What I love to see in a cookbook are stories that give context and history to the recipes, great photographs that help tell the recipe stories, and recipes that are clear and simple and easy to follow. Liguria is a cookbook that ticks all these boxes.
About Laurel Evans
Laurel Evans is an award-winning cookbook author and food writer, originally from Texas and now based in Italy, between Milan and Liguria. Liguria is Laurel’s fifth cookbook, just released in September 2021, and the first one in English that features her adopted region, Liguria.
Laurel’s first four cookbooks are in Italian and feature traditional American recipes: Buon Appetito America (2009), La Cucina Tex-Mex (2011), American Bakery (2012)
and Insolito Muffin (2013).
You can find Laurel on her website, her food blog Un’Americana in Cucina (an American in the Kitchen) and on Instagram.
Three key elements that make a cookbook great:
*Recipes that are approachable and easy to follow
Laurel writes clear and concise recipe instructions and doesn't spare detailed technique descriptions when necessary. Take for example her recipe for Ligurian focaccia; Laurel dedicates four pages to this recipe and its variations in Liguria. Once the focaccia dough is placed on the baking pan you need to form dimples on the focaccia where you will then add a brine. Laurel explains that you should use your “index, middle and ring finger at a 45° angle from the pan. You don't want to use only the tips as if you were typing on a keyboard, but the entire pad of your fingers as if you were trying to leave your entire fingerprint…”. And the detailed description continues in perfect clarity so that when you make this focaccia bread the dimples are made just the way they should be - and it makes all the difference in creating a perfect focaccia.
*Recipes that tell a story
There's a story behind Laurel’s recipes and they give each recipe a sense of place and history that makes each and every recipe richer and more complete.
In the preamble and introductory part of the Liguria cookbook Laurel talks about her early days in Liguria and the three women who formed her culinary imprint of the region: her mother-in-law, and her two sisters. She says she doesn’t “know who [she] would be as a person or a cook without the influence of these three powerful women.”
“Food became the bridge between my old life and my new one. It helped mitigate my homesickness and assimilate me into a new culture.”
Laurel calls the book “an ode to Liguria… a celebration of the region”.
Laurel also tells the backstory of the quintessential ingredients and recipes that make up the region’s cuisine - pesto Genovese, marjoram and corzetti Genovese, chestnut and chickpea flour, pine nuts, anchovies.
In the Liguria cookbook you'll also find out about some of the locals, home-cooks and chefs, traditional food venues, markets, and artisanal food shops through Laurel’s stories and recipes. The photography in Liguria also gives context to the stories and conveys the joy of Ligurian cuisine.
*Great cookbook photographs
Photographs tell their own story, and give context to recipes and the region.
Laurel's husband Emilio Scoti is an outstanding food photographer who took all the photographs for Liguria, as well as Laurel's first four cookbooks. You can find Emilio Scoti on Instagram, LinkedIn or his website.
What's Laurel's favorite recipe in her new cookbook Liguria?
The short answer is she doesn't have one, or rather, lots of them are her favorites. I've been cooking my way through her Liguria cookbook and would have to concur that lots of them are my favorites too! I love her recipes for Stuffed Lettuce, Meat Ravioli with Tócco Sauce, Fried Pumpkin Ravioli, Liguria style stuffed squid and of course Ligurian Focaccia.
What's cooking for Christmas and the holiday season in Liguria?
Laurel has a recipe for Pandolce Genovese in her Liguria cookbook, a fruit and nut filled cake that's the classic Christmas cake from Genoa.
I also plan to make Laurel's fried pumpkin ravioli on Christmas day.
Are you interested in some other Italian holiday treats? Take a look at my blog post about Traditional Italian Christmas Cookies and Holiday Desserts.
More about the Liguria region's food and top travel destinations
Another wonderful Ligurian food website is A Small Kitchen in Genoa. Enrica shares lots of wonderful recipes on her website and offers virtual and in-person cooking classes and food tours.
Read (and listen to) my other Liguria blog posts, the Best Traditional Dishes in Genoa, and Flavors of the Liguria Region: the Best Food and Wine and Hidden Towns and Perched Villages in Liguria.
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