There are treasures in old cookbooks to be savored even now – especially when writers discover a new path to eating well.
What better time than the beginning of summer to reach for a copy of The Duke’s Table: The Complete Book of Vegetarian Italian Cooking (Melville House 2013) by Sicilian Enrico Alliata, the Duke of Salaparuta. Originally published back in 1930, by Duke Enrico who was a devoted vegetarian – a spiritual vegetarian – it is Italy’s first vegetarian cookbooks – and the first to consider a raw diet:
Indeed, “vegetarian” describes a lifestyle concerned with the perfect success of the human body and of the body’s harmony with nature. (p. 19)
His aim was to encourage Italians to forgo meat, and luckily for them – and us – there was plenty of great produce around to inspire him.
The first chapter on ingredients assesses them in terms of a good diet. So, sugar in the form of honey, fruit, roots, or milk is given preference to industrial sugar. He discusses the new scientific evidence for vitamins and how they are essential for health.
The recipes start with appetizers and salads (p. 33) that range from crostini topped with truffles or porcini mushrooms to more complex Queen’s Salad (p. 38) that includes cannellini beans and vegetables in a mayonnaise. The recipes sometimes include precise quantities of ingredients and other times the Duke assumes you already know what the dish should look like – so he only provides a general list of ingredients and method. Luckily, the more specific recipes are the ones you’ll probably want to make!
Some of the most interesting recipes are when he attempts to mimic a seafood or meat dish such as Vegetarian Bouillabaisse or Mushrooms in Brother (p. 63) flavored with saffron and vegetables. Another is for Vegetarian Turtle Minestra (p. 66) flavored with plenty of chopped herbs, white wine, and mushrooms. It is one of a multitude on minestras including the wonderful Heavenly Minestra (p. 69) with vegetable dumplings lightened with egg whites.
The rest of the book includes clever casseroles, main dishes, lunch dishes and desserts. The section on raw foods starts off with cold soups and even raw breads. So, if you are in pursuit of that perfect summer body – or just luxuriating in fresh summer produce – you’ll find The Duke’s Table contains inspired cooked and raw vegetarian food.