By Arthur Schwartz
It's the food the whole world thinks of as Italian, and the foundation of Italian-American cooking, which is why it is so surprising that Naples at Table: Cooking in Campania is the first book in English to explore the vibrant cuisine of Naples and its surrounding region.
Arthur Schwartz, one of the country's leading food journalists and cookbook writers, and the host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show, takes readers to the city and countryside where spaghetti with tomato sauce was born, where pizza and mozzarella were created, where kitchens abundant with fish and seafood, vegetables, macaroni in all shapes and sizes, humble soups, and aristocratic pasta-filled pastry drums express the personality of a people that holds passion and the enjoyment of everyday living as its highest ideal.
Like the best cookbooks today, Naples at Table goes well beyond the more than 250 recipes to tell the story of a people who literally live on the edge of a volcano, Mt. Vesuvius. Schwartz takes readers into home and restaurant kitchens and dining rooms. He tells the story of the Borboni, the infamous royal family that, for more than 400 years, ruled all of Southern Italy as the Kingdom of Naples. He travels to the resort islands of Capri and Ischia, to the romantic Amaifi Coast, to the earthquake beleaguered mountains of Benevento and Avellino, now rimmed with vineyards, and the fertile plains of Salerno and Caserta, the only provinces in Italy where water buffalo mozzarella is made. Amusing and informative sidebars and tidbits about food and history, cuisine and culture are scattered throughout the book, as are numerous black and white photographs of the cooks that make the genuine cucina napoletana so surprisingly light, often quite refined, but always operatic in flavor.
Minimalists will love 'mpepata di cozze, mussels steamed in nothing but their own juices, their briny flavor both tamed and framed by a shower of freshly ground black pepper. Traditionalists will adore knowing how Neapolitans have contemporized their famous ragu, the long-cooked meat and tomato sauce. For the family cook, there's fast and simple pasta with lentils; pasta with potatoes; garlicky greens; fast, fresh tomato sauce; fish cooked in seasoned "crazy" water, and Sophia Loren's special recipe for Chicken Cacciatora. Indeed, most of the Neapolitan repertoire is geared to feeding families in a nearly effortless and always healthful way.
Naples at Table offers a fresh look at some of the region's internationally famous standard-stuffed peppers, eggplant, and artichokes, pizza, lasagne, eggplant parmigiana, linguine with clam sauce, baked ziti, and veal Sorrentina. Though imitated from India to Iceland, none taste as good as when made the authentic Neapolitan way.
As for dessert, the Neapolitan sweet tooth is legendary. Ice cream and other frozen fantasies were brought to their height in Baroque Naples. Baba, the rum soaked yeast cake, still reigns in every pastry shop. Campanians invented ricotta cheesecake. And Arthur Schwartz predicts that the region's easily assembled refrigerator desserts—delizie or delights—are soon going to replace tirarnisu on American tables. In any case, one bite of zuppa inglese, the Neapolitan trifle created in honor of one of history's most scandalous love affairs, and you'll be singing "That's Amore."
As always, Schwartz has tested all the recipes numerous times in his own kitchen, working out precise and concise directions. For the inexperienced cook, for those who seek a cooking challenge, for armchair cooks and travelers, there is something to delight all of them in Arthur Schwartz's Naples at Table.
Visit Arthur Schwartz's Web site at www.foodmaven. com.
Naples at Table
Cooking in Campania
By Arthur Schwartz
Hardback, $27.50, November 1998
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created July 1999
Copyright © 1994-2017,