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OP: Recipes From Paradise

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by Fred Plotkin

Perhaps there are no greater manifestations of Italian culture than opera and good food. Fred Plotkin (1956– ), an authority on Italian Renaissance subjects and also in opera management, has worked with La Scala and served for several years as production manager at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. 

Along the way he gained expertise in Italian food and, in addition to his extensive writing and broadcasting on opera, has published a number of books related to traditional Italian cooking.

Particularly well received was a regionally focused cookbook, Recipes from Paradise (1997), detailing the cuisine of a tiny sliver of Italy’s north western coast along the Mediterranean known to the jet-set as the Italian Riviera and to everyone else as Liguria. 

The unyielding landscape and dangerous waters surrounding Liguria made for a traditional diet we might consider humble today: herbs, wheat, sardines. However, native Ligurian Christopher Columbus’s expedition to the Western Hemisphere ultimately brought back many of the ingredients we now associate with Italian cuisine: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers. 

Plotkin’s depth of research and cultural immersion is evident, and the chapter introductions and recipe headnotes are worth the read. But for those here for the food, consider basil leaves stuffed with prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and milk-softened bread, breaded and fried in olive oil. Maybe a casserole of fresh anchovies, garlic, parsley, olives, capers, and white wine. Or perhaps one of the seven ravioli or ten focaccia recipes will pique your interest. 

This delicate food of the Mediterranean excites the palate without overwhelming or over-stuffing. Plotkin emphasizes the lightness and subtlety found in the flavors. Herbs over spices, olive oil over butter—this is the way, he tells us.

We offer here a signed first printing, inscribed to a previous owner, in Very Good condition, including the dust jacket. Peppered with black and white and color photography, this is a worthy adventure for the armchair traveler, as well as the eager cook.

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