TOM’S COOKBOOK LIBRARY: Getting to the heart of Italian cookery

Mediterranean food expert Michele Scicolone knows well that the fresh vegetables and fruits are at the heart of Italian cookery.

In her latest cookbook, “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Scicolone shares a collection of celebrated dishes drawn from her travels to Italy.

The book, subtitled “200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Main Dishes and Desserts,” serves up vegetarian and nearly vegetarian dishes from rustic to refined. Along with regional specialties, the author also offers traditional fare she learned from her grandmother.

“A handful of ingredients and a bit of time are all it takes to make a simple, satisfying meal,” Scicolone says in the introduction.

A good example is Scicolone’s Farro with Brussels Sprouts, Sage and Garlic (recipe below). It’s a mouthwatering dish.

(Serves 4)

10-12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) pearled farro
4 Tbl. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 sage leaves, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt to taste and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sprouts are almost tender. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Return the water to a boil, add the farro and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sage and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, or until fragrant; regulate the heat so that the butter does not brown. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the sprouts are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the farro and half of the cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and serve.