By Marco Canora with Catherine Young
Photographs by John Kernick
Rodale -- 2009
Buy it on Amazon
If you've never had the experience of eating a meal at Marco Canora's restaurant Hearth in New York's East Village, this book brings that soulful experience to you. If you have eaten there, you'll certainly want to pick up this book to recreate that experience at home. With "Salt to Taste," Canora gives you the skills to fill your kitchen with some of the Tuscan magic he plates at the restaurant.
Canora uses his wisdom at chef to explain what works in restaurant kitchen and what will work in your kitchen at home. He lays out the steps to making pasta at home and gives you three separate recipes for the dough -- each with its own specific use. Although that may sound complicated, it's not at all -- it's actually quite smart. And the chef also shares a variety of red sauces to show the complexity of Italian cuisine.
Filled with straightforward dishes that are the building blocks of wonderful Italian feasts, this cookbook is equal parts cooking inspiration and teacher. As the subtitle implies, there's definitely a level of confident cooking anyone can learn from this book.
See what we tested and whether it's worth buying after the jump.
Takeaway tips: The books kicks off with an introduction that teaches us about how to salt to taste. Canora believes it should be an overall approach to cooking not just something listed in a recipe here or there. His message is clear -- he's not out to give us a book filled with recipes to execute, he wants us to learn how to be better cooks along the way. Throughout the book, helpful notes from the chef are listed along the margins of the recipes -- great tips on how aged balsamic holds an emulsification better than the grocery-store varieties, notes on how to determine the amount of oil to use for frying chicken (until it measures half way up the pieces in the pan) and step by step instructions for flawless risotto.
Quality of pictures: Outstanding. John Kernick always produces beautiful photography, and this book is yet another example of his great work. Beyond just evocative photographs that make you want to make each recipe, there are useful photos that demonstrate Canora's advice and techniques.
What we tested: Packed with accessible recipes, this book makes it hard to test just a few recipes. But a few recipes were at the top of our list, and we were impressed by the results of all of them.
The yellow pepper soup was a visual masterpiece. Intensely yellow, the soup's color is just as vibrant as its taste -- making it the perfect way to kick off any meal. There's a great deal of richness for a vegetarian dish.
Following Carnora's instructions on risotto, made the recipe for asparagus risotto one of the most delicious versions we've ever made at home. Waiting for the rice to "crackle and pop" in the pan before adding broth resulted in a toastier flavor in the end.
The photographs of the roasted red snapper with potatoes and onions totally sold us on making this dish -- and did it ever deliver. The recipe hinges on the ingenious idea of having the fish stand up on its belly in the oven while roasting -- allowing the hot air to circulate evenly around the entire fish. Each bite was moist and flavorful, and the dramatic presentation of the whole fish on its belly makes it appear that the fish is swimming straight at you.
Worth the investment: There are tons of Italian cookbooks out there, but this one definitely holds it's own among the classics. There are plenty of stick-to-your-ribs recipes that will keep you cozy all through winter, but lighter spring fare and dishes that rely on seasonal ingredients will last you all year long.