should remain colorless and almost seem to dissolve in the butter. Add the rice and cook one to two minutes, stirring to coat each grain with the butter-onion mixture. When the rice begins to make a crackling sound, reduce the heat to medium low and add a half-cup of the white wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until, all the wine is absorbed

Add one-half cup of the hot chicken broth and cook, continuing to stir, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining half-cup wine and then add four cups of the broth one-half cup at a time, continuing to stir and allowing the rice to absorb each addition of liquid. Test the rice for doneness: It should be just al dente, not at all mushy, and hold its shape.

If necessary, add up to one-half cup more broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice al dente. Add the saffron threads with the water and mix well. Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve at once. Serves six.

Veal in Lemon Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound veal cutlets, cut in 1/2 -inch-wide strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 large eggs, beaten

Juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Season the veal strips with salt and pepper and fry until they are browned. Remove the veal strips and cover to keep warm.

Whisk the eggs and lemon juice together in the top of a large double boiler, and set over simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, for about eight minutes, or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; take care not to let the mixture get too hot or the eggs will scramble. Lower the heat, add the veal strips and cook, stirring, for about two minutes, or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the meat and sauce to a serving platter and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately. Serves four.

Country Potatoes

4 large baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped hot Italian green pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup diced fresh or canned plum tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9x12-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Toss the potatoes and onions together, sprinkle with the salt and put them in the prepared dish. Combine all the remaining ingredients and pour over the potatoes and onions. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately. Makes six servings.

Cauliflower Salad

1 medium head cauliflower, outer leaves and core removed

1/2 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup pitted and diced cured black olives

1/2 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

3 tablespoons capers, drained

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Separate the cauliflower into small florets. Rinse well in cold water and drain. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the florets until al dente, about five minutes. Drain and place them in a bowl.

Pour the olive oil over the cauliflower and toss to coat well. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss to mix well. Let the salad marinate for several hours at room temperature, stirring occasionally, before serving. Serves six.

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