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Read All About It : From once-obscure Asian cuisines to classic French to the lastest grain craze, the variety of cookbooks available for gift giving swells as Christmas approaches. To help cull the best from the rest, The Times' Food Staff has reviewed the year's most intriguing cookbooks. : Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Buglialli, (Fireside Press: $19.95, 526 pages, illustrated)

December 17, 1989|ROSE DOSTI

Here is the Italian version of Jacques Pepin's French La Technique. Fine and dandy. We needed one. And no one could do it better than Buglialli, an Italian historian, with an unusually rich perspective of cuisine. Italians, who have been blanching, wrapping, sifting, carving, boning, stuffing, slicing, sieving longer than any Western European culture, are the forerunners of modern culinary technicians. Indeed, Renaissance paintings by mannerist (gastronome-painters who were followers or students of Michelangelo), depict them. Famous artist-cooks of the Baroque period composed banquets filled with ice sculptures, sugar works, napkins folded into complex animal and geometric, and floral shapes.

Tricianto, a treatise on the Art of carving was printed in Venice in 1580, and remains a valuable reference work to this day, Buglialli reminds us. So once we are given an incredibly detailed description of equipment for the Italian kitchen, we are taken through the step by step techniques for using the half-moon chopper, blanching and grinding nuts, preparing ravioli and passing food through the food mill.

Then we get to the frittatas, and other doughy preparations for batters, pastas risotti. You get details about preparing food in clay or paper bags (which go back to Renaissance cooking), larding meat, grilling, boning, stuffing, handling fish and shellfish, galantines, yeast doughs, molds and aspics, pastries and ice creams. The book is actually a must for any serious home library where cooking is actually done or talked about.

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