Thursday, January 18, 2018
Features and More

'Polpo' cookbook brings Venetian foods to U.S. tables

You weren't supposed to see this yet. Neither was Danny. The book that provided this recipe for goat cheese bruschette with roasted grapes and toasted walnuts was delivered on a day he was home and I wasn't. Curiosity killed one of his Christmas presents.

But it's not so bad. It meant I was able to make this bruschette (plural for bruschetta, by the way) and share it with you way before Christmas.

The book is Polpo, and I knew Danny would love it. It's a beautiful book with exposed binding on its spine and a stunning cover with a 19th century illustration of an octopus. It contains photos of Venetian food and markets as well as recipes for things such as cod cheeks with lentils and salsa verde, warm octopus salad, fried stuffed olives and tiramisu pots. I could not resist.

The book features recipes from a trendy London restaurant of the same name where owner Russell Norman translates his fascination with the food of Venice into small plates known as cicheti, which is served (as bacari) in the backstreet bars of the real Venice.

The food in this book celebrates simple and honest. Norman is guided by the well-known mantra of less is more. Get the best ingredients you can find and don't do too much to them, he urges.

He calls it a Venetian cookbook (of sorts) because it also offers recipes from elsewhere, including a recipe for a whole roasted sea bream (a freshwater fish native to Europe) that reminds him of a meal he shared with his wife in Greece.

As for the bruschette, they're a crowd pleaser and easy to make, which is perfect for holiday entertaining. In the end, I'm glad Christmas came early.

Ileana Morales is a freelance writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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