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Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking
by Pamela Sheldon Johns
Andrews McMeel Publishing

Release date: September 13, 2011

Hardcover - 192 pages

Italian cookbook authority Pamela Sheldon Johns presents more than 60 peasant-inspired dishes from the heart of Tuscany inside Cucina Povera. This book is more than a collection of recipes of "good food for hard times." La cucina povera is a philosophy of not wasting anything edible and of using technique to make every bite as tasty as possible. Budget-conscious dishes utilizing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables create everything from savory pasta sauces, crusty breads and slow-roasted meats to flavorful vegetable accompaniments and end-of-meal sweets.

The recipes inside Cucina Povera have been collected during the more than 20 years Johns has spent in Tuscany. Dishes such as Ribollita (Bread Soup), Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo (Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce), and Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) are adapted from the recipes of Johns' neighbors, friends, and local Italian food producers. Lavish color and black-and-white photographs mingle with Johns' recipes and personal reflections to share an authentic interpretation of rustic Italian cooking inside Cucina Povera.


Bitter Greens and Anchovy SauceNecci

Chestnut Crepes

In the past, people made these crepes by heating stones in a fireplace, then stacking them with the batter between chestnut leaves, as you see in the photo. Today they use a testo di ferro, a metal paddle on top of the stove, but here is a recipe for your modern kitchen. This savory crepe made with sweet chestnut flour can be filled with fresh sheeps' milk ricotta, cooked beans, onion frittata, sautéed wild greens, or bits of leftover roasted meat. They can also be drizzled with chestnut honey and served as a dessert.

  • 1 pound chestnut flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups spring water
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta
  • Piece of pork rind to oil the cooking surface (or melted butter)

Whisk together the flour and water until smooth. Cover and set the batter aside for at least one hour.

Heat a six-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Smear the pan with the pork rind (or brush with melted butter). Stir the batter and scoop 1/4 cup into the pan. Tilt the pan so that the batter runs to the edges, creating a thin, even layer. Immediately loosen the edges with a spatula and cook for 1 minute, or until the top is set and dry-looking. Turn and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, just to lightly brown it. Stack crepes with parchment paper in between to hold until ready to use.

To serve, place a spoonful of ricotta on each crepe and roll it up.

Makes 20 - 25 crepes


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