Cookbooks / Italy

Flavors of Puglia by Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Flavors of Puglia – Introduction

Nancy Harmon Jenkins has produced an excellent survey of the foods and customs of the Puglia region of southern Italy. Flavors of Puglia is characterised by beautiful writing:

“The mimosas flowered earliest, fuzzy yellow pellets cascading in great clusters from high, supple branches, quickly followed by the almond trees, their ghostly pale drifts of blossom delicately scented and brushed with pink.”

It also contains authoritative descriptions of the region, the food and the culture that are compelling reading. In fact, although this is primarily a ‘cookbook’ it is also the sort of book that you can sit down and read cover to cover in a quest to find out much more about this emerging food region.

As an aside, we have included a link at the bottom of this story by the author of the book where she bravely states that the book, which was published some twenty-five years ago, was a complete commercial failure! This probably reflects the fact that the Puglia region was, at the time, very unfashionable with trendy people making their way directly to more northern climes such as Tuscany and ignoring this impoverished area.

Each recipe is prefaced by a description of either where the recipe came from or the cultural context for the recipe.

The first main section addresses small dishes. We particularly liked the recipe for cipolline in agrodolce which is an appetiser of small onions in a sweet and sour sauce and another for marinated fish in vinegar and mint that is very similar to the Spanish escabeche. (In fact after reading the book we realised how much interchange there has been between this region and other countries in the area – particularly Spain.)

However, the recipe that most attracted us was a curious contender. It is one of the staples of the region called Fave e Cicoria made from dried fava beans and wild cicorielle greens (which if not available can be substituted by wild dandelion or chicory or even turnip tops).

The section on tiella, the complex rice dish cooked throughout the area, is also interesting as there are many similarities to paella. We say interesting because we normally associate the consumption of rice with areas further north in Italy. Of course the dish possibly originated during the Spanish occupation of this area in the 16th Century, although locals would probably disagree.

We enjoyed the book and are happy to recommend it as both an interesting survey of the food of the area and a source of inspiration for dishes to try at home. We really like the way that the book reaches beyond the stereotype views of Italian cooking.

This book has been included in our Foodtourist Top Fifty Cookbooks list.

The article by Nancy Harmon Jenkins that we mentioned earlier in this story can be found at the link below:

Return to Puglia

You can buy the book by clicking on the link below: