- 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 10.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cooking by Hand Hardcover – August 19, 2003
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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.
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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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.
It doesn't hurt that he is obviously a very gifted writer. He draws you in with his emotional attachments to food, be it through childhood memories of care packages sent by an Uncle from Italy full of homemade salumi, or hearing in the old country stories of pasta so good that all it needs is a simple dash of olive oil, or with his touching open letter to his newborn son who will one day read about and appreciate the profundity of the present he received when he was born: a set of traditional aceto basalmico barrels in diminishing size for aging vinegar. Initially full of vivid fruit and youth while in its largest barrel, the ripening vinegar will no doubt slowly diminish in volume while increasing in complexity and depth as they both grow older, until they are both of advanced age wherein the vinegar that essentially grew up with him now just occupies the smallest of the barrels. Within lies an elixir so precious as if it were made to consecrate the crowning achievement of having reached old age.
So he pulls you in with his stories, but also with his clear dedication to get to the core of what it takes to get the most out of his ingredients. The food he talks about in his book are not fanciful creations meant to impress by a self-aggrandizing originality or boldness of thought; rather they are honest tastes brought back from old traditions, created perhaps only a few generations past when people still took the care to use that most extravagant of cooking ingredients: time. In fact he opens his book with a most appropriate quote from Elizabeth David: "Good cooking is trouble".
A true aesthete of taste, he takes you along on his own personal, almost zen-like journey to find, for instance, the secret to that pasta so good it only needs olive oil - this is of pasta that tastes of the grain - a pasta so good that it starts with it's ingredients in its most humble form - as grain itself, carefully selected and considered, then painstakenly hand milled and turned into flour.
Reading through his words you will begin to see the world of taste through his eyes, and similarly begin to acclimate to his unique sense of timelessness that pervades his writing. In other writers hands it may seem indulgent to spend a major section of the book on nothing more than the pleasure of seeing a tomato twelve different ways. The only other comparison I can make is with Mas Masumoto's "Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring", whose almost singular topic is the peach; it will forever change how one looks at a simple peach. And as in Masumoto, one may never look at their ingredients in quite the same way once having experienced reading Bertoli's book.
Where before I had none, now I find my kitchen with no less than three manual grain mills, and a vinegar jar wherein I produce my own red wine vinegar. I am sure that I am not the only reader of his book that has been so influenced, and if this intrigues you in any way, perhaps you will find yourself travelling along on a very similar journey.
Indeed, "good cooking is trouble"...