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Cookbook Review of the Month - October 2006

I bought this cookbook because I was told about it from a relative who's niece married into the Gargani family.  It was of course a cookbook, so as a collector of cookbooks "I had to have it."  As an avid reader of almost anything, but a romance novel lover, again, this book met the criteria.  If you loved the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun", love to cook, love a good romance, ever had a mother-in-law, ever married someone with a different background from yours, one or all of the above, this book is for you.  The first half of the book is the beautiful love story of the author Sharon Oddson Gargani, a native of Canada, who leaves home with a girlfriend at 20, arrives Zurich, travels on to Geneva, then to Denmark, and eventually finds her way to Italy where she finds true love.  Enter Giuliano Gargani or Garga as he's called, and the rest of the family. Into the boy meets girl, girl becomes pregnant, girl marries boy, mother-in-law (referred to by her son as "La Generale" (the general) and couple move in together, and you've got the makings of a great comedy or tragedy, depending on how you look at it.  Sharon and her mother-in-law manage to come together in the kitchen where Zoe taught her the basics of Italian Cuisine.  From a leather shop, to a butcher shop, to a trattoria to a cooking school, you must read this book and follow the path of love, teamwork and respect.  If you are lucky enough to travel to Italy, eat at Tratttoria Garga, or attend Sharon's cooking school.  If not, enjoy the book. Perhaps, I enjoyed it because there were so many parallels to my own life, Italian girl meets Jewish boy in the Phillippines, comes home to America, etc...I could really relate.  The first half as I said, is the story peppered with wonderful recipes, the back half is the actual cookbook.  Be sure to visit her website Trattoria Garga. The Table of Contents reflects the back half, but don't miss the wonderful recipes in the first half.  The Tables of Contents is as follows:    


  • The Love Story
  • Antipasto (Hors D'Oeuvres)
  • Primi Piatti (First Courses)
  • Secondi Piatti (Second  main Course)
  • Contorini (Side Dishes)
  • Dolci (Desserts)

There are so many recipes in here, and by reading them, you can smell the flavors of Florence, taste the dishes and pretend you are right in the Trattoria Garga, glancing at the Palazzo, courtyards, and Garga's gardens. I was hard pressed to select just one recipe to place on the website...I, as usual, wanted to pick a pasta dish because that's my favorite food (you'll have to buy the book just for the pasta recipes), then I thought I should pick the Osso Buco, but decided I would go with Petto di Pollo all'Arancio - Chicken Breast with Orange Sauce.


Sample Recipe from the book:

Petto di Pollo all'Arancio (Chicken Breasts with Orange Sauce)


  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (approximately 1/4 pound each)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil                                                                                                  
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch coins
  • 1 stalk of celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 oranges, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange cut into 1/8-inch slices (for garnish)

1.  Place chicken breasts in a large bowl of water, and add kosher salt.  Set aside while you prepare sauce.

2.  Spoon 2 tablespoons of oil into a skillet, along with onion, carrot and celery.  Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes.

3.  Add 4 sliced oranges and sugar.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add wine, and cook another 5 minutes.  Pass the suace through a food mill, and set aside.

4.  Remove chicken from salted water and dry well.  On medium heat, saute the chicken in remaining oil for 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn chicken and saute 3 minutes on the other side.

5.  Place a piece of chicken on each plate, top with sauce, and garnish with orange slices.


Book Title:

Once Upon a Tuscan Table

Tales and Recipes from Trattoria Garga

Authors: Sharon Oddson Gargani
Category: Italian Recipes
ISBN: 978-0-940159-90-7
Publisher: Camino Books, Inc.
Publisher address:

PO Box 59026

Philadelphia, PA 19102

Website or e-mail of publisher: Camino Books
Published: 2006
Edition: First
Description: Softcover
Illustrated: none
Photographs: Black and White Family Photos
Price: $17.95
Reviewed by: Elise Feiner
  October 1, 2006


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