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"Zuni Cafe" Cookbook by Judy Rogers

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With asparagus on hand from the soup I posted about yesterday, I took Judy's suggestion to substitute slivered raw asparagus for fava beans in the Crostini with Fava-Egg Salad & Smoked Trout from Zuni Café Cookbook p 125.

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This is in the section on crostini ideas and I like the way it's written in a short paragraph, telling you to boil one egg for every three crostini. After that, you mash the warm egg with lemon zest-infused olive oil (p 285 in the book) and thinly sliced asparagus and spread it on crostini (here, made from a whole grain rosemary baguette) and top simply with smoked trout and black pepper.

I liked this best with a drop or two of lemon juice squeezed on to the trout, although a couple of capers in the mix would do the same thing.

I had this for breakfast but it would have been a perfect accompaniment to turn yesterday's asparagus soup into a meal. 

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The buttermilk mashed potatoes received much praise at dinner for my relatives.  Making them again for our ‘dinner club’ event tomorrow.  I use my food mill on the smallest holes to ‘mash’ the potatoes.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Today's Zuni Café Cookbook lunch was a salad described in the header notes of the Mixed Lettuces with Mandarins, Hazelnuts and Hazelnut Vinaigrette p 140.

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Per Judy, "this salad consists of arugula, blood oranges, slivered fennel and toasted almonds, tossed with sherry vinaigrette perfumed with Cointreau." It's simple, delicious and perfect for citrus season.

 

And these cute little Sage Grilled Cheese p 115.

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I wanted to make little 2-bite sized grilled cheese but when I pulled out the baguette I had in mind, the crumb was full of huge holes that would never have contained the cheese. I had already prepped the sage and black pepper-infused olive oil that's brushed on instead of butter or mayo so I turned to a seeded loaf that was a bit bigger than I had in mind but still worked.  I really liked the crunchy-peppery-herby crust on these. 


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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That salad looks delicious.  I love the crunch and earthiness of nuts added to salads.  I will make this with my first crop of arugula.....that will be in mid to late May.😩

 

i also made the Chimichurri Sauce on page 298 to go with a roast leg of lamb.  It was terrific.  I had leftover fresh oregano, rosemary and thyme so I made about four times the recipe and put it in the freezer and one in the fridge...some of that we had on a rib eye steak last night.  My new favourite sauce.

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2 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

i also made the Chimichurri Sauce on page 298 to go with a roast leg of lamb.  It was terrific

That Chimichurri is on my list! The Romesco that @Anna N recommended is up first!

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1 hour ago, blue_dolphin said:

That Chimichurri is on my list! The Romesco that @Anna N recommended is up first!

 That was truly one of my biggest cooking epiphanies. 

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As promised, I made Shrimp Cooked in Romesco from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 334.

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This is a delicious, company-worthy dish. The Romesco sauce is rather time and kitchenware consuming but can, and should, be done ahead. Once that's done, the actual meal prep is very easy. There's a 30 min wait to allow the sauce to meld with the stock and wine. Just enough time to chop and cook the onions, set the table, warm the plates and relax with a glass of the wine you've chosen. The shrimp and spinach then cook in just a minute or two. A modification of this recipe is available online here
I wondered if this should be served with something like rice or orzo. With the bread in the Romesco, I didn't miss a separate starch but after polishing off the shrimp, I did reach for some crusty bread to wipe up all the sauce!

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Posted (edited)

This is a 2-egg version of the 12-egg  😮 Madeline's Omelette with Mustard Croûtons & Beaufort Cheese from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 174.  

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It's kinda like having your toast INSIDE the omelette instead of on the side! I read all the instructions and they're a bit much with only 2 eggs in a little pan, but it still turned out fine. The recipe doesn't use a lot of cheese - only 1/3 oz for 2 eggs so I chose a tasty one - Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar - since a white Cheddar was one of the options. That amount was just perfect. I love cheese but omelettes that are full of heavy, molten cheese can be awfully stodgy. This made for a nice light meal.  
I had some dressing left over from the salad  that I made the other day so I repeated it here with Cara Caras instead of blood oranges.


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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Three Zuni Café Cookbook recipes that I modified slightly to make fancy little breakfast bites. 
New Year's Gougères with Arugula, Bacon & Carol's Pickled Onions p 116
Carol's Pickled Onions p 271
Slow-Scrambled Eggs with Bottarga & Variations p 182

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Cheese gougères were one of the first things I included in a menu. I saw them in one of my mom's magazines and asked if I could make them for dinner. I remember wearing an apron, standing at the stove, on a chair and having my mom repeatedly take the spoon away from me because I wasn't beating in the eggs vigorously enough. I was very disappointed that I didn't get to do it all by myself! I made the gougères entirely as written, though they were probably a bit small as I got 30 instead of the estimated 20-24. I'm happy to have the extras for the freezer as they reheat very well. I'm out of bacon so I crisped up some prosciutto to stand in. 
The pickled onions are quick and easy (less fussy than the pickled red onions) but need to be made a day or so ahead. I like them a lot. There's some sugar in the brine but it's balanced well with the vinegar and sharp bite of the onions.  
I've never bothered to make slow-scrambled eggs, but needed to pass the time while the gougères were baking so I decided to scramble up 2 eggs per the Zuni recipe but without the bottarga. For a plate of eggs, I prefer soft curds rather than this very creamy texture but this was very easy to dish up on to the gougères using a little cookie scoop, actually the same one I used for the gougères. Generally, I'm not up for stirring a pan of eggs for 8-10 min but I loved the instruction to rub your wooden spoon with garlic first and I'm glad I tried it.

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Thank you very much for bringing this topic back up. I've had the print book for years, and I recently purchased the Kindle version when it was on sale. I need to explore it all more. Her panade recipes were major revelations for me, and of course the roasted chicken is superb. There's a lot more that I need to explore, and you're giving me inspiration to do so.

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9 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Thank you very much for bringing this topic back up. I've had the print book for years, and I recently purchased the Kindle version when it was on sale. I need to explore it all more. Her panade recipes were major revelations for me, and of course the roasted chicken is superb. There's a lot more that I need to explore, and you're giving me inspiration to do so.

 

Thanks!  There are a lot of gems in the book. We're the beneficiaries of someone who has seen every mistake and screw-up with these dishes in her restaurant and has taken the time to provide the details to prevent that happening. Makes the recipes seem a bit fussy, but few of them are actually difficult  I haven't tried the panade yet but it's on my list for this month.  Zuni is the book of the month for the Food 52 cookbook club that I participate in.  I lobbied hard during the voting process so I'm delighted it was chosen and to spend a month combing through its pages and learning 

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Posted (edited)

This is a broccoli-only version of the Pasta with Spicy Broccoli & Cauliflower from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 203.  Recipe online here.

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Near the end of the recipe, we are instructed to "Taste - every flavor should be clamoring for dominance" and I felt this was true as I ate this - garlic, chili, olives, anchovy and capers are all waving their hands and saying, "Here I am, taste me!" At the same time, there's a great range of textures - some of the broccoli is very tender, some browned and crisp and other bits are still more tender-crisp, chewy pasta, crunchy breadcrumbs and those little flavor explosions mentioned above. @FrogPrincesse mentioned the fennel seed not playing well, I decided to add it anyway and it's surely there in the background but I didn't find it too much.  Maybe my fennel seeds are too old?  This isn't going to knock my go-to broccoli pasta off its pedestal but I will certainly make it again and look forward to playing with the ingredients as suggested in the header notes. 
I adjusted the amount of pasta downwards to 2 oz/serving and used oil-packed anchovies (instead of salted) and a mix of kalamata and oil-cured olives  (instead of Niçoise, Gaeta or Nyons) but otherwise followed the recipe. Next time, I might up the capers or not rinse them as their acid punch was especially welcome.
I'll add a small comment on the wine. I was surprised to see that a chardonnay was recommended as I would usually serve a red with these flavors. I'm not a fan of super-oaky chardonnay but I decided to open a bottle of Rusack 2016 Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, Mt. Carmel Vineyard (review here), aged in oak, but not overwhelmingly so, and it was the perfect pairing where both the wine and the food make the other taste better. I had some red open to make the figs in red wine so I sampled that and it was another flavor fighting for dominance with everything else in the recipe.


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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Spicy Squid Stew with Red Wine & Roasted Peppers from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 338. This has been reported on previously by @Mottmott.

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The header notes say, "Here is a dish to challenge the dogma that the best cooking lets ingredients and flavors sing clearly in the finished dish....In this recipe....the murky, complicated result is delicious."

Like the pasta dish I posted about immediately above, the flavors are intense and delicious but unlike that dish, no ingredient stands out - all the flavors are melded together, though the textures are still distinct..

I don't mind cleaning squid, but fishing 🙃the little ink sac out of the entrails that I usually discard without a look was not my favorite kitchen task.  I do think the ink adds to the complexity of the dish.

The recipe says that the finished stew should be rich and thick and by the time mine was really thick, there wasn't much of the sauce left.   I used canned tomatoes and next time, I'll add enough of their liquid to submerge all the ingredients before starting the simmer so there will be more left at the end. 

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I had to follow that very dark dish above with something light and pretty. This is the Citrus Risotto from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 196. Recipe available online here.

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The risotto is very pretty with the little flecks of pink grapefruit and the tartness of the citrus is balanced by the mascarpone that's added just before serving.

Shrimp was a recommended accompaniment so I sautéed a few in butter with garlic and parsley.  

 

I do enjoy the descriptions Judy used to describe how things should appear during cooking.  In the Romesco recipe, we are told to fry the bread until it is the color of cornflakes, something that delighted me when I turned mine over and they were exactly the color of cornflakes.  Here, we are told that at one point, "The risotto should look like a shiny porridge of pearls."  Perfect description for such a pretty dish!

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Butter Lettuce with Oranges, Avocado & Shallot Vinaigrette from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 143

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Another easy salad assembled from a few ingredients and a simple dressing where everything complements each other perfectly. The header notes say that a variation on this salad would be to use grapefruit and endive and sweeten the vinaigrette with honey or Chartruese.  I didn't sweeten the dressing but sort of merged the two by using a mix of butter lettuce and radicchio with both Cara Cara oranges and white Oro Blanco grapefruit.  She also suggests serving this with cold shrimp or crab and I wish I had some shrimp as they would have easily turned this into a main dish.  Next time. 

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Posted (edited)
Pasta with Braised Bacon & Roasted Tomato Sauce from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 205.  The recipe is available online at this link.
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This is a delicious, rustic and intensely flavorful pasta dish, basically a version of Pasta All'Amatriciana. The roasted tomato sauce is a keeper - a great, quick way to concentrate the flavor of canned tomatoes.  Earlier in this topic, @snowangel raved about the braised bacon, suggesting its marvelous aroma may have helped sell her house and @sammy declared it the best bacon dish ever.  In my opinion, the best bacon is perfectly cooked to shattering crispness in a perfect summertime BLT and there are easier and quicker ways to achieve the porky component in this dish than braising slab bacon for hours.
The header notes say that guanciale was not available so the braised bacon was a substitute. It's much more readily available today so that would be an easy sub as would her suggested shortcut of using little strips of thickly sliced bacon - I'd soak the slices in water for a bit if it's a particularly smoky sort. I found a blog post that suggested just cooking the onions in rendered bacon fat to add that porky flavor for a very shortcut version.
If you do decide to braise the bacon, do it a day ahead or early in the day as it takes some time and really needs to chill down thoroughly before you can slice it easily.  The book says to brown the bacon "until slightly colored, a few minutes at most," but because I am appalled by pale, flabby pork fat on my plate, I let it crisp up nicely.  Perhaps inappropriate for the dish, but very appropriate for this diner.
I used bucatini as the pasta and sprinkled the dish with plenty of black pepper and pecorino romano (I love Judy's description of its flavor as "salty and feral") I made full batches of the sauce and the braised bacon, which is called for in several other recipes in the book, used what I needed and will save the leftovers from each separately.

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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Bosc Pears with Fennel, Fresh Walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Balsamic Vinegar from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 107

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Last week, I bought pears (not Bosc), fennel and fresh walnuts from the local farmers market so I was able to put together this plate of deliciousness.   The walnuts were picked last fall, so they are not as fresh as Judy would have liked but they were freshly shelled and much more flavorful than those I usually buy.

Not sure it's really a recipe - just arrange the ingredients and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

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6 hours ago, blue_dolphin said:

Bosc Pears with Fennel, Fresh Walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Balsamic Vinegar from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 107

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Last week, I bought pears (not Bosc), fennel and fresh walnuts from the local farmers market so I was able to put together this plate of deliciousness.   The walnuts were picked last fall, so they are not as fresh as Judy would have liked but they were freshly shelled and much more flavorful than those I usually buy.

Not sure it's really a recipe - just arrange the ingredients and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

 

I really want to come visit you for a week. I'll buy groceries and wash dishes, if you'll cook.

 

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, kayb said:

I really want to come visit you for a week. I'll buy groceries and wash dishes, if you'll cook.

You would be most welcome to visit....especially if you bring bacon!

 

Sage and Onion Polenta from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 192 topped with Roasted Pepper Relish p 310 

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I'm generally very happy with my pot-in-pot Instant Pot polenta but decided to try Judy's method of stove top cooking over low heat, then holding for at least 30 min (up to several hours) in a double boiler. Her polenta cooking method is available online here. The polenta I used was stone ground, locally grown corn and quite coarse and I do think the texture benefitted from the holding time. In the interest of less pans to wash, I think I can mimic that in the IP by just letting it sit in the "keep warm" mode.  
For the sage & onion variation, you gently sauté a diced onion in butter with fresh sage and lots of black pepper, then mix that into the finished polenta. The result is rich from the butter, sweet from the onion, flavorful from the sage and plenty peppery. I might reduce the butter if I were to serve this as a side but on its own, I like the richness without having to add a bunch of cheese. 
Since the polenta is so rich, I thought the roasted pepper relish would add a nice counterpoint. This recipe extends over 3 pages but most of that is details on two methods to roast the bell peppers. After that, it's just a few short sentences. It includes currants soaked in sherry vinegar(I used golden raisins that I snipped to be smaller), pine nuts, garlic, basil or arugula (which I intentionally left out, then unintentionally forgot to add it at the time of serving), olive oil and sherry or Marsala.  
I very much enjoyed the contrasts in texture and the bright flavor that this relish brought to the rich, creamy polenta.


Edited by blue_dolphin to add link (log)
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Following up on the polenta, I poured the leftovers out to make firm polenta and decided to try a test portion of the Sage & Onion Polenta Gratin, one of 3 variations on using firm polenta. The notes say that it takes some care to steer clear of stodginess so I wanted to see if I could manage that and indeed, I did.  I'd certainly make this again.

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The firm polenta is to be cut into 3/4" chunks and arranged in "2 loose layers" in a baking dish, sprinkled with "a lacy layer" of grated cheese and baked until the high points are quite brown. 
Even though I probably made closer to 1.5 layers, it still took about twice as long as the recommended baking time, perhaps because my polenta was a bit wet.  The result was delicious with the contrast between the crispy, cheesy exterior and creamy interior of each little chunk. Not stodgy!
I think the creamy texture of this polenta may be an even better asset to the firm polenta variations as when it's fresh in the bowl.

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Posted (edited)

Pasta with Preserved Tuna & Pine Nuts from The Zuni Café Cookbook p 211.  Here's a link to the canned tuna version of this recipe. 

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Much earlier in this thread, @trillium called this out as a favorite recipe and "more than the sum of its parts," and I agree.  I've made it before and loved it with oil-packed tuna belly but this was my first time making the tuna confit. I used the same seasonings that Judy calls for but packed the tuna into jars and used an immersion circulator to cook them for 90 min @ 45°C (113°F), following time/temp guidelines from Chef Steps.   Here are my jars, packed and ready to go:

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The tuna itself is decidedly more flavorful this way as it's had plenty of time to absorb all those flavors and I'm looking forward to using it in other ways. Also, you are rewarded for your earlier effort by not having to measure the seasonings out for the pasta as you can just scoop them out with the tuna.  Though I have to say that the canned tuna belly I used previously was absolutely silky in texture and nicer in that regard than the leaner cuts that I used.

Once the tuna is prepped, this pasta dish comes together quickly and for something so easy, the flavors are remarkably complex - I especially love the preserved lemon here! 

 


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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Oh man what a meal. My husband and I literally didn’t look or talk to each other for 10 minutes after the chicken arrived. 

  We started off with a bunch of local oysters I neglected to photograph. We split a bottle of their house Pinot Noir, the chicken and a half order of their fries:

 

 

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