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By Joel Kasow

NEW YORK, 15 MARCH 2010 — Mary Ann Esposito is at the head of the Ciao Italia empire, host of a television program of that name and author of ten earlier cookbooks. Her latest publication, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, is a useful tool for the occasional or hurried cook, whose pantry is not always well-stocked but who wishes to offer home-prepared meals in our increasingly technological era.

The watchwords are quality and simplicity:

Some cooks fret over the amount of time they think they need to spend prepping and cooking in order to achieve quality. They bemoan the complexity, expense, or amount of ingredients called for. It is just as easy to create a delicious dish with few ingredients as it is with an armful.

To clarify, salt and pepper are not included among the five ingredients, and as a personal note, it is always possible to add an ingredient or two according to one’s taste, but the book is an excellent reminder that good cooking is not only what one finds in three-star restaurants but also in many a home kitchen.

What could be simpler than her Farfalle with Gorgonzola Sauce or Pasta Bundles with Pears and Taleggio (using wonton wrappers) or Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs. True, the occasional recipe strikes one as a bit bland, e.g. the Linguini Roman Style, but it might be just the thing for difficult children.

The recipe that caught my eye was for a Tuscan Chicken Liver Paté. It exemplifies the author’s style, practical and encouraging for the novice.


4 large leeks
4 large chicken livers
4 anchovy filets in oil, drained and minced
2 tablespoons of capers in brine, drained
Extra virgin olive oil
(salt and pepper)

Cut off the top dark green leaves of the leeks, down to where the lighter green color begins. Discard the dark leaves.

Trim and discard the root ends. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and wash them well. Dry the leeks and slice them thinly crosswise.

Combine the leevs, livers, anchovies and capers in a medium saucepan. Pour enough olive oil over the mixture just to cover it. Cover the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are creamy and almost dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree to a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Store the paté in an airtight jar or container and use as a spread on crostini.

Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen
By Mary Ann Esposito
Hardcover: 160 pages
St. Martin’s Press, New York (September 2009)
ISBN-10: 031237769X
ISBN-13: 978-031237769

Joel Kasow is a senior editor and culture critic at He last wrote The Gift of Giving (But for Whom).


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