Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie

314 pages; Color and black and white photographs. Hardcover

Published by Harper Collins, NY, NY, October 2002

Reviewed by  Barbara Atkins for Good Cooking, Spring 2003

Cooking the Roman Way reads more like a book of short essays then it does a traditional cookbook. Quite obviously Mr. Downie really did his homework in preparing for this book. He gives great insight into authentic Roman (Italian) cooking, while at the same time describing the spirit of the people who inhabit that great city and region of Italy. 
The recipes are relatively simple, well described and easily made. Fresh ingredients are essential and readily available at most supermarkets. The few hard to find items can be found with the help of the resource section in the book. If you enjoy classic Roman food, this is a cookbook whose recipes you will savor.

Torta Salata con Olive e Prosciutto Gotto 

This recipe caught my attention because it does not require yeast. (I find yeast breads to be too time-consuming.) After reviewing the ingredients, I knew the flavors would be to my liking. (The same ingredients, minus the wine, would be terrific in an omelet or frittata.) My first attempt to make this recipe was not very successful because it was tried on Nantucket in February, which necessitated a compromise in some of the ingredients.

I remade the bread back home, and the result was substantially different. While the recipe was reasonably straight-forward, I would emphasize a few steps to ensure a good result with this moderately dense, full-flavored bread, which should definitely be enjoyed with a glass of full-bodied red wine, Italian, of course!

First let me make a comment on the required white wine. Frascati or marino are not always easy to find during the winter months and not at higher end wine establishments. A Pinot Grigio can work well.

The eight ounces of prosciutto is equal to more than one cup, but by all means use the full eight ounces.

Greek black olives were a little too soft and salty. Pastene makes a dry, black, cured olive, which worked very well.

Follow step 3 carefully. Stir, not whisk (as I did first time), and this will incorporate the eggs evenly. In step 4 be sure to whisk until the batter is thick enough to hold the whisk upright. (This incorporates air into the mixture and will give the finished bread a lighter texture).

The Romano cheese gives this bread necessary sharpness, while the olive oil and wine provide the moisture it needs.

The bread unmolds easily, and when cut into 2 to 3 inch slices, it will resemble foccacia.

The recipe was easy to prepare, once I found the correct ingredients, and was very tasty, especially when dipped in olive oil.