Book takes cooks on a Roman holiday

April 26, 1992|By Gerald Etter | Gerald Etter,Knight-Ridder News Service

In "Valentina's Italian Family Feast" (Simon & Schuster, $24.95), chef and cookbook author Valentina Harris takes us on a festive culinary tour that stretches from a Tuscan picnic to a wedding in Sicily.

This interesting and colorfully illustrated book details special-occasion dining as the Italians do it. From traditional family gatherings to simple garden lunches, the book takes an intimate look at Italian dining.

"The idea," says Ms. Harris, "was to give the reader an insight into what Italian food is really about -- celebration."

Ms. Harris, who was born in Rome, spent much of her childhood in Tuscany. She took her culinary training in Rome and in 1976 moved to England. She currently acts as host of the British Broadcasting Corp. television cooking series "Italian Regional Cooking."

Dishes from her cookbook may be mixed and matched. Instructions are precise and easy to follow. Here are some recipes from the book:

Venetian liver and onions

Makes six to eight servings.

5 medium-sized onions, very finely sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 fresh sage leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 very thin slices of calves' liver

mashed potato with lemon (recipe follows)

Rinse the onions thoroughly in cold water, then dry them with paper towels. Melt two tablespoons butter in a wide pan with the sage; fry the onions until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside, but keep warm.

Melt the remaining butter in another wide pan with the oil and fry the liver very quickly, about two to three minutes per side, adding more oil or butter if needed. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Mashed potato with lemon

Makes six to eight servings.

6 large potatoes suitable for mashing

1 1/4 cups milk

1 1/4 cups water

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DTC 2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

grated zest of 1 large lemon or 2 smaller ones.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal-sized pieces. Put them into a saucepan and cover with the milk and the water. Add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer them gently until soft.

Drain all excess liquid. Mash carefully with a fork, then push through a potato ricer to make a really smooth puree. Stir in the butter, the lemon zest and pepper to taste. Serve at once, or reheat the puree briefly just before serving.

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