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First Look: Michael White's Book Classico e Moderno

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Here's New York chef Michael White's cookbook Classico e Moderno. White seems to have gone for a comprehensive approach with this one: the book is about 400 pages, nearly a foot square, and contains almost 250 recipes. (Although it is a little skimpy on the photography; what's there is good, but there could be four times as much.) And like White's restaurants Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini and Nicoletta — he has others, but those are the restaurants cited in the book — the subject at hand is Italian food.

As its title suggests, Classico e Moderno is split into two sections. Classico covers traditional Italian fare from caponata to panna cotta, slightly reorganized to "reflect the way we eat in the United States." Nothing in this section is particularly revolutionary, although if you need a recipe for a shaved fennel salad or one of a variety of tomato sauces or White's opinion on fresh versus dried pasta, you are in luck. White writes that this lack of manipulation is on purpose:

There is something inherently antithetical about a traditional Italian cookbook, because so much about classic Italian cuisine and why it charms us has to do with an absence of structure, a free-flowing connection to the natural world, and, if we're honest with ourselves, a minimum of manipulation. The second half of the book, the Moderno half, is not as strictly traditional. But it's also not modern in the sense of what some call modernist cuisine. Rather, on a scale of traditional Italian to Michael White, the Moderno section just skews more Michael White. The recipes are more high end, more composed, slightly more American and a lot more restaurant-y that the first half of the book. Oddly — and bucking the recent trend of no-compromise cookbooks — White has re-written his recipes for home cooks:

Where possible, I've adapted particularly difficult restaurant kitchen techniques and procedures with more home-friendly methods (and easier-to-find ingredients), but the results will be comparable to what you've experienced at my restaurants. So while the recipes are not necessarily exactly what you get on the plate at Marea, you've got White's word they're pretty close. Classico e Moderno has a foreword from Thomas Keller. It was co-written with Andrew Friedman and photography by Evan Sung. It's out now from Ballantine (order on Amazon). Take a look:

· All Michael White Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Cookbook Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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