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Cooking by Hand Hardcover – August 19, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bertolli (Chez Panisse Cooking), former chef at Chez Panisse and now chef and co-owner of Oliveto restaurant in Oakland, Calif., persuasively encourages cooks to understand ingredient essentials and to appreciate the open-ended joy of learning and discovery. With stimulating essays on everything from gathering wild mushrooms and types of pasta flour to a 14-page section on the wonders of balsamic vinegar, Bertolli is nothing less than a pied piper for the Italian kitchen. Irresistibly, he explains how to replicate his restaurant's take on the Bloody Mary by using fresh tomatoes, how to prepare Risotto of Leeks with Balsamico and how to plan a menu by choosing dessert first, thus ensuring that it is a fitting conclusion for preceding courses. Atypically arranged in thematic sections-"Twelve Ways of Looking at a Tomato," "Bottom-Up Cooking," "The Whole Hog"-this volume is seductive, both in voice and because some of the 120-plus recipes, such as the one for Saltimbocca of Chicken, are so conversationally presented as to be narratives rather than precise lists of components and directions. When Bertolli extols the virtues of a home extruder machine for making fresh macaroni or supplies an illustrated seven-page procedure for curing prosciutto at home, he often gives the home cook a process to marvel at rather than aspire to. But even then, his enthusiasm for the result is infectious. This is an absorbing effort throughout.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Dedicated chefs recognize that every ingredient is unique and that the flavors and textures of a finished dish rely on each component's fundamental excellence. Not only is season important to harvesting the best but geography is critical, too. Paul Bertolli's Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland, California, makes use of the best of local produce of land and of sea. Cooking by Hand summarizes his approach. Not content with commercial dried pasta, Bertolli takes pages and pages of text to explain the significance of flours and how their milling affects the finished product. He elaborates how different grains such as spelt and farro produce different pastas. The sauces he offers are classics: Amatriciana, rabbit, truffles, butter and sage, and arrabbiata. His recipe for basic ragu consumes paragraphs. Bertolli serves up a definitive approach to hog butchering and sausage making, offering recipes for cotechino sausage and formulas for curing pork products. The serious Italian cook will revel in Bertolli's detailed approach. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1 edition (August 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609608932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609608937
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
You buy this book for culinary inspiration and insights into how the very greatest chefs think. It's most proper neighbors on your bookshelf are titles such as Eric Rippert's `A Return to Cooking', James Beard's `Delights and Prejudices', and Mario Batali's `Simple Italian Food'. Each of these volumes, in their own very personal ways explore the authors' inspirations and love of food.
This volume combines monographs on ingredients, personal memoirs, and exacting techniques into a web of very enlightening recipes and insights.
Paul Bertolli is the owner and executive chef of the restaurant Oliveto in Oakland, California and a former head chef at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse. Unlike Jeremiah Tower, Bertolli makes no mention of Waters except for the obviously shared devotion to fine, local ingredients. Instead, I am delighted to see him acknowledge assistance from Harold Magee and several other culinary academics.
If Mario Batali gives us the college courses in proper Italian cuisine, then Paul Bertolli gives us the post-graduate training, citing in the introduction the Elizabeth David epigram that `Good Cooking is Trouble' meaning that good cooking requires painstaking effort with lots of circles and switchbacks in one's path to mastery.
The book is in no way a traditional cookbook and anyone who buys it just for the recipes will be missing over half the value. The eight chapters comprising the bulk of the book deal with some materials and techniques at the heart of Italian cuisine.
The first topic deals with respect for fresh ingredients. This begins Bertolli's illuminations on the life of ingredients such as polenta, artichokes, zucchini, spring vegetables, eggplant, olives, mushrooms, and pears.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are many cookbooks out there that treat food as secondary. Their first concerns are time [Rachel Ray's focus on 30 minute recipes], waistlines [a new diet cookbok every day], money [cooking on a budget], impressing the neighbors [cooking quick, vapid, and flashy tray-foods], etc. It's remarkable, even in our food-neurotic culture, that so few cookbooks deal first and last with FOOD. Paul Bertolli's Cooking by Hand isn't just focused on food, it is passionately, single-mindedly, worshipfully, crazily in love with food and with ingredients, and with food's ability to draw friends and family together. This lusty focus generated a book like no other. In it, Bertolli efuses about tomatoes, engages in much hearty gesticulating about pork trimmings, goes on for seven pages about home prosciutto-making, writes a tear-jerking letter to his infant son about balsamic vinegar, and philosophizes at some length about terroir as a metaphor for human development. And, somehow, he pulls it off. His enthusiasm is infectious. My overwhelming sense of Paul Bertolli after reading this book [and cooking from it] is that he is totally, profoundly, madly in the thrall of good food. He makes other chefs look tepid or undercommitted. I'd probably have a hard time working for him, in the face of such over-riding passion every day, but I will be travelling 1,000 miles to his restaurant this fall because he's ignited in me a hunger that eschews caution.

I am happy to report that the recipes stand up to all the heavy breathing. The conserva of tomatoes has revolutionized my sauce-making. The illuminating instructions for sugo have caused some very quiet, almost prayerful pasta courses at my table. The Bitter Orange Cake with Compote of Blood Oranges is one of those foods that will end a meal in such a way that you will feel haunted for weeks until you get it in your mouth again.

I highly recommend this book, both as cookbook and as a gospel.
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By Syzygies on October 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is brilliant, at once over-the-top and completely accessible; it will raise the level of anyone's game. It is conceptual, grouping related dishes by modes of thought like Colicchio's "Think Like a Chef", only written at a more literary reading level. It is an unapologetic account of what happens in a particular and remarkable restaurant kitchen like Keller's "The French Laundry Cookbook", only free of that book's pretensions and skyscraper food. While one can only hope to lift the odd stunning technique from Keller, one can aspire to cook from Bertolli cover-to-cover, and be thrilled every step of the way. In short, this book is everything that is right about Italian cooking. For a reader searching for the most insightful words in print on Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese and southeast-asian noodles, "Hand" is essential reading for the Italian pasta chapter alone. One immediately craves a hand-turned stone flour mill; improvising a cellar for curing meats will have to wait.
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By A Customer on September 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Paul Bertolli's first book, "Chez Panisse Cooking", is a wondrous book of recipes and thoughts, and his years at Chez Panisse produced many meals that helped validate that restaurant's stellar reputation. His new book, "Cooking by Hand", definitely satisfies expectations. The essay style of Bertolli's ideas and approaches goes even broader and deeper than before, with more fascinating information and suggestions for achieving elemental cooking that coaxes the true and utmost tastes from the ingredients. His descriptions of how to find the most flavorful cornmeal for polenta, the curing of prosciutto, and numerous other techniques is seldom shared information that is both fun and instructive to read. My only demerit for the book is the lousy paper that it is printed on. I'm suprised that Clarkson Potter, charging [so much] for this volume, cheaped out on paper where the type bleeds through the pages and the nice black and white photos are not given the resolution they deserve. These deficiences are in marked contrast to the high quality of authorship and overall concept. Hopefully a later edition will remedy these shortcomings. Meanwhile, enjoy this book - a valuable addition to the cook's library.
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