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BOOK REVIEW: ITALIAN VEGETARIAN HAUTE CUISINE

 

 

By Joseph Romero

LOS ANGELES, 5 JUNE 2012 — Once, the thought of "vegetarians" triggered deep-rooted race memories of secret, unsavory earth-cults, ripe for a visit from the Spanish Inquisition. But time has moved on, and vegetarian cuisine can now be haute cuisine, as demonstrated by the inspired cookery book from Swiss chef Pietro Leemann.
 
After working with the renowned chefs Gualtiero  Marchesi and Fredy Giradet, Pietro Leemann went on to create Ristorante Joia, a fashionable Michelin one-star (1996) "tendenzialmente vegetariana" in Milan. Since then, and like many talented European chefs, Mr. Leemann has spent time in the Far East, notably China and Japan, in a quest for more subtle flavours.
 
Now, under the guise of a cookery book of seasonal recipes from his Milanese restaurant, Mr. Leeman documents his years of research and attempts to mentor the adult reader beyond hedonistic consumption to a more cognitive and sensory appreciation of mostly vegetarian haute cuisine or at the very least, cuisine bourgeoise.
 
Richness, Life and Death, Pleasure, Consistency, Taste, Smell, Sight, Healthy Nutrition are among the key topics treated in his philisophically coherent and thoughtful introduction. Four course meals suitable for each of the four seasons range in difficulty from a simple, autumnal second course of "Noble Vegetables Braised with Thyme" to a complicated, but delicate, spring dessert of "Steamed Meringue in a Caramel Cage" paired with "Champagne of any kind". Side bars on the "architecture of the dish", informative tips on the food chemistry of particular ingredients and excellent wine pairings complete the elegant page layout. Opposite each recipe is a full page still life by the Swiss photographer Jean Bernard Aegerter. Brief chapters on the selection and use of balsamic vinegar, herbs, spices, sauces, cooking technique and equipment bring this unusual and fascinating volume to a close.

Joia
Colours, Flavours and Consistency in Natural Haute Cuisine

By Pietro Leemann
With the collaboration of Nicola Nardi
Photographs by Jean Bernard Aegerter
Hardback: 216 pages
Abitare Segesta
ISBN 10: 8886116594
ISBN 13: 9788886116596 

Headline photo: Pietro Leemann

Joseph Romero is Editor-in-Chief of Culturekiosque.  

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