PUBLISHED: 5:03 PM on Wednesday, May 10, 2006
A passion for Italian food - and the culture

Dan Macdonald

When I bring home a new cookbook, my wife plasters the pages with Post-its that she calls "make it for me" notes.

Often, when in doubt about what to make for dinner, we thumb through these notes to find something new and delicious.

When Trattoria: A Passion for Italian Food (Running Press, $29.95) came to my desk, I beat her to it. I turned it yellow with the little paper flags.

Ursula Ferrigno's book unfurled a list of great dishes perfect for summertime eating. The weather is getting warmer and at least at my house, that means eating lighter.

Trattoria-style cooking means preparing simple, fresh family-style dishes. Most of the recipes call for fewer than 10 ingredients and have fewer than four steps.

Many of the recipes can be done on the grill, so as to not heat the kitchen during the summer.

The thing that has me so excited about getting into the kitchen is these recipes scream flavor.

Every bite will demand your attention.

There's no need to be bored with a weeknight meal because these dishes are so easy to prepare.

Although she makes her home in England now, Ferrigno said this book takes her back to Italy, where food is the center of the day.

The book will take you there, too, with its gorgeous color photos of the food and the people and places that created it.

Scallops with lemon, bay and rosemary oil

12 fat fresh scallops, cleaned

4 tough rosemary stalks, leaves removed and retained

The peel (with pith removed) of 2 lemons, cut into 12 pieces, reserve the juice (see Note)

12 fresh bay leaves 11/2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Thread 3 scallops onto each rosemary stalk, alternating with the 3 pieces of lemon peel and 3 bay leaves.

Place the rosemary leaves and oil in a mortar and pound with a pestle until fine and pour over the scallops. Sprinkle with lemon juice and let it marinate for 20 minutes.

Season and bake in a roasting pan for 8 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Note: The scallops can be prepared on the grill. Kosher salt can be used instead of sea salt.

Chicken and roasted pepper soup

12 red peppers 10 chicken thighs Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, peeled and chopped 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 61/3 cups chicken broth Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn Handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped 2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves Extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roast the peppers for 25 minutes, then leave to cool. Scrape out the seeds and slice peppers thinly.

At the same time, cook the chicken thighs. Season with salt and pepper and roast alongside the peppers for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cool. Discard the chicken skin and bones and shred the meat finely.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add onion and saute until golden.

Add strips of peppers and garlic.

Add the broth to the peppers along with the chicken shreds and herbs.

Adjust the seasoning and simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and serve with some extra virgin olive oil on top.

Yield: 6 servings.

Note: The peppers and chicken can be prepared on the grill. Kosher salt can be used instead of sea salt.

Source: Trattoria: A Passion for Italian Food by Ursula Ferrigno (Running Press, $29.95).