Guy Mirabella is much better known in his native Australia than he is here is the United States. But a cookbook newly released by Chronicle Books may change all that.
That is because Mirabella is a creative man with a love of food and life. He is the son of Italian immigrants who passed their tradition of freshly prepared food, with a strong Sicilian influence along to their children. Many of his childhood memories revolve around his family influenced philosophy of eating seasonally and simply, yet with an honest extravagance that honors the greatest of food traditions.
His eatery Shop Ate Cafe, on the Mornington Peninsula of Australia, further reflects these ideals. But he is also a painter and a graphic designer with 25 years experience in publishing.
All these talents are showcased in his recent cookbook Eat Ate. It is the first cookbook I will be featuring here at Sippity Sup as part of an ongoing monthly series with Chronicle Books, called Sup! Loves Cookbooks!
Mirabella seems a man of great passion and zeal. His love of cooking and his talent for painting are reflected in this cookbook’s stirring design, which is both sumptuous and straightforward. The surprising addition of postcard-sized remembrances (tucked inside the pages), along with the luscious texture of the paper, and most especially the sensual imagery (in the Earl Carter credited photography) gives the whole book has a decidedly tactile quality.
Thatâ€™s because this book is designed to be experienced in your hands and with your eyes. It is part memoir, part family photo album, as well as beloved recipe file. It artistically weaves the past and the present together through imagery, recipes and recollections. Like beloved souvenirs, the recipes, together with Mirabella’s artistic images and his personal reminiscences form multi-layered collages. Sure he is celebrating a love of food, but the love seems based in a life well lived.
“This book celebrates my Italian spirit and always pays homage to the importance of family,” writes Mirabella. “Unlike traditional cookbooks, there are no starter, main meal and dessert chapters in this book. Rather, the recipes are organised according to the themes that give me the comfort and freedom to express the way I cook, eat, design and paint. Extravagance, generosity, love, tradition, life– food is all about truth, beauty and perseverance.”
As the chapter titles suggest, this book does have all the bells and whistles. Maybe a few of the design details will seem superfluous. Design for design sake. But it’s easy to forgive the author this indulgence because this book’s obvious beauty is not a bonus featureto this man.
Still, at its heart, it is indeed a cookbook. The way to judge a cookbook is not by its cover, but to actually cook something from it.
I was immediately drawn to the chapter entitled Love. That’s because every recipe in this section is pasta! He equates pasta with love, and that says so much about this book and this man. I am not being presumptuous, after reading this book I do feel qualified to say that.
So I am choosing to make his Roast Pumpkin and Asparagus Lasagna. It has a certain casual decadence that is both lush and impulsive. It just seems to sum up the entire cookbook in my mind. The unusual combination of pumpkin and asparagus is reflective of the season, so I find it apropos of the book’s theme. But I also think the sweetness of the squash is a wonderful foil to the asparagus’ strong flavor. Sip! has paired this dish with a low oak White Burgandy from Joseph Drouhin.
Mirabella’s recipe calls for cream, and cream I shall use. Though he apologizes in the introduction of this recipe for using cream with pasta, and suggests you leave it out if the combination makes you feel guilty. I never feel guilty about food, but small portions may indeed be called for, because this is in fact a deliciously decadent dish.
At first I was a little put off by the casual approach to the directions in this recipe. But in truth casual is very much my cooking style. Still, I wanted to recreate this dish as intended by the author, so a little more information may have been helpful to someone less aquainted with his (our) style of cooking.
For example the book says to roast the pumpkin until “tender and golden”. Which took at least an hour and should be calulated when attempting to time this dish for a specific hour.
Also the recipe suggests 10 sheets of pasta, layered 2 sheets per layer (meaning 5 layers). But my store carries 2 sizes of lasagne noodle. As neither the noodle nor pan size were specified, it took me a bit of pre-thinking to determine that 10 of the Barilla 7″ x 3.5″ lasagne noodles would work perfectly in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Though the package suggests they should fit in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (just not in a 10 sheets and 2 sheets per layer formation).
I was able to pre-suppose these obstacles, so neither hiccup got in my way. Because this lasagne was probably one of the best things I have ever brought to my table. Rock-solid proof that this book’s overiding themes are words to live by. Because it’s true, people who cook in order to embrace life’s pleasures, can take from it whatever the kitchen throws at them.
Roast Pumpkin and Asparagus Lasagna serves 8-10
- 2 lb pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 4 clv garlic, halved
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1/2 bn sage leaves
- 1/2 bn thyme leaves
- 1 pn fresh nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 bn chives, chopped
- 1 lb ricotta
- 10 dried lasagne sheets
- 1 1/2 c cream
- 12 asaparagus spears, ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
- 2 c grana padano, grated
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet and toss with oil, garlic, onion, half the sage and thyme, and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, then roast in the oven until tender and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little (but keep the oven on). Discard the garlic and put the mixture in a bowl. Add the chives and ricotta and mash everything together.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagne sheets in a large pot of salted boiling water until just al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Lightly brush the sheets with oil on both sides so they don’t stick together and lay them on a plate.
Oil or butter a baking dish and pour a little of the cream into the base. Place 2 lasagne sheets over the cream. Spread some of the pumpkin mixture over the top and scatter with some asparagus, then some of the remaining sage and thyme, lastly the grana padano. Add more cream and lasagne sheets and continue layering. Top with the final pieces of lasagne, the remaining pumpkin, aspargus, cream and grana padano. Scatter with the remaining thyme and press the last sage leaves over the surface. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Rest for 15 minutes before serving.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD