Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, the women who put together the Canal House Cooking collections, have an approachable attitude toward food that comes out in the style of their recipes. But don't be fooled. Their motto may be "home cooking by home cooks for home cooks," yet their roots are hardly ordinary. From food photography to food styling to writing, creating, and editing recipes, this pair has done it all, and for some of the biggest publications in the food business (Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, Cook's Illustrated).
Hirsheimer and Hamilton's newest book, Canal House Cooking Volume 8, focuses on Italy and has a wonderful red and green color scheme with a very Italian feel. Besides the gorgeous photographs of Italy, key ingredients, and many of the completed dishes, the book includes essays on Italian food and wine by experts in their fields.
The chapters are organized in a familiar fashion, starting with drinks and moving to appetizers, pasta, meats and fish, side dishes, pizza, and dessert. What I love about the Canal House recipes is the burst of flavour that is achieved from the simplest of dishes. How about a salad of green olives, fennel, and parsley seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon? You can put this together in a few minutes to create a delicious and beautiful starter that will perk up your appetite.
The pasta and pizza chapters feature light sauces and fresh ingredients: zucchini and clams, cherry tomatoes and basil, and escarole and fontina. Easy-to-find ingredients, clear and detailed directions, plus a well-thought-out blend of flavours equals magic on your plate.
The meats, fish, and vegetable dishes are doable for weekday meals but happily serve double-duty for guests and holidays. Pork chops with roasted peppers, grilled swordfish with tarragon, and lamb meatballs warmed with saffron and cinnamon are within the reach of every home cook.
Finally, the dessert chapter is a refreshing surprise: All the recipes are fruit and/or nut based, which suits my tastes just fine. I'm not generally attracted to rich, chocolatey concoctions, but bring on the Canal House raspberry tart, fig gelato, or almond cookies, and I'll be a happy camper.
Hirsheimer and Hamilton may be big names in the food world, but they haven't forgotten that most of the world's cooking is done by regular folks who juggle jobs and family and likely lack fancy appliances. Canal House Cooking Volume 8 shows us how to serve delicious, healthful meals with a minimum of fuss. Pour yourself a Prosecco and get ready to bring a little Italy to your table.