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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates

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  • Posted September 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Terrific recipes for small plates- and his Pepperoni Sauce is here!

    Bravo TV's Top Chef fans will recognize the name Mike Isabella. On his first go-round on the show, he came off as kind of a jerk. He was asked to be a part of Top Chef All-Stars and to the surprise of some, he very nearly won it, finishing a close second to champion Richard Blais. (Even his detractors had come to admire his kitchen skills.) Isabella has a cookbook out, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian, which celebrates his Italian heritage and has lots of wonderful memories of his grandmother, who gave Mike his love of cooking. What I like about this book is that many of the recipes are for small plates, which I enjoy. Some of the small plate recipes I want to try include: Deviled Eggs with Bacon Baked Ricotta with Scallion, Speck and Saba (which sounds fancy, but looks fairly easy. Speck is a cured ham and saba is a thick concentrated syrup made from sweetened grape juice. I did not know that.) Crispy Mushrooms with Sweet and Sour Apricot Sauce Isabella is Italian and Greek, and there are many recipes he has created that combine those two heritages, which he has in a chapter titled Family Secrets. Some of those recipes are: Aunt Connie's Pepper Rings Grandma Antoinette's & Mike's Favorite Gravy, which has a pig's foot as its special ingredient Meatballs, made with mortadella and mint There are lots of authentic Italian recipes here for serious cooks, ones that use ingredients such as octopus, calamari and squid. When I visited Rome this past February, there were many dishes with those ingredients and reading Isabella's book brought me right back there. Some of those recipes from the chapter Not Your Sunday Macaroni are: Baby Cuttlefish with Salt Crusted Potatoes & Pancetta Pesto Black Spaghetti with Clams, Pancetta, Red Chili & Squid Ink Pistachio Fettucine with Lamb Ragu, Feta & Mint The dish that came Isabella created for the Top Chef All-Star final challenge, his Pepperoni Sauce, is in this book. Gail Simmons from Food & amp;Wine Magazine went crazy for this dish, and here Isabella uses it over chicken wings. It's one of the most requested dishes at his Washington DC Graffiato restaurant, and I'm going to make this one for Sunday football for my guys. This is a link to the recipe and a video of Isabella making the dish on the Today Show this past week. There are gorgeous photos in this book, and at the end of the book there is a section called Menu Suggestions, where Isabella categorizes his recipes under Date Night, Entertaining, Family Night and Dinner Party Time. I liked that added touch. I met Isabella in June at the Book Expo, and snapped a photo of him. He handed out Rainbow Cookies along with a blad from his book and the recipe for the cookies. This is a cookbook for the more adventurous and serious cooks in my opinion. If you have someone on your Christmas gift list who fits that description, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian would be a wonderful holiday present.

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