Watching the latest episode in Stanley Tucci’s CNN series, Searching for Italy, which focused on Roman cuisine, led me to a more serious and scholarly treatment of the subject, Oretta Zanini de Vita’s Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds.
While sheltering in place during the pandemic, I find myself watching more cooking videos on YouTube than I’d like to admit. Many are a waste of time, but some, like the one that influenced today’s post, are inspiring. I discovered the video through Alison Roman’s “A Newsletter: Recipes, Stories, Unsolicited Advice.”
When my husband recently asked me to prepare Chicken Scarpariello, one of his favorite dishes (of which there seem to be hundreds), I agreed—but only if he could find a recipe in one of my cookbooks.
When I moved back to New York from Cambridge in 1982, I found an apartment on Columbus Avenue down the block from the Dakota and across the street from a take-home gourmet shop called the Silver Palate. Their window was always filled with delicious fare, most of which I couldn’t afford but nonetheless aspired to recreate.
Back in graduate school, when my friends and I began to set up our new apartments and started to entertain and have one another over to dinner, one friend in particular stood out from the rest. She had a certain sense of style. I used to describe her as being “VSFA,” or as the store’s advertising campaign would add “Very Saks Fifth Avenue.”
As a graduate student in the mid-seventies, I was living in a fifth-floor walk-up studio on New York City’s, not-yet-gentrified, Upper West Side. The apartment was on the top floor of a converted brownstone and consequently had a tiny kitchen, my very first, maybe 6-feet long by 3-feet wide. Yet it was here that I began to take a serious interest in cooking.
Perhaps many of you who are sheltering in place during this pandemic are like me and are often faced with produce about to go bad or with other products nearing their use-by dates. I can only attribute this situation to my buying more food items than necessary for fear that when I need something, it won’t be available.
When it comes to cooking, Tuscany may be famous for its Florentine beefsteak, crostini with chicken-liver spread, thick ribolitta soup, and even its panzanella bread salad, not to mention extra-virgin olive oil and truffles. I believe few, however, would associate the area with fried chicken. Indeed, even after numerous trips to this region and having enjoyed many meals there, I never came across it. In fact, I only discovered it recently while preparing a recipe for a chicken and onion stew from Wilma Pezzini’s The Tuscan Cookbook, which I wrote about here a few weeks ago.
When I saw this chicken recipe on Diane Darrow’s Another Year in Recipes blog last week, I knew I had to make it. Diane is among the most intelligent and eloquent food writers I know. Along with her wine-maven husband Tom Maresca, she’s authored two cookbooks on Italian cooking and can always be relied on for expert advice on the subject of authentic Italian cuisine.
Diane found the recipe in Wilma Pezzini’s The Tuscan Cookbook, published in 1978 and has been writing a series of three posts from it that cover three standard courses of an Italian meal (primo, secondo, dolce). Her description of the book, along with the posted recipes, motivated me to purchase a used copy of it, which I’ve found to be an unsung gem, both instructive and engaging to read.
Once again, my post results from a request from my husband for a recipe he found in his email. It’s one of those increasingly popular sheet-pan dinners from The New York Times that have become a go-to for us while under quarantine.