• Received my two Piglet cookbooks, one small and dark, one big and white. Alas, opening the packages exhausted me. Now, too tired to cook.
• Wake up rejuvenated and sit with my Piggies. Gravitate to The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, because who doesn’t enjoy companionship, plus it looks really expensive. Right off, am resentful of the fact that I can’t find the recipes easily. There is just so much business -- endless amounts of chit-chat, two versions of the same dish, ruminations, ponderings. Sadly, not scintillating enough (sample sentence: “We are not our grandmothers.”) to excuse its length and breadth. It seems to me the Pythagorean balance of text-to-recipe has been sorely violated; the effect is distressing, like sitting next to someone really blabby on a cross-country flight.
• Also vaguely resentful of the size of the Frankies cookbook. Totally get the clever this-could-be-a-first-edition-of-Hemingway conceit, but because it’s small and fat and tightly bound, the book won’t stay open without being weighted down by -- well, in my case, by a large bowl of nickels for the old slot machine we keep (don’t ask me why) on our kitchen counter. It’s not that I don’t have cookbook holders -- I’m married, right? And had a kitchen shower before my wedding, ok? -- indeed, I have more cookbook holders than I can count. And yet, I always end up with my cookbooks slapped down on the counter or propped up against the tea kettle; in fact, if I could get all my cookbooks spiral-bound, I would. At least a cookbook should be big and spine-bendable. This one isn’t.
• Why am I harshing on Frankies? Maybe they didn’t like the design either. So, onto the matter at hand. Set out on a Sunday afternoon to make the long-simmering tomato sauce -- the Sunday sauce, as they call it -- which is the basis of the whole Frankies worldview. Such a simple recipe, which I, a sometimes-unconfident cook, appreciate. But too simple, it seems. The sauce, which ought to blow your mind if this book is any good, is just tomato-y and sauce-y and nothing more. Can this be? Puzzled by the sauce flop, I mixed up Frankies meatballs, and they were fantastic, nearly redeeming the so-so sauce. Braised short ribs are also quite nice.
• All the while, Plenty, big and bright, beckons. It’ll be a hard sell in my house -- all those vegetables, you know -- but the book is so splendid, the photographs so appetizing, that it might just lure vegephobic Husband and Son into its grip. Or they can have hot dogs on the side.
• Also, I am excited because Plenty calls for some outré ingredients that I had picked up on impulse while at a Middle Eastern market/café and then promptly forgot how I had been told to use them. Sumac? Za’atar? What?
• By the way, I want whoever took the pictures in this book to do my next author photo. Sex on the page.
• Due to this book being from England, the recipes require some conversions. But there’s an app for that.
• First up, Chickpea, tomato and bread soup. Oh, yes, indeed! And then Egg, spinach and pecorino pizza! Carmelized endive with Gruyere! I am smitten. I’m also in love with the name of the writer -- Yotam Ottolenghi -- a mellifluous vowel parade which I am sure is an anagram for something. I am scaring Husband with my sudden zeal for eggplants -- excuse me, aubergines -- and lentils. But really, I haven’t been this excited by a cookbook in quite a while.
• I’m sorry, Frankies.
It is a good book to cook from as what was underemphasized in the reviews is that it uses mostly cheaper cuts of meat and low-cost ingredients. I find that this book is not a 'go-to' like the winner and runner-up, but if you are looking for Sicilian Italian, this is it.
thirschfeld, not all of us are aware of the caramelized endive and gruyere, so we may be in the "Plenty" is so creative camp. almost all recipes are not new on some time line.
So even though I've only made two recipes and one of them was only partly successful I'm still drawn to Frankies like moth to flame.