Friday Book Whimsy: Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking

searchLidia Matticchio Bastianich has authored 11 books. Out of those 11, two are targeted to children. The remainder are cookbooks. Out of those nine cookbooks, I own seven. The two I don’t own are her debut cookbook – La Cucina di Lidia – and one entitled Lidia’s Favorite Recipes. I chose not to buy that one since all of her favorite recipes are featured in one of the other cookbooks that I already own.

Most of her cookbooks are tied to her wonderful PBS cooking show. In fact, that is how I first became acquainted with the woman who – in our family – is simply referred to as “Lidia.” As in Cher or Madonna. I was immediately drawn to her clear love of cooking, the importance she places on her family, and her devotion to displaying her love for her family through cooking and gathering at the table.

I’m sure most, if not all, of the recipes in these cookbooks are available online, but for some reason, I want the cookbook in front of me when I prepare her recipes. It’s the next best thing to having her right there in the kitchen with me. She writes just like she talks, and I find that comforting.

Each of her cookbooks has a specific focus. In a couple of them, she features recipes from different regions of Italy, along with background information about the regions. Two of the cookbooks are focused on Italian-American cooking; in one – Lidia’s Italy in America – she traveled around to the areas of the country where many of the Italian immigrants landed upon moving to the United States, and features recipes specific to those “Little Italys.”

In her most recent cookbook, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, Lidia offers the reader practical and easy solutions to cooking situations. Her overriding message is that cookbooks and recipes are black and white, but cooking doesn’t have to be that way. If you don’t have anchovies on hand, or your family would storm from the table should an anchovy touch their food, why, just leave out the anchovies. Commonsense. Make the recipe work for you and your family.

The cookbook offers lots of cooking tips as well. For example, did you know you can freeze the lemons from which you squeezed the juice for one recipe and then use them again should you want to flavor water with lemon by tossing them in? Or have you ever considered making more soup than you need and freezing the soup in single-sized servings so that you can thaw and cook them for a quick-and-easy lunch. Commonsense.

Her writing is just like listening to her talk – clear and friendly and nonjudgemental (except when it comes to what kind of canned tomatoes to use – San Marzano and never crushed because you should crush them by hand; don’t tell her, but I ignore her orders on this matter). The photography by Marcus Nilsson is simply gorgeous. Looking at her pictures makes my mouth water.

As always, there are many recipes I intend to try. Now we’ll just see if I ever get around to it. As I mentioned this week, I tend to always pull out Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen for all of my Italian cooking needs.

Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking is a commonsense cookbook for cooking of all kinds.

Buy Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking from Amazon here.

Buy Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking from Barnes and Noble here.