The independently-published Flavors of Friuli struck me as both an unlikely and an amazing book, one I came upon by accident while browsing the cookbook section at Frugal Muse in the Northgate Shopping Center. (A place, by the way, where I very often find something quirky and amazing.)
The 2009 title is Crawford's first cookbook -- her previous book was a pilates handbook. But while traveling in Italy on pilates business, she discovered the hybrid cuisine of extreme northeastern Italy and became obsessed. In a good way. Friuli, as Crawford notes in the preface, is "one of the country's most un-Italian regions," with many Austrian and Hungarian culinary influences.
She "scoured restaurant menus for local dishes and practically ate my way through the region." She collected Italian-language cookbooks and wrangled recipes from home cooks and chefs. The book is part travel guide, part history, and part guide to Friuli's "unique fusion of cuisines," with a large number of recipes.
And the book is beautiful, packed with color photos of scenery, historic sites, and food. That said, the photography, while enjoyable, does show that professional photographers really do know what they're doing as opposed to the rest of us. Crawford shot almost all the images in the book herself, and there are some, especially indoor shots taken with a flash, where a professional's work was called for. But somehow, those missteps only underline the earnest enthusiasm of this book and makes in no less absorbing. If Friuli wasn't on your life list of places to visit when you started, it's going to be.
Discover traditional regional fare like pitinia, a kind of smoked meatball/sausage from northern Pordenone province, made from a mix of mutton, pork, beef and goat and rolled in cornmeal before the smoking. Or brovada, turnip pickled in grape marc (what remains of a grape after it is pressed). Salame all'Aceto, sometimes made with pitina or with regular salami, is also cooked in vinegar, with onions.
Polenta is the typical side in Friulian cuisine, and find it here in its typical form as well as in balote, polenta balls filled with a mix of cream and ricotta cheese (or the traditional Italian cheese Asino); and paparot, a spinach and cornmeal soup.
While Friulian cuisine arose in part out of poverty and scarcity, there's no shortage of temptation as Crawford lays it out before the reader in a vast repast. This is one cookbook you could have a lot of fun reading without ever picking up a pot or a spoon.