The destinations that the food writer Katie Parla covers in her cookbook “Food of the Italian Islands,” range from large and well-known — Sicily, Sardinia, Capri and Venice (yes, an archipelago knitted with bridges) — to mere freckles in the sea. Ms. Parla, who lives in Italy and has Sicilian roots, covers not just food but culture, history and geography, and there are enough sunny photos to make you consider booking a flight and checking ferry schedules. (Fair warning: She correctly notes “how unpleasant Capri can be in high season.”) Absent travel plans, you can still enjoy many regional pestos, caponata textured with celery, a citrus salad strewn with olives, Pantelleria’s mint and ricotta ravioli, and the local ways with chickpeas, lentils and anchovies. More challenging, and perhaps best sampled in situ, are grilled horse steak (carne di cavallo) and a poached spleen and lung sandwich from Palermo’s street food repertoire.
“Food of the Italian Islands: Recipes From the Sunbaked Beaches, Coastal Villages and Rolling Hillsides of Sicily, Sardinia and Beyond” by Katie Parla (Parla Publishing, $35), shop.katieparla.com.
Serving Dishes Built for Olives and Cherries
Claire Alba, a Brooklynite whose specialty is ceramic jewelry, has expanded her portfolio with two clever serving dishes for olives and for cherries. Each has a central crater, into which pits can be dropped out of sight. The pit-holder is a separate piece, easily cleaned. The white ceramic dishes, 7-inches in diameter for olives, 6.5 for cherries, are dishwasher safe and have uses beyond their designations. For Ramadan (the evening of March 22 through April 21), not just olives but also unpitted dates and pistachios in their shells become easier to serve. Give either model for Mother’s Day with fruit alongside.
Olive Boat, $30, Cherry Bowl, $45, corico.com.
An Entry-Level Orange Wine for the Budding Oenophile
At the behest of Andrew Nelson, an owner of Bonny Doon Vineyard, in California, the company introduced an orange wine, in limited production, in 2022. It was a blend of mostly Grenache (40 percent Blanc, 40 percent Gris, 10 percent noir and 10 percent orange Muscat) vinified with enough skin contact to meet the product definition. Its success led to this year’s greater volume and wider distribution. The wine is straightforward, dry and only 10.5 percent alcohol, with hints of apricot on the nose and tart marmalade on the palate. The merest suggestion of funk makes it, as Randall Grahm, the founder of the winery, put it, “the perfect entry-level orange wine.”
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Orange 2022, $17.99 for 750 milliliters, bonnydoonvineyard.com.
Perk Up a Cup of Coffee With Moroccan Spices
Appreciating the taste of coffee on its own terms refuses entry to extraneous flavors. An exception? This new Moroccan spice blend for coffee made by Ladera Patisserie, based in Menlo Park. It adds dusky allure to a morning mug with cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, ginger and cardamom, among other spices. A mere ½ teaspoon to a scoop of ground coffee is all it takes. More than that risks bitterness. The spice blend can also enhance black tea, granola, ice cream and poached pears.
Mogador Spices Moroccan Coffee Spice Blend, $12.99 for 2.5 ounces, mogadorspices.com.
Brawnier Cornichons From France
Maison Marc, a cornichon company in Burgundy, France, that grows its own cucumbers, might make you rethink the typically tiny vinegary French pickles that my daughter, as a toddler, called Cornish hens. (It took some figuring out to get what she meant by “Mommy, when can I have some Cornish hens?”) Maison Marc, whose cornichons are available in the United States for the first time, offers a range: The smallest, extra-fins, are still slightly bigger than many cornichons, and the fins and malossols are, well, pickle-size. But the flavors, from typically sharp to milder malossol with less salt, and aigre-doux (sour-sweet), are pure cornichon. The cucumbers are grown and pickled without herbicides, pesticides and preservatives. The company claims to be one of few completely French makers of cornichons, noting that most producers rely on cucumbers grown in India.
Maison Marc Cornichons, $19.40 to $21.60 for 13.4 to 29 ounces, shoparrowine.com, and also at Zabar’s.
The Long History of Politics and Food
“Critical Topics in Food,” the restaurant and food consultant Clark Wolf’s ongoing series of panels with food experts that cover various timely issues, will hold its next session on Zoom. The panelists, all authors, are Chloe Sorvino, Alex Prud’homme, Marion Nestle and Tanya Holland. They will discuss the intersection of food and politics, covering the meat industry and how presidents use food for political gain.
“The Politics of Food, Then and Now,” March 23 from 5 to 6 p.m., free with reservation, eventbrite.com.
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