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The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Resturant Hardcover – September 17, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Judy Rodgers, chef-owner of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, has produced a true classic with The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. This book gives the cook and the reader two accessible temptations: to read from cover to cover, and to cook from cover to cover. One of the great voices in food writing today, Judy Rodgers truly stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the master food writers who have preceded and influenced her. Her writing is as delicious as the famous Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, as simple and elegant as the Zuni Cafe Caesar Salad.

While firmly anchored in the food sentiments of California, Rodgers explores the honest cuisine généreuse of France, Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Catalonia, and Greece. Her chapter "Small Dishes to Start a Meal" runs to 65 pages! Look for her Lentil-Sweet Red Pepper Soup with Cumin and Black Pepper, her Citrus Risotto, and her Tomato Summer Pudding. Be sure to try Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale, and Rabbit with Marsala and Prune-Plums. Chapters are devoted to eggs, starchy dishes, sausage and charcuterie, and the cheese course; you'll also find all the basic chapters one might expect. Throughout, Gerald Asher provides insight into matching wines with foods.

Rodgers's natural instinct is to share and to teach, and the instructional material in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is like a deep-tissue massage, improving any cook's posture and performance. Rodgers's fine book invites both the novice and the experienced cook to delve deep into the heart of real food and real cooking. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Rodgers, chef-owner of the Zuni Cafe, cooks like a dream and writes like one, too. Both an extended tutorial and an autobiography in recipes, the book opens with a fascinating account of her formative experiences as a 16-year-old in Roanne, France, where she spent a year at a three-star restaurant taking reams of notes and occasionally peeling vegetables. The introduction is followed by a series of brief, thoughtful essays on the practice of cooking. While readers in the market for a few quick supper ideas might greet so much preamble with impatience not until the eighth chapter does she get around to some recipes most will appreciate her insistence on principles like "What to Think About Before You Start" and "Finding Flavor and Balance." In stunning detail, she explains how to salt a cod and cure a rabbit and brine a fowl and stuff a sausage. One would not be surprised to turn a page and find a description of how to slaughter a sheep. The book includes the recipes that have made her reputation, such as the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, plus other fare from appetizers through dessert like Oxtails Braised in Red Wine and Shrimp Cooked in Romesco with Wilted Spinach. Unlike many chefs who style themselves as creative forces, Rodgers has a deep sense of how, as she puts it, "the simplest dish can recall a community of ideas and people." Rodgers's cookbook embodies that ideal beautifully.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393020436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393020434
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.8 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 29, 2002
Format: 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.
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By A Customer on January 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I love this cookbook, but I understand why some other readers are having a tough time with it. This cookbook would be best for the professional chef, or the serious home cook with skills in fine cooking (not only good home cooking). You have to care about the details to make this food special.
It would also help to be a committed foodie. Some key ingredients are hard to find, and usually available only to professional chefs. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I shop in the food mecca of Berkeley, and even I would have trouble finding some of the ingredients.
There are reasons why this is restaurant food that people spend big bucks for to go out and eat.
If you have skill in fine cooking, if you love to cook for recreation and for art, and if you like this kind of California Mediterranean food, you would probably enjoy this cookbook. It is extremely well-written and thought out. So far I've tried 16 recipes from this cookbook, with excellent results. (Note: I've taken many cooking classes over the years and I've worked as a prep assistant for some great local chefs, so that's my skill level.) Judy Rodgers and her editor have made every effort to convey her signature recipes and deserve applause for that. I think this a great cookbook, a classic cookbook, but not for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
San Francisco chef Rodgers teaches as she cooks and her clear, authoritative voice is an inspiration, reinforced by 24 luscious color photographs and 50 black and white photographs illustrating technique. Emphasizing quality ingredients and constant tasting, she painstakingly explains what to look for and how to taste. More than once she cautions that it may take several tries before a dish sounds that note of perfection on the tongue. Rodgers' style of cooking requires some forethought - all her meat and poultry is lightly salted at least a day before cooking - to "open up" the proteins, and some dishes, like Artichoke Caponata, improve when made ahead.
The book is organized by course and the introductions to each recipe offer tips on ingredients or technique, suggestions for leftovers and sometimes the dish's history in her repertoire, which is French and Italian-influenced. Some dishes are simple - her signature Roast Chicken with Bread Salad is a snap as long as you remember to salt the chicken the day before (it does make a difference). Several soups (Asparagus & Rice with Pancetta & Black Pepper) are quick and easy, as long as you've got the stock on hand - canned stock is beneath mention - and several pickles, condiments and sauces (Preserved Lemons, Roasted Pepper Relish, Sage Pesto) are simple enough to keep on hand, but basically, Rodgers is not about quick and easy. The hamburger that the pickles are served with starts with grinding your own chuck - twice. Pasta with Sardines & Tomato Sauce begins with cleaning, broiling, then filleting the sardines, although the roasted tomato sauce is quick, easy and different. Pot Roast begins with reducing a bottle of red wine to a half cup and four cups of beef stock to two.
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Format: Hardcover
I have just become Judy Roger's biggest fan! The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is not another cookbook about artfully-presented, impossible-to-duplicate-at-home restaurant food. It is full of the food we all want to eat when we come home from a stressful day at work. Judy's recipes make it possible. The Chicken Braised with Figs, Honey and Vinegar is just the kind of meal that, once made, you look forward to the leftovers for the rest of the week!
All the recipes I have made from her book have become standards in my repertoire. They are the sort of things that you want to make again and again -- like the rosemary grilled chicken livers with bacon, just the thought of them makes me want to rush home and start cooking.
I have only just begun working my way through this book, but the results are so great that I have told my friends: "We will be eating well all year long at my house!"
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