Until 2007, a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome--arguably, the most prestigious prize awarded to archaeologists, painters, architects, scholars, and artists--had one huge drawback: the food. The dining room, ideally a place for Fellows to gather and for disciplines to "cross-pollinate," was catered by an outside company whose dreadful food was to be avoided at all costs. But when AAR President Chatfield-Taylor asked Alice Waters to help, Waters famously responded, "That depends. What do you want, better food--or a revolution?" Fatefully and without hesitation, Chatfield-Taylor replied, "A revolution." And a revolution was ignited.
A year later later, the ideals (local, seasonal, organic, sustainable) were implemented and the kitchen was up and running, with Chez Panisse alums Mona Talbott and Christopher Boswell as chefs. In a matter of days, not only were the Fellows filling the tables at lunch and dinner, they were gathered 'round the blackboard at 11am, anxiously waiting for the daily menus to be posted. The press wasn't far behind:
"In a town where residents talk a lot about food, the new food at the academy quickly became the talk of Rome, and a dinner invitation became a coveted commodity."--"The New York Times"
Seven years later, "Verdure" is the RSFP's fourth cookbook (following "Biscotti," "Zuppe," "Pasta"). It is perhaps the ideal collaboration among the kitchen and the Academy garden, the artisan producers, and the organic farmers who provide the impeccable raw ingredients used in each dish. (Some are even foraged by the academy's fellows in field trips to local meadows and forests.) Its 92 recipes are arranged seasonally; week by week, it can be used to navigate the harvest of the farmer's market. Frugality is a consideration: the RSFP kitchen feeds a group, and cost is a consideration (beans, grains, and greens take a starring role). Maximizing flavor is paramount (consider the lowly onion, risen to new heights in a sweet and sour sauce). Every recipe appears simple and is easy to execute, but rises far, far above the fundamental.
About the Author
Christopher Boswell is the Executive Chef of the Rome Sustainable Food Project. He has been at the RSFP since the program was established in 2006, when he was chosen by Alice Waters to work with former RSFP Executive Chef Mona Talbott.
Boswell started out as a dishwasher and a prep cook in the small gold rush town of Jackson California. He worked at Stars, Acquarello, and One Market restaurants before moving to Italy for a year to learn authentic Italian rustic cooking. He was then hired by Alice Waters and spent five years at Chez Panisse.
Elena Goldblatt moved to her mother's native Rome when she was 12 years old. A graduate of Yale University, she interned in the Rome Sustainable Food Project kitchen in 2011, then went on to work for author and journalist Mark Bittman at "The New York Times" before returning to Rome to work with Chef Christopher Boswell on the RSFP cookbooks, "Pasta" and "Contorni."
About the Photographer
Annie Schlechter has been working as a photographer since 1998. She spent from September 2009 to June 2010 living at the American Academy in Rome. Her clients include T"he World of Interiors," "House Beautiful," "The New York Times Magazine," "Real Simple," "W magazine," "Travel & Leisure," and many more.
Praise for Biscotti and Zuppe, the first two titles in the Rome Sustainable Food Project series from The Little Bookroom:
"Dieters, beware: "Biscotti:" a smart little cookbook from the Little Bookroom, is Mephistopheles in cookie form.... With a forward by Alice Waters, this book is the first of a series of small hardbacks devoted to a single subject that will provide a glimpse into the American Academy in Rome." --Pittsburgh Tribune
"Mona Talbott's Zuppe is smaller than a salad plate, but filled with 50 delicious, simple recipes...The recipes are classic Italian, but with [Mona's] own flair... The deliciousness-to-cheapness ratio of Talbott's recipes will give you a thrill." --Christine Muhlke, The New York Times Book Review
"Mona Talbott's Zuppe is as much a collection of inspiring Italian soup recipes--like puréed pea with mint--as it is a window into the eco-conscious, seasonal kitchen of the American Academy in Rome." -- T, The New York Times Style Magazine
"Direct from the Alice Waters-revolutionized kitchen of the American Academy in Rome comes this uniquely conceived and designed single-subject cookbook, Zuppe....the small book is a well-curated collection of recipes...and is Chez Panisse alumna Mona Talbott's elegant ode to the simplicity and elegant comfort of making soups for all seasons." -- Vogue.com