235 of 242 people found the following review helpful
An Extraordinary Cookbook,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Resturant (Hardcover)
This ambitous masterwork seems to be doing just fine (as I write this, it ranks 215 in sales on this site). It hardly needs a recommendation, for the book will surely find its audience without this review. But it is so unique, so fine, that I can't help myself. While I am a chef and cookbook writer myself, I choose to remain anonymous for personal reasons.
Judy Rodgers is well known in San Francisco, but she hasn't published much before. I don't recall any articles by her in food magazines, but I could have missed them. She is simply the best food writer that has emerged in a long, long time. She seems to have absorbed cooking knowledge the way the rest of us breathe, and in her book, she puts it all down. Open any page, I mean ANY page, and you will get a piece of information, an idea, a tip, or tidbit that will make you rethink the way you cook. Her recipes are written with the same loving detail that she puts into her restaurant cooking. She writes a recipe like she might simmer a complex and utterly delicious stock--slowly, gently, without shortcuts.
Cooks who are looking for the fast and easy should pass this book by. I do have a few criticisms, which are totally immaterial when you think of the vast amount of gold to be mined. Nonetheless, they are worth mentioning for those who calculate the amount of recipes they might use from a book. The dessert section reflects Judy's simple tastes in this area, and it could have been balanced with a few more cake-like pastries. There are plenty of recipes that mere mortals will not make, unless you dedicate the auxilary refrigerator in your garage to hold the odiferous masterpiece (salted anchovies, salted cod), but at least she is frank about the problems you face in making them. And, like a lot of California-based cookbooks, the success of many recipes depends on the excellence of your produce, which is certainly a basic cooking rule, but more so when you have a tight palette of flavors.
My hat is also off to Judy's editor, Maria Guarnaschelli, who seems to have said "Judy, tell me everything!," rather than "Judy, tighten this up." The book and any cook that reads it are better off for the collective vision of these two extraordinarily talented women.