Late last week, writer and author Carol Field passed away, not quite three weeks after the death of her husband, architect John Field, on Feb. 21.
Field skyrocketed to national prominence with her book “The Italian Baker” (Harper & Row, 1985), which inspired a current generation of bakers and is, to a large degree, responsible for the extraordinary quality of breads now available in the United States. A revised edition was published by Ten Speed Press in 2011.
She continued her documentation of Italy, which began with her first book, “The Hill Towns of Italy” (Dutton, 1983), with beautifully researched and written books that explore Italy’s seasonal celebrations, the cooking of its grandmothers, Italy’s small bites — nibbles traditionally eaten between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner — and, an offshoot of her baking book “Focaccia.”
She stands alongside Marcella Hazan and Mary Taylor Simeti, the three women who have brought traditional Italian and Sicilian cooking and traditions into our home kitchens with eloquence and depth.
Carol Field had many connections here in Sonoma County, which is not surprising given that she lived in San Francisco and had a great love of all things Italian, including really good extra-virgin olive oil. She was an early fan of DaVero’s beautiful oils, which are considered among the finest produced in California.
Because of Field’s death, today’s column does not focus on St. Patrick’s Day. For recipes for the holiday from the Seasonal Pantry’s archives, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
This dish, from Field’s “In Nonna’s Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy’s Grandmothers” (HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, $30), is simple, easy, and perfect at this time of year, when dandelion leaves are tender and not as bitter as they may be later in the year. The Italian parsley is my addition; it keeps the soup a vibrant green and adds a pleasing element of taste, as well.
Dandelion Leaves Simmered in Broth (Cicoria Lessata)
Serves 4 to 6
4 bunches dandelion greens, thoroughly washed
— Kosher salt
1 cup, lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 cups homemade chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Set the dandelion greens on a clean work surface, trim and discard the tough stems and remove any wilted leaves. Trim and discard any wilted dandelion leaves.
Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan, season with several pinches of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the greens and parsley, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and cook until the leaves are completely tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat, stir in the cheeses, and correct for salt, if necessary. Stir in the olive oil and ladle into individual soup cups or soup plates and enjoy right away.
This recipes, also from “In Nonna’s Kitchen,” is from Lucca. It is easy to make and you should feel free to use a local cheese instead of the Italian one Field includes in her recipe.
Mashed Potato and Spinach Tart
3 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled