THE ZUNI CAFÉ COOKBOOK

by Judy Rodgers (W.W. Norton, $35 hardcover)

Judy Rodgers doesn't lack cred. A James Beard award winner (2000), an apprentice at Troisgros Brothers in Roanne, France, she got her chops working at Chez Panisse under Alice Waters. But knowing how to cook doesn't mean you know how to teach someone else to. This book has a split personality. Her explanations of cooking techniques are so basic that I'm surprised she didn't give us tips on boiling water. Her descriptions of which pot to use, how to sharpen a knife, even what a food processor does are particularly puzzling considering the recipes that follow. I'm not a kitchen beginner, but I confess to finding the 550 pages of this book daunting. Nearly every recipe requires reference to three or four others to complete it. And good luck finding the esoteric ingredients she calls for. It's nice to know that fresh anchovies average 20 per pound, but even if I felt like cleaning and salting same for my appetizer tray, where the heck am I supposed to find them, even in seafaring Seattle? Her wine suggestions are equally extravagant: Carmignano, Villa di Capozzana 1999? Wurzburger Stein Silvaner Spätlese Trocken, Weingut Juliusspital, 1999? Why not mention varietals, not such exotic single bottles? Whatever happened to good old red and white? The great question is: Who is this hefty tome aimed at? Judy Rodgers gives us instructions on how to reproduce her famous San Francisco restaurant's menu plate by plate. It's interesting to learn what full-time professionals under careful and imaginative guidance can do; but rather than do it myself, I think I'll just wait till I'm in San Francisco and let Judy do it for me. ARNE ZASLOVE food@seattleweekly.com

 
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