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Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe Hardcover – 13 Jun 2006

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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
More Great, Simple Recipes. Buy It!!! 14 Jun 2006
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`Italian Two Easy, Simple Recipes from the London River Café' by proprietor / chefs, Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers is the sixth cookbook by these ladies, and I welcome it with almost as much anticipation as I did the next installment of `The Lord of the Rings' or at least the DVD release of same.

As the title suggests, this volume is the second of a pair of volumes of `Easy Italian' recipes, the first published about two years ago, copyrighted in 2004. This volume actually improves on the earlier volume in that I found the layout of the first volume very annoying, to the point where it detracted from the value of the book, in spite of the fact that the recipes were almost uniformly excellent.

Gray and Rogers reaffirm two major themes with this volume. First, they celebrate the genius of the Italian pantry with its rich collection of wines, olive oils, cheeses, salt cured fish, capers, breads, pasta, sausages, and cured meats. All of these products are centuries old, enhanced just a bit by the modern methods for canning beans and tomatoes. These commercial, yet artisinally prepared products are such great ingredients that one can assemble fabulous dishes with very little effort. And, that is what Mmes. Gray and Rodgers' recipes are all about.

The second main behind their books is that their recipes follow a very typically English approach to recipe writing. As I wrote to Ms. Diane Jacob, author of `Will Write for Food', there seems to me to be three types of recipe writing. First is the Julia Child model of `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' which covers every detail of cooking technique in exquisite detail. The second is the Joel Robuchon style found in the `Simply French' collaboration with Patricia Wells, where the point of a recipe is often to demonstrate some salient aspect of an important ingredient technique. The third is the Elizabeth David style which is light on asides or voluminous comments on technique or ingredients. This is the style that has become so successful for most recent and contemporary English writers such as Jane Grigson, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Gray and Rogers, and their protégé, Jamie Oliver. Now this is not the style of recipe writing you want to deal with when you are just starting out, unless it happens to be in Slater's and Day-Lewis recent large cookery manuals, `Appetite' and `Tamasin's Kitchen Bible' respectively. This is also not the style of cookbook you want if you wish to dig deep into the heart of Italian cuisine, as Gray and Rodgers do not (at least in this book) go into the techniques of either bread, pasta, or sausage making. For these techniques and important insights into the backbone of classical Italian cooking, I refer you to the grand dame of Italian cooking writing in English, Marcella Hazan and her `Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' and her most recent `Marcella Says'.

As I have said of Jamie Oliver's books, Gray and Rogers' books are primarily celebrations of the simplicity of the Italian cuisine, although Oliver's exuberance comes through just a bit better than from our ladies. One thing you will not get from Gray and Rogers is a reflection of the typical Mario Batali statement that the Italian cuisine is the cuisine of poverty. While hams and cheeses and sausages may have been a necessity 200 years ago, in England and the United States, these Italian specialties are pretty dear. Prosciutto di Parma and Parmesano-Reggiano both run to $16 or more dollars a pound or more.

So, if you know your way around the kitchen and can afford `the good stuff', genuine imported Italian ingredients, then I heartily recommend this and all of the other five Gray / Rogers volumes, especially if you are fond of entertaining or like to cook every day, but don't want to spend three hours in the kitchen every day. These books demonstrate why it is so easy for Rachael Ray, for example, to put together fast meals based on the Italian pantry, but these recipes are, unlike Ms. Ray's fare, tested in restaurant experience.

Some of the recipes do require some Italian ingredients that are still not that easy to come by. One, for example, is bottarga, the sun-dried roe of the gray mullet. I have never searched for it, but I have also never seen it in my local megamart, although I suspect the big New York City food emporia such as Zabar's are sure to carry it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the appendix of suppliers in the back of the book were all American sources and not UK sources.

If I were to pick one especially strong point of the Gray / Rogers volumes, it would be their vegetable recipes. I have read and reviewed a number of excellent books on vegetable recipes, most especially Jack Bishop's several books, and I still find unique recipes among the River Café cuisine, especially in dishes which combine two or more vegetables and therefore don't easily fit into a book organized by vegetable. My only caveat is that since this book is all about the recipes and nothing but the recipes, it sometimes lets some bad advice slip by as when it suggests you discard the stems from a head of broccoli. I happen to love broccoli right down to its tougher stems, which one can always peel, so I suggest you be a bit more frugal here.

The second best aspect of the River Café books is their wealth of simple pasta recipes.

The bottom line is that these River Café cookbooks are easily one of the best sources of quick Italian influenced books I have seen anywhere, without the annoying and cloying Rayspeak chatter from Ms. Rachael. One could do worse than to fill your entire kitchen library with Gray and Rogers cookbooks, with Marcella Hazan's works in the library to fill in the background.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
London Food Icon on the River 22 Feb 2007
By J. Hanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having been to the restaurant twice in my adult life I can not only recommend the London River Cafe as a destination place but now I can actually produce some sensational, yet quite easy, recipes in the here and now. Sometimes our palette can only be satisfied with the real thing but the new book, "Italian Two Easy", is as close as you can get. I highly recommend the book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Nice cook book 3 May 2010
By Moon and Sixpence - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought "Italian Easy" first, and liked it very much. "Italian Two Easy" turns out to be even better than the first book. The dishes are easy and yet delicious. Everybody can cook from this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Framing Les - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was recommended to buy this book by a friend of mine who owns a very up scale B&B in Tuscany. He used to live in London and often frequented the restaurant "London River Cafe". He is an extremely accomplished cook and uses all the River Cafe cook books - actually he cooks up some of these recipes at his B&B. He serves a 5 course dinner in summer "al fresco" in the vineyards and has used a lot of these fabulous, quick and easy ever so Italian recipes.
I love this book and recommend it and the others too! Happy cooking!!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic book but a mistake on page 68! 30 Jun 2008
By Bettina Scott-Bundgaard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love this Italian cookbook, I'm trying most of the recipes and unfortunately I found a mistake on page 68. The "Orecchiette, tomato, ricotta" recipe forgot to include the basil after telling us to wash it. The meal was therefore not a success, it ended up rather bland as ricotta does not have much taste on its own.

I still use this cookbook every day and highly recommend it.
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