Italy in Small Bites


Breakfast, lunch, and dinner may mark the beginning, middle, and end of the day, but for centuries Italians have eaten two small informal meals that come in between. Italy in Small Bites is the first-ever collection of recipes for these bite-size treats, known as spuntini and merende, the soul food of Italy.

Spuntini, the midmorning snack, can be as simple as a sublime walnut-and-raisin-studded coffee cake, while merende, which are enjoyed midafternoon, might be a wedge of onion...

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Breakfast, lunch, and dinner may mark the beginning, middle, and end of the day, but for centuries Italians have eaten two small informal meals that come in between. Italy in Small Bites is the first-ever collection of recipes for these bite-size treats, known as spuntini and merende, the soul food of Italy.

Spuntini, the midmorning snack, can be as simple as a sublime walnut-and-raisin-studded coffee cake, while merende, which are enjoyed midafternoon, might be a wedge of onion frittata or artichoke tart, a crunchy pillow of fried dough served with figs or prosciutto, a purée of fava beans, or sweet peppers mounded on a slice of rustic country bread.

The best-known merende in America are pizza and focaccia, but there's an entire universe of appealing food revealed in this book. Though the recipes are tied to centuries of tradition that go back to a time when merende reinvigorated laborers in the fields, they're singularly perfect for contemporary eating in America and are as versatile as they are delicious.

Merende make perfect impromptu meals because they are stunningly simple foods meant to make life easy. Some — bruschetta with various toppings, frittate, vegetable tarts, polenta crostini — may be familiar, while others are welcome new discoveries. Served individually or in combination, they can become a meal — any meal — and they are healthy, inexpensive, and casual, perfect for the way we live.

Eating in Italy is such an immense pleasure that it should be no surprise to learn that Italians eat not three, but five or more meals a day. Field explores Italy's best-kept secret, merende--the simple and delicious between-meal meals--with over 150 wonderful recipes meant to be enjoyed as great nibbles, antipasti, or as perfect small meals. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Field is the well-known author of several books on Italy and its cuisine, including Celebrating Italy ( LJ 11/15/90) and the widely praised The Italian Baker ( LJ 11/15/85). Now she turns to merende , traditional Italian snack food, a category that includes both the American favorite, pizza, and a wide range of more unusual regional ``little dishes.'' Many merende are based on bread or bread dough, Field's own specialty, and she has collected lots of mouth-watering recipes for bruschetta, crostini, and focaccia in all its incarnations, as well as various sweet and savory breads. There are also salads, bocconcini (``little bites,'' or finger food), and more. Recipes are simple, rustic, and uncomplicated, although some do involve a certain amount of preparation. Considering our current obsession with Italian food and the popularity of snack food, this is sure to be in demand.
Barbara Jacobs
"Tapas" in Spanish and "mezes" in Greek. Now Field explores "merende", midmorning or afternoon snacks enjoyed in the boot-shaped country. There's a scholarly yet friendly tone; we learn about Virgil, Cato, and Cicero wolfing down appetizers while Field explains how she convinced a certain baker to part with the recipe for lemony sweet buns. Many of the more than 150 foodstuffs will have familiar names to those who frequent Italian restaurants in the U.S.: pesto and black olive paste, bruschetta, crostini, polenta, fava bean salad, and biscotti. Others might soon become kitchen favorites, including frico crisp lacy cheese chips, leftover pasta and eggs, vegetable soup with pesto, sgabei cheese-filled fried dough wands, and chocolate salame. Suggested variations and combinations are frequently offered; many of the snacks, however, do require some facility with the vagaries of bread dough.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060722791
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 883,275
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Field is the author of four cookbooks, In Nonna's Kitchen, Focaccia, Celebrating Italy, and The Italian Baker, as well as The Hill Towns of Italy and Mangoes and Quince, a novel. She has won two IACP Cookook Book Awards, a James Beard Award, and the Gold Medal for Cookbooks at the World Media Awards in Australia. She lives in San Francisco with her architect husband and continues to travel back and forth to Italy.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the 2004 Edition viii
Acknowledgments x
Merende 1
A Little History 15
In the Beginning There Is Bread 27
Bocconcini 33
Condimenti 51
Bruschetta e Crostini 75
Focacce e Pizze 97
Uova Frittate e Tortine 141
Polenta 151
Le Verdure 169
Merende di Pane 205
Dolci e Pani Dolci 241
Source Guide 281
Selected Bibliography 283
Index 285
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First Chapter

Italy in Small Bites


Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake

Serves 8


1/2 cup raisins
6 tablespoons Marsala or rum
10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (300 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon walnuts or blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


This sublime coffee cake, spiked with a little Marsala or rum, is real comfort food. It is even more delicious accompanied by a glass of wine.

Soak the raisins in the Marsala or rum for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each one well before adding the next. Mix together the milk, reserved Marsala or rum, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Using a rubber spatula, beat the milk mixture into the butter mixture in three additions alternating with the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. With the rubber spatula, stir one quarter of them into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest along with the nuts and raisins.

Turn the batter into a buttered and lightly floured angel food pan or ring mold, sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean. If you prefer to use a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan, bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack, and cool to room temperature.


Ciambella al Anice Use 1 tablespoon anise seeds instead of the raisins and nuts. Substitute Sambuca for the Marsala or rum, or omit it altogether and increase the milk to 1/2 cup.

Calzone al Formaggio Fresco

Calzone Filled with Mozzarella

Makes 7 or 8

This folded stuffed pizza is delicious and filling, a neat portable dish that is especially well suited to informal occasions. Since the calzone crust is essentially a plate, you can eat your dish and skip the washing up. Perhaps that's why workers at olive mills in Puglia eat it between shifts as they work at an intense pace, pressing olives to create the pure green oil of the fruit.

Divide the dough into 7 or 8 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll each piece out to forma circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Divide the mozzarella among the circles, mounding it in the center. Set a mashed anchovy on top of each portion, and season judiciously with salt and pepper. Fold the top half of the circle over the filling. Then fold the border over and press the edges together, crimping with your fingertips. Set the calzone on an oiled baking sheet or pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush the tops with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. If you are using a baking stone, preheat it in the oven for 30 minutes; sprinkle the stone with cornmeal just before you slide the calzone onto it. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. Brush the tops with the oil, and serve hot.

Use the Rustici filling (page 139).

Italy in Small Bites. Copyright © by Carol Field. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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