At first I wanted a different book about Tuscan cooking. Twelve by Tessa Kiros. But Twelve turned out to be out of print, so I ordered 'flavors of Tuscany' from Amazon after I had a chance to flip through it in a bookstore, and I am totally happy with my choice. Maxine keeps most recipes in their pure form, but every now and then she applies some 'unorthodox' finishing touches. For example 'pappa al pomodoro': her basil and rocket oil drizzled over lifts this simple soup to new heights of flavor, and adds a splash of deep green color that contrasts so well with the tomato-red of the soup. Into the 'acquacotta di mare' goes some grated zucchini so the mussels swim on a bed of summery green. She makes Eggs Florentine with cream, which produces a lighter and brighter result than when made with the much richer bechamel sauce. 'Coniglio alla cacciatora' is a lesser-known version of the popular chicken dish which tastes every bit as good. Chicken Liver Crostini, panzanella, ribollita, cacciucco, panpepato, acciugata, agliata, pappardelle with hare sauce, bistecca alla fiorentina, stracotto, and polpette toscane are only a few of the recipes that are included.
A part-time cooking school teacher in Tuscany, she knows her stuff. Maxine Clark is the one author whose every book about Italian food I bought, even if for as little as two or three recipes I don't yet have in print. Her books are among the most authentic about Italian cooking, and although, as mentioned earlier, a modern twist is occasionally added Maxine's little tweaks rather improve a dish but never take it out of context. That sort of thing takes quite a bit of skill. She would deserve much more attention in my humble opinion.
Alongside the 76 authentic Tuscan recipes the book features in-depth chapers about olive oils, Tuscan cheeses, prosciutto and salami and Tuscan wines not afraid to trace the connection to Tuscany's rich history, and closes with a list of mail order suppliers of Italian specials that may otherwise be unobtainable depending where you live. The food photography is mouthwatering, held in a country setting that, together with some pictures of Tuscan landscapes (not too many though, it's about food after all) conjures up that Tuscan 'feeling' that gets me up and cooking.