Books for cooks



"The Zuni Café Cookbook," By Judy Rodgers (W.W. Norton & Co. 2002, hardcover, $35)

Award-winning California chef
shares her secrets

Some students are fortunate to study abroad and live with a local family from whom they learn the language and customs of the land.

Then, there's Judy Rodgers, who at age 16 spent a year living with the Troisgros family in Roanne, France. Yes, that's right, the renowned family that owns the Troisgros Brothers' three-star restaurant. When not in school, Rodgers spent much of her time in the restaurant's kitchen, observing the master chefs and taking copious notes.

After obtaining a degree from Stanford University, Rodgers apprenticed under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. In 1987, she became the chef at Zuni Café on Market Street in San Francisco, and today she owns the place. In 2000, Rodgers received the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef award for California.

"The Zuni Café Cookbook" is a compendium of cooking lessons with 250 recipes, 24 color photos and 50 black-and-white photographs. The California-inspired recipes are heavily influenced by the author's fondness for the cuisines of France and Italy. Wine suggestions are given for many of the dishes.

This, her first book, is full of explanations, essays, tips and culinary lore. In fact, the narrative is such an integral part of the cookbook that the recipes don't even start until the eighth chapter.

Sage and onion polenta, citrus risotto, oxtails in red wine, duck confit, braised fennel, espresso granita and open-faced pear tart are the kinds of recipes you will find in this book. While the recipes are well written and easy to follow, you may have to visit a specialty store for some of the ingredients.

These orange-currant scones are so overwhelmingly popular at Zuni Café's Sunday brunch that they've stopped making all other pastries.

Orange-Currant Scones

3 cups flour (13-1/2 ounces)
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound cold butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix well. Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Add currants and orange zest and toss well.

Whisk together the egg and milk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix and fold until the dough masses and the flour is absorbed. Don't worry if the dough is a little streaky.

Divide dough in half and shape into 2 balls. Pat each one into a 6- to 7-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Roll about 1 inch thick and cut like a pie into 6 wedges each.

Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. These are best served warm. Makes 12.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per scone: 310 calories, 16 g total fat, 10 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 360 mg sodium, 5 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate.

Rating Scale: StarStarStarStar Best in its class / StarStarStar Highly recommended / StarStar Recommended / Star Not recommended

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Contact her at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail her at:

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