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Eleanora's Kitchen: 125 Fabulous Authentic Italian-American Recipes    by Eleanora Russo Scarpetta order for
Eleanora's Kitchen
by Eleanora Russo Scarpetta
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Eleanora Russo Scarpetta says of her Italian- American recipes, 'My cuisine is straightforward and uncomplicated; it embraces the flavors, aromas, and textures associated with the best Neopolitan fare. The recipes in this book are not just variations of standard Italian recipes; they represent years of evolution, from the basic comfort foods on my mother’s table ... to a more opulent and flavorful cuisine'. Scarpetta gives credit to Martha Stewart and Al Roker for helping her to bring her love of food to television and, now, to her first cookbook.

And what a cookbook! Eleanora is from a small town near Naples. She speaks of it with such fondness that I could visualize her walking around this place where a great wealth of fresh produce and fruits are still easily procured. At her mother's side preparing meals, Scarpetta learned the methods necessary to bring good food to the family table. We're so fortunate she did and is sharing with us. The photographs at the front of the cookbook give an idea of what is between its pages - the secrets to great Italian food. The images appear to exude a lovely fragrance and the forks are so enticingly real, that I wanted to tie a napkin around my neck (I always get red gravy on my white shirts) and dig right in. Scarpetta's mother taught Eleanora to love food – both the cooking and the consumption. Using the freshest ingredients obtainable, the sky's the limit. Recipes run from the marvelous Antipasti, through Soups and Stews, Pasta (be still my heart), Fish and Shellfish, Meat and Poultry, Vegetables and Side Dishes, then segue to Bread, Pizza and Savory Pies and Desserts. There's also a useful section on Canning and Preserving.

Now, I'm going to give suggestions of foods that caught my eye and taste buds to make up a complete menu. Eggplant Bruschetta would be my choice for a starter, or antipasto. Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil is my all-time favorite. My daughter's is scrumptious, but I would be willing to try Eleanora's. The Pasta would have to be Mannicotti Stuffed with Ricotta and Mozzarella with Rich Marinara Sauce (see, I was right about the napkin.) To cover both seafood and salad, I'd have the Insalata di Mare made with shrimp, calamari and scungilli. Do I still have room for more? No. But I'm going to sample Marinated Grilled Baby Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint anyway - maybe along with Fried Asparagus with Cheese. A wonderful, fragrant loaf of Italian Bread must go with this. How else to mop up the sauces? Top it all off with Struffoli – the little fried balls of dough mounded on a platter. That is, if you're still upright and not comatose. Bring it on.

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