I love to travel. I love everything about traveling, from researching the destination to that familiar fluttery anticipation as I lock the door of the house behind me and set out. It doesn’t matter if it is a weekend road trip or an overseas adventure, I love to step out of my ordinary life and experience a new place, with new light, new language, new customs and most especially, new food.
There are many locations famous for the beauty of their lands, for the fascinating histories of their peoples, or for the impact of their food on world cuisine. Of all of these destinations, Italy could arguably be considered one of the top favorites, certainly for food.
Deirdre Meekin and Caleb Barber are the authors of Pane E Salute: Food and Love in Italy and Vermont, and owners of the eponymous restaurant located in Woodstock, Vermont. This cookbook, which also contains a series of essays on food and travel, is an homage to both destinations. In reviewing it this fall, we were indeed transported.
Essays that evoke the warmth and hospitality of Italy are interspersed with recipes organized by season. Within each season, the recipes are organized by course: antipasti, primi, secundi, contorni and dolci. A note from the authors encourages a sort of “mix and match” within these selections so that a cook may create a balanced four course meal from the offerings within each season.
While we never actually made four courses in a single meal, we did enjoy pairings of the recipes together, such as the Risotto al Limone and the Tuscan-Style Roasted Chicken, a delicious spring celebration of lemons in both dishes.
Samplings from the summer menu included Piemontese Fresh Egg Pasta with Green Zucchini Sauce followed by luscious Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries. Overall, the pasta recipes we tried were fantastically simple and fantastically delicious, varied and versatile. The Pasta with Leeks and Parmigiano was a stand-out favorite.
Autumn found us savoring the Cabbage Salad with Anchovy Dressing, the Sausages with Black Grapes and Valeria’s Crumb Cake, which was less like a cake than a nutty shortbread treat, perfect for a sweet dessert wine or with coffee.
Salmon with Green Peppercorns perked up the winter menu with the Oven Roasted Potatoes, but the favorite for us was the Beef Braised in Red Wine, so fragrant and so belly-warming.
I have never been to Italy, although it has been a long-lived dream to go. Pane E Salute has helped to bring so many Italian flavors into my own kitchen, but I realize it is only a sampling of the possibilities I could encounter in my travels. Maybe for now, I can get a close second by packing up my bag and heading over to Woodstock for dinner instead.
“Pane E Salute: Food and Love in Italy and Vermont” by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber. Published by Invisible Cities Press, 2002. 278 pages.