My sons were weaned on Italian food. Their formative years were nourished with pasta in red sauce, focaccia with olives, ossobuco and Torta della Nonna. While their far-away cousins dined on fast food burgers and bbq or roast chicken and potato gratin, ours were enjoying slices of home-baked pizza or polpette, tortellini and risotto. School lunches often began with bowls of spaghetti con pesto or minestrone; after-school snacks were a homey Ciambella or Grissini with a chunk of Parmesan cheese. Italian cuisine is in their blood and Italian dishes are our family’s comfort food, infused with love and familiarity, all the warmth, goodness and easy pleasure of home. Food for the soul.
All these years later, now well ensconced in this very French life, we are still passionate lovers of everything Italian. We frequent the Italian stand offering fresh pastas and lasagnas, salumi and formaggi at our local market daily, drawn to the stall like teenaged girls to their favorite rock star, hovering, oohing and ahhing and wanting it all. A quick meal always includes a platter of bresaola and mortadella, smoky scamorza affumicata and a hunk of fragrant taleggio. When we take the time to cook for our family, more often than not there is something Italian simmering on the stovetop or baking in the oven. And my best-loved, most-thumbed cookbooks are Italian.
Hazan Family Favorites is my third cookbook from renowned Italian chef Giuliano Hazan, a cookbook whose arrival I awaited with all the anticipation and excitement of an old friend. Every Night Italian and How to Cook Italian both sit contentedly on my bookshelf, always within easy reach, each offering this passionate Italian food lover a treasure trove of classic and traditional recipes as well as new discoveries. Those many years of living in Italy and having raised our two boys on Italian culture and food, delving into one of Giuliano’s books, making – and sharing - his Ossobuco in Agrodolce, Sweet and Sour Ossobuco, the cool and luscious Torta di Ricotta or the stunning Chicken with Green Olives is like a trip home again, back to the embrace of a country and a cuisine we love so well, our first as a family together. And his newest cookbook promised to be just as sensational!
Yet, Hazan Family Favorites is much more than just another cookbook of easy-to-follow, comforting recipes that titillate the palate, infusing our own home with the warmth of Italy. Before even selecting the first recipe to recreate in my own kitchen – although by that point I had half a dozen or more bookmarked with jagged bits and pieces of notepaper – evening after evening found me curled up in bed, book nestled against my knees, reading. Hazan Family Favorites is just that: a collection of 85 recipes, family favorites, from Giuliano’s childhood, dishes passed down from two sets of grandparents and from the loving hands of the chef’s mother, the renowned Marcella Hazan, the fascinating doyenne of Italian cuisine; but it is so much more than just a cookbook. Giuliano recounts with passion, love and verve his family history, an utterly fascinating tale of cross cultures and cooking from the heart for those one loves. This is definitely a book worth reading in and of itself, the story of one chef’s passion for cooking, a passion grown from enduring Hazan family traditions.
The recipes are inspired by the jumble of cultures that make up the Hazan family; Italy to its very core yet kissed with flavors of the Middle East, heavily influenced by the Sephardic Jewish traditions of one set of grandparents, the Italian roots blended with the Egyptian experience of the other, infused with his and his wife Lael’s American upbringings. Giuliano shares both his personal story – and how this shaped his cooking – as well as the memory-rich recipes of his youth which now find a special place on his own family’s table.
A great cookbook is like a good friend: it is ever-present, reliable and trustworthy, offering unequivocal pleasures, comfort when comfort is needed, joy in the everyday. Giuliano’s cookbooks allow me to feed my boys like a true Italian mamma, to bring us all back to those perfect, vibrant Italian days, the simple days of good food and the abundance and cheer of childhood. The simplicity of each recipe and Giuliano’s way of walking us through each step reassures even the least experienced home cook, allowing him or her to turn out something truly fabulous, while those of us who are often faced with much more complicated recipes and too little time, well, Giuliano offers us the pleasure of cooking and baking with ease and simplicity so we can bring great food to our tables, our families every day.
I selected Uccellini Scappati – Escaped Little Birds – a recipe that was handed down to Giuliano from his mother Marcella, a dish she cooked for and served to Craig Claibourne, famed New York Times critic. Italian simplicity at its finest, Uccellini Scappati uses a few, fine ingredients to create a flavorful, outstanding dish, at once homey and elegant, much like most Italian dishes. Simple veal rolls layered with slightly smoky prosciutto cotto and freshly grated Parmesan and bathed then simmered in a luscious red sauce, served simply with white rice and a green vegetable, this effortless recipe turned out a stunning meal.
I also baked Giuliano’s Ciambella; this reminded me completely of Ciambelle we ate in Italy, truly a family favorite for breakfast every day, ideal dunked in coffee or milk. A delicately flavored tea cake-style treat, simple yet so addictive (I broke off a chunk and popped it into my mouth literally every time I walked through the kitchen), dusted with powdered sugar, simple enough to make the perfect breakfast or snack topped with jam or a slice of cheese. Definitely a recipe, and a simple one at that, that I will make often.
Read more reviews of Hazan Family Favorites:
Chicken with Tomato, Olives and Capers from Jeanne on Cook Sister!
Nonna Mary’s Ciambella from Lora on Cake Duchess
Review of Hazan’s Family Favorites by Charlie on Eggs on the Roof
Swiss Chard and Almond Gnudi from Alessio on Recipe Taster
Strawberry Gelato from Gwen on Bunky Cooks
Find more fabulous recipes from Giuliano Hazan as well as fun stories and fascinating facts about Italy, her cuisine, ingredients and food traditions written by Lael Hazan – with the occasional guest post by Marcella Hazan - on their blog Educated Palate.
Disclosure: My wonderful friend Lael Hazan asked Giuliano’s publisher to send me a copy of Hazan Family Favorites for review, but all opinions of his cookbooks and recipes are my own. I can say in all honesty that his cookbooks are often used and well loved, each dish receiving two thumbs up all around, my Little Italians included.
from Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan
Copyright (c) Giuliano Hazan 2012, All Rights Reserved
Time from start to finish: 40 minutes
4 or 5 veal scaloppini, thinly sliced, for a total of 1 pound (500 g) veal
4 large, thin slices of prosciutto cotto, Italian ham, for a total of 4 oz (115 g) ham
¼ cup or so freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter
1 Tbs vegetable oil
¼ cup (approximately 65 ml) dry white wine*
1 cup or so (I used one can) whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*When cooking with wine, use the wine you will be serving and drinking with the meal.
Lightly pound the veal scaloppini just to flatten evenly (I do this by placing one scaloppini at a time between two slices of parchment or waxed paper and pounding with a wooden crab mallet). Rinse and pat dry; top each slice of veal with a slice of prosciutto and 1 teaspoon of the grated Parmesan, dusted evenly over the surface of the ham. Roll up each tightly and secure with toothpicks.
Heat the butter with the vegetable oil in a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter and oil are hot and just beginning to color, place the veal rolls in the skillet in a single layer and brown them on all sides. Once browned, transfer the veal rolls to a clean plate.
Add the wine to the pan and allow to bubble for about 30 seconds to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the canned tomatoes and break them up with the back of a spoon as you stir them in. Season with salt, lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Season the veal rolls on the plate with salt and pepper.
After the tomatoes have cooked for 15 minutes, put the veal rolls back in the pan and heat, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked through.
Serve hot with white rice, a simple risotto and a green vegetable.