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Jan 1, 2007 03:31 AM

Dec. 2008 - Jan. 2009 Cookbook of the Month: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook [Jan. 2007 COTM Revisited]

Happy New Year, hounds! Welcome to the general discussion thread for the January 2007 cookbook of the month, Judy Rodgers and Gerald Asher's The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Use this thread to make general comments about this cookbook or to discuss the whole cookbook-of-the-month idea.

You may wish to bookmark this thread, as it contains links to all the other threads on this cookbook. Because the Zuni Cafe Cookbook has so many sections-- 14 in all which contain recipes-- I've posted one thread for every two sections. The first thread, for example, covers the section on stocks and the section on dishes to start a meal. In addition, I've started one thread for recipe planning, links, and previous picks and pans.

Here's the thread for recipe planning, links, and previous picks and pans:

Here are the links for full length recipe reviews. Please select the appropriate one.
For stocks or dishes to start a meal:
For leafy salads or soups:
For eggs or starchy dishes:
For vegetables, savoury fruit dishes, pickles and preserves or sauces and relishes:
For seafood or poultry:
For beef, lamb, pork, and rabbit or sausage and charcuterie:
For a simple cheese course or desserts and pastry:

Finally, the Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Happy cooking!

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  1. So far, I really like cooking from this book. Overall, I find the book informative and interesting and the recipes, by and large, have been outstanding.

    But, I do dislike how she describes her ingredient amounts. For example, for the shredded radicchio salad (pg. 150), the ingredients called for 2 medium heads (about 12 oz) of radicchioand and 1 large shallot (about 1 oz).

    Now, sometimes I just scribble on a scrap of paper the ingredients I need to pick up at the store. So, I picked up 3 small heads of radicchio. When I get home, I see the weight amount and I check my receipt. The weight of my 3 little heads is about 2 1/4 lbs! Now, I know this is my own fault because I should have written down the weight. However, how small are her heads of radicchio?

    Also, the 1 large shallot. For whatever reason, I did write down the weight on that one. I chose a large shallot and alone was 3 oz. So, I kept choosing smaller and smaller shallots until I found a 1 oz shallot. Now, this is just the individual clove of shallot, the the attached head.

    Another example, and I haven't made this yet. The mandarins with dates stuffed with mascarpone, pomegranates and pistachios (pg. 457). This looks delicious and I read the favorable reviews on the board. But, looking at the ingredients, it calls for 30 shelled pistachios (2 T or 1/2 oz). Am I the crazy one to think that there is no way that 30 shelled pistachios are more than 2T? Admittedly, I won't be shelling the nuts, but will be buying the pre-shelled ones. But, that shouldn't make a difference, should it?

    I live in Boston and produce right now isn't great. So, I mostly go to Whole Foods or to ethnic markets. But, I don't think of these places of having extra big produce.

    Admittedly, these inaccurate details do drive me insane, probably more so than others. While it's not going to stop me from using this book, it will cause me to more aware of her ingredients list.

    8 Replies
    1. re: beetlebug

      I looked at the book probably a couple of years ago and haven't re-looked at it for this project yet, so I haven't paid attention to that. However, it seems to me that a lot of people "these days" are weighing their ingredients, so maybe she just assumes that's what people will do. And maybe she assumes that everyone has more experience with weighing, so they know what a 1 oz. shallot will feel like. I don't know- I could be way off base and maybe people have always weighed ingredients- it just seems like I hear more about it recently. I don't have a scale and am terrible about judging weight... I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how much chocolate I needed from my 4.44 oz. bar of bittersweet for my chocolates a couple of weeks ago! I was SO frustrated, so I definitely feel your pain!

      1. re: Katie Nell

        Yes - I don't have the book with me, but I seem to remember that she addresses weighing ingredients in more detail in a section entitled measuring.

        1. re: Rubee

          beetlebug doesn't seem to be saying that she couldn't weigh the ingredients, but that the weights were wrong. This sounds like a flaw in the book. I agree that 30 shelled pistachios equal more than 2 Tbsp. Looks as if JRodgers should have worked on measurements a bit more for this book.

          1. re: oakjoan

            Thanks oakjoan. I'm not sure if the weights or wrong or the descriptive words are incorrect. Admittedly, I don't have a food scale and don't feel the need to buy one (although I have had many an internal debate about it). I also don't feel as if my cooking or baking has suffered from the lack of a food scale. I DO weigh my produce at the store and if I am really being type A, I check the store receipt for the accurate measurement.

            I have no problem with recipes using weights. I did skim her section on approximate measuring and the importance of tasting, etc. I get that. my issue is more that if the author is going to use weights, than don't use inaccurate adjectives or amounts to go with it. Especially, the adjectives. The weights speak for themselves so why go on to inartfully describe the size of the object?

            Lastly, oakjoan, did you use 30 shelled pistachios or 2T for the dessert? I think I am going to make it in the next few days. Looking at the recipe, 2T makes more sense.

            1. re: beetlebug

              I was too lazy to measure. As a punishment, I now have about a half cup of chopped pistachios in a bowl on the counter. The dates with mascarpone were fabulous.

              I totally agree with you about the unclear weights/measurements.

            2. re: oakjoan

              Yes, now that I've reread what I wrote, I'm not quite sure where I was going with that either! I've also had that same internal struggle on whether I need a scale or not.

              1. re: Katie Nell

                I got a little digital scale. I love the scale.
                I still love it after the childish excitement of weighing a bunch of stuff subsided!
                Make sure what you get, i f you get, has a "tare" function as well as grams AND ounces. You put your empty bowl or measuring cup on the scale, hit tare and that zeros the scale so you can remove the vessel and measure your flour or whatever in it...
                It's was $20 or $30 bucks at B'way Panhandler. I have limited storage, this thing is small and flat.

                That said, I like the "many possibilities" style of Zuni book
                because it kind of depends on what your ingredients are like.
                30 giant pistachios, or 30 minis? 2 T! It's all about options being fluid, for me -- esp when you know what you like and what makes sense for your palate.

                Besides, I'm likely to throw in more (or less) of something anyway . . . just not toooo much that it throws the dish off. With salads and nuts, there's lots of wiggle room.

                Same with something like the broth in the panade, more/less, whatever you like.

                1. re: pitu

                  I concur on the scale. It's sleek and doesn't take much space, and when you have it you will find all kinds of uses for it. Mine is a digital Salter, and it's worked fine. I haven't had a problem w/ Zuni's measurements, but I like flexibility in recipes and add more or less depending on my taste.

      2. My book finally arrived from the library - it came to London all the way from Stoke (about 200 miles north-west of the capital)!

        15 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          Excellent! I'm hoping to get one for Christmas.

          1. re: greedygirl

            Well, gg, I am STILL waiting for my Ottolenghi. Noticed today that David Lebovitz (who's website I heartily rec) chose it as one of the best cookbooks of the year.

            It'll be interesting to see what you think of Judy Rodgers and Zuni book.

            1. re: oakjoan

              Isn't it coming all the way from Eng-er-land? Might take a bit longer at this time of year too.

              I had a look through Zuni last night. It's a bit of a monster, isn't it? My first impressions are also that she's quite a lot like Alice Waters (but more Chez Panisse than Art of Simple Food) - it it a Californian thing? I do like the look of quite a few recipes but probably won't have much time until the New Year.

              I really like David Lebovitz's ice cream book.

              1. re: greedygirl

                It's hard for me to get past the roast chicken with bread salad recipe. It's so good that every time I see her book I think of nothing else.

                She is a CP kind of chef...and I don't mean Communist Party.

                There are, however, lots of other recipes that are good.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Judy Rodgers worked at Chez Panisse. Apparently, so did Goin (Sunday Suppers at Lucques), Stitt (Frank Stitt's Southern Table), and Leibovitz (Perfect Scoop). Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) once worked for Judy Rodgers. I think I've captured all of the Alice Waters COTM and DCOTM connections...


                    1. re: Gio

                      Yes, and add to that the David Tanis book A Platter of Figs - I've asked for it and the Zuni book for Christmas.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Great minds, MM... I too asked for A Platter of Figs. I have had the Zuni book for a couple of months now and am not making much headway with it. I think I've cooked about 3 dishes so far. This is my slowest COTM month. Shame on me.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Kind of hard during the holidays, don't you think? Soooo much else to do. I'm glad we've got two months to work with these two books. I've only made two things from Zuni so far (the famous roast chicken and bread salad and the portobello salad) but both have been very very good, and surprisingly easy.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I've been so busy, I haven't cracked the cover of either book yet. But, I intend to catch up soon. I don't even dare to ask for a Platter of Figs for Christmas. Santa is distressed by the number of cookbooks I already own. My only hope is that it becomes COTM in a future month...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              My new cookbooks magically appear from time to time on the bookcase in the kitchen. Don't know where they come from...... and just as magically space is made for the new ones by having the old,unused ones migrate upstairs into the computer room. How *does* that happen.....? Another magical house for sure.

                              1. re: Gio

                                He he. I've "magically" asked a handy man to build me one more shelf on top of some existing built in shelves. I imagine that will expand my horizons dramatically. I'm not sure though how your books "magically" appear. ;-)

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  I have a hot line to Jessica's Biscuits. DH should never know. My $$$ after all....
                                  BTW: What on earth does Jessica's Biscuits have to do with cookbooks anyway? Love the prices tho.

                                2. re: Gio

                                  Gio: Devilishly good plan! The number of cookbooks never increases and who notices that new ones have taken the place of old ones? Mwahahahaha.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        David DID work at Chez Panisse, but his name is Lebovitz. I have finally made myself stop typing "Goins".

              2. We recently ate a meal at Zuni. I had been wanting to go since my husband gave me the cookbook a couple years back for my birthday. It was pretty incredible, although walking in didn't have the same impact as entering Chez Panisse.

                We have made the roasted chicken a bunch of times - it is the best roasted chicken recipe I have seen. I can also recommend the La Gambure Landaise, the bisque (along with the shellfish fumet), and the mashed potatoes. There is a blog that was started last year (and had a bit of a hiatus) that was dedicated to cooking through the entire book.
                If you want to read more about our Zuni experience, I did a little writeup on our blog.

                1. Just back from a family trip to San Francisco. I considered trying to get us to Zuni, but decided that with our other favorites we'd likely not have time. My husband (who was there for a conference) came home one of the evenings and said "My friend really can't wait to try this restaurant he heard was great, he invited us along but I knew we had other plans." I asked the name of the restaurant. "Zoon, or something like that?" After a momentary count backwards from 10 I mentioned that he'd bought me the book from this particular restaurant and had been eating recipes from it for the last month. He looked sheepish and we both laughed.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Judy Rodgers has died at 57, after a long fight with cancer:

                    Time to roast a chicken (or cook another favorite dish) in thanks for the kitchen wisdom she made available to us all.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Yes, I read this earlier. How sad. But, what a brave fight she gave.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Oh, that is so sad. Thank you for passing on the news. I'm sorry I never had the chance to eat at the restaurant. Of course the Zuni Cafe Cookbook is among my most treasured cookbooks. I have made many, many wonderful recipes from this book.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I just read about it, and my first thought was to make that inspired chicken recipe.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            So sad. Another reason to zoom through December and get to 2014 as soon as we can. We've lost so many greats in 2013: Casas, Hazan, Trotter, Rodgers.