In the introduction to her latest book, Food for Sharing Italian Style, Liliana Battle, shares a narrative about watching an elderly couple who were sitting at the table next to her in a restaurant.
'I smiled, and thought how nice it was to see two people well into their eighties still going out... to enjoy a meal together. Then I watched as they just sat there, not speaking, not even looking at each other. It was almost painful to watch... but then the waiter came out and placed a plate of food in front of each of them... they talked, they laughed and they came to life in front of my eyes,' she writes.
That seemingly intimate moment in the restaurant was food for thought for the Italian-born author, who says that sharing a meal together with friends and family is not only one of life's greatest pleasures - it's also clever and economical of stretching a meal to feed many.
Food for Sharing Italian Style is the second book for Liliana - a 2013 MasterChef contestant, caterer/business owner of Liliana's Kitchen, and ambassador for Taste of Harmony. Chapters include Breakfast, Little Bites, Hand Food, Pasta and Sweet Things (among others). There are traditional and modern-day interpretations of Italian dishes; including pasta, pizza, pies and tarts, antipasti, breakfasts and show-stopping desserts. All can be mixed and matched and laid out on a table to make a mouth watering display of food to share.
Standout recipes? I loved the look and sound of the avocado smash Italian style, pictured above and featured below. The addition of the prosciutto, basil, ricotta and balsamic syrup turns a simple dish into something superb.
Other recipes that caught my eye include the stunning looking Tuscan apple cake (pp 274); chocolate pistachio cannoli cake (pp 260); honey roasted pears with cheese (pp 256); grilled zucchini salad (pp 225); crispy Tuscan pork belly (pp 190); and one pot chicken with kale and cannellini beans.
Yes, there is plenty to cook from this beautiful book. It won't be one that sits gathering dust on the shelf. Rather, its pages will soon be splattered and appreciated.
The recipe (and all images) appear courtesy of New Holland Publishers.
'This is my take on the classic Australian breakfast dish, Avocado Smash. Drizzling balsamic syrup on avocado may seem strange, but the salty flavours of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the balsamic syrup really enhance it. You can buy balsamic syrup, but it’s easy to make yourself and last ages in the fridge. I have included the recipe here.
This cafe style breakfast can feed as many as you like, just adjust the quantities accordingly. All the elements can be prepared, then assembled all at once and served on a big platter. Top each one with a poached egg if you like.' The recipe serves 4.
AVOCADO SMASH ITALIAN STYLE
4 thick slices ciabatta, or other thick bread
4 slices prosciutto
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
100 g (3.5 oz) fresh ricotta
3 tbsp seeds (I have used nigella seeds)
3 tbsp balsamic syrup (recipe follows)
500 ml (18 fl oz) balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp brown sugar
Food for Sharing Italian Style by Liliana Battle, $45.00, New Holland Publishers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the publicity team at New Holland, and Liliana Battle, for giving me the opportunity to review and showcase this title; and share a recipe from the book. Liliana's recipes feature on LifeStyle Food, ninemsn, and her blog.
Your turn dear readers. Do you love to put a few big plates of home cooked food on the table and share a meal together with friends and family in the Italian style? What is your favourite Italian dish?
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I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.