Westsider Judy Zeidler has written what seems like a zillion cookbooks, but she's found a new angle for her latest, Italy Cooks (Mostarda Press, $32.95). It's a personal travelogue as well as a collection of recipes.

For decades, Zeidler and her husband Marvin (Marvino in the book) have traveled to Italy, first on business for his clothing line, Zeidler & Zeidler, then, as they fell in love with the country, spending months there each year.

With this book, you'll travel with them, meet their friends and join in their meals. “I always kept a daily dairy of where we went and what we ate. We became Italian tour guides on paper,” Zeidler says.

Her snapshots illustrate the book, making it resemble a culinary Christmas letter. Other illustrations and the cover sketch of Zeidler with glass of wine and camera in hand are by artist Suzanne Dunaway, also an Italian cookbook author.

Zeidler and her husband have an equally long history in the restaurant business in Los Angeles. They founded Citrus, the Broadway Deli, the Brentwood Restaurant in Brentwood and Capo and Cora's in Santa Monica. And Judy Zeidler consults for Zeidler's Café in the Skirball Cultural Center.

Zeidler is known for her cooking classes, television appearances and newspaper articles about kosher cooking. “Italy Cooks” is kosher too. That means no recipes with milk and meat in the same dish, no pork and no shellfish, she explains.

The book is divided into regions and includes guide book-style tips on what to see and do in each as well as recipes gathered from friends, chefs and other sources. The following Tuscan style bruschetta is from Massimo Masselli of the Ristorante Cinghiali Bianco in Florence.

Judy Zeidler's Bruschetta with Spinach and White Beans; Credit: B. Hansen

Judy Zeidler's Bruschetta with Spinach and White Beans; Credit: B. Hansen

Bruschetta with Spinach and White Beans

From: Judy Zeidler's Italy Cooks

Serves: 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried sage

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans with liquid


Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spinach, washed, blanched, drained and finely chopped

6 to 8 (1/2- to 1-inch-thick) slices French or Italian bread

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the thyme, sage and pepper flakes. Stir a moment, then add the beans and their liquid. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the spinach, salt and pepper, and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3. In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and lightly brown the bread on both sides, or toast it briefly on a baking sheet in the oven.

4. To serve, arrange the toasted bread on small plates. Mound the beans on half of each slice of toast and the spinach on the other half. Serve with a knife and fork.

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