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Flavor    by Rocco DiSpirito & Henry Leutwyler order for
by Rocco DiSpirito
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

When asked exactly what he called his food, Rocco DiSpirito (don't you love that name?) answered after reflection, 'Rocco DiSpirito cuisine.' Seems to me he came up with the right appellation. This food is definitely his own. And what food. But I'm ahead of myself. Flavor is filled with joy. From the candid shots of friends and family in the front of this great cookbook to the variety of suggested menus and the recipes themselves, the book brings a smile to the reader. So be prepared to share your pleasure as you absorb its pages and cook the wonderful foods for your loved ones. Smile, be happy, and enjoy.

It was once suggested that DiSpirito's food be called 'Global Fusion' because of the combination of so many ethnic flavors – Bitter, Salty, Sour, Umani, Spicy and Sweet. Read the first chapter – 'Finding Flavor'. You don't start a novel in the middle. Don't do it with a cookbook. Get inside the chef's head and see where he's pointing you. Then move on. DiSpirito's tips in Chapter 2 are a must. Then to Recipes. Each has a guide on the edge of the page that gives the total time required for the recipe, the proportion of active time, degree of difficulty, number of portions, and even a suggestion of an accompanying wine. A flavor guide (tiny colored dots) is included. Short of being in your kitchen, what more can the man do for you?

First off are appetizers and Sweet & Sour Tamarind Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers. Wow! How about Chicken Wings with Apricot-Truffle Vinaigrette? I've never been much for chicken wings, but this could convert me in a flash. I'd kill for the Goat Cheese Parfait with Grilled Leeks & Marjoram Vinaigrette. It looks divine. Next up? Soups! With winter upon us, what can taste better than a steaming bowl of Sweet Onion & White Peppercorn Soup? Or Saffron-Scented Seafood Soup with Potatoes? I'd order a bowl of Spiced Crab Ragout right now. Salads. Right on. The Lemongrass Lobster Salad looks gorgeous. I'd vote for Grilled Duck with Watercress & Citrus Vinaigrette. No hesitation.

Now we're talking – Entrées. Quick Miso Chicken seems simple and full of flavor. There's Seared Wild Salmon with Spring Onions & Rhubarb. Is Braised Beef Short Ribs with Truffled Taro Root exotic enough for you? I can almost taste it after gazing longingly at the photo. And Roast Loin of Pork with Cinnamon-Glazed Tart Apples; Szechuan Peppercorn-Rubbed Fillet of Beef; Rack of Lamb with Sour Cherry Glaze. Too much. Like wild meat? Try Venison with Chestnuts & A Port Reduction. Side Dishes are next, a necessary item for the entrée. The idea of Onion Soubise would never have occurred to me, but looks immediately edible. Truffled Taro Root is just different enough that I must try it, as well as Luxurious Potato Purée. And the color of the Yam Purée alone would tempt me to cook this dish.

The photo on the first page of the desserts section is wooonderful. You must see it. The Warm Chocolate Cake turned me on. As did the photo of the cake with all the electric blue things surrounding it. I must try Summer Berries in Spiced Phyllo. Nirvana. And White Chocolate Risotto? Wow! Then there are the items on the Reserve List designed to challenge advanced cooks, such as Sauteed Foie Gras with Glazed Peaches. The eight (count 'em) pages of photos depicting the process of making risotto to accomplish White Truffle Risotto With A Gulf Shrimp Fondue might just put me off. But then I am not an advanced cook. I know I could not handle the procedure for skewering and boiling the live lobster. But I sure would like to eat the finished product.

Don't ignore the back of the book. It lists ingredients in the four flavors – remember sweet, sour, salty and bitter - with foods available during the twelve months of the year. Flavor is a must on your cookbook shelves. I predict it will become dog eared and smudged with various foods in no time at all. Obviously, I can't list all the amazingly innovative recipes. Not enough space. I just hope I've tempted you to acquire your own copy and start cooking, baby. Start cooking, and share the joy.

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