Cookbook Review – Polpo

A Venetian cookbook (of sorts) by Russell Norman (and gorgeous photography by Jenny Zarins)

“What interested me were glimpses of tiny wine bars in alleys where locals would stand at the counter, a luminous orange drink in one hand and a small snack in the other. You could tell they were locals because they wore dark clothes or market traders’ overalls and shouted at each other in dialect…

Once I found the courage to enter one of these places, point at the bright orange drink, jab a finger at the pre-made snacks in a glass cabinet on the bar and attempt to work out what the hell was going on, I was hooked. There was no going back.”

Polpo a Venetian Cookbook
Polpo

the book – Norman is a wonderful storyteller, and he has a story for every recipe that he has collected for this book. Nearly as much a travelogue as a cookbook, I am enthralled by the vignettes that accompany each menu creation.

In addition the full-color photography throughout will make your mouth water if the description of the food is not enough!

Scallops with Lemon and Peppermint

Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Lemon Wheels, Minced Garlic and Mint Leaves
Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Lemon Wheels, Minced Garlic and Mint Leaves

Mise for the Scallops

The common denominator of the recipes in this book is that they are simple.  As Norman says, “We have a rule that a dish is ready to put on the menu only when we have taken out as many ingredients as possible.”

This recipe is nearly the epitome of simple fare. Of course, I had to complicate things because, 1 – you can’t get Pilgrim Scallops in New Hampshire in January, and 2 – I wanted to make a little more substantial meal while keeping it light and fresh.

So I made a salad:

Salad of bitter greens
Salad of bitter greens

the salad – arugula, red oak lettuce and frisee – bitter greens that were quite wonderful with the scallops’ lemon and mint sauce as a dressing.

That is it, just a quick saute of the scallops on moderate heat until they are as done as you like them.

You can order this delightful cookbook from Amazon, via my affiliate link here ( I get a small percentage commission at no extra cost for you! ):