When Paul Bertolli buys sheep's-milk ricotta, it's so fresh he can taste the grass the animals have been grazing on. His commitment to ingredients informs everything he doesfrom the cuisine at Oliveto, his Oakland, California, restaurant, to the recipes in his new book, Cooking by Hand, to be published this summer. He's composed the springtime menu here from its pages. The bruschetta, topped with fava beans and artichokes, is all about unadulterated flavor; the salmon has a salt crust that locks in the rich taste of the fish. And the dessert crêpes with chestnut honey, delicate as handkerchiefs, showcase the ricotta Bertolli adores. When the raw materials are this good, it's best to follow his advice: "Respond to ingredients rather than approaching them with preconceived ideas."
Paul Bertolli gets sheep's milk ricotta from Ballwether Farms in Petaluma, California (available seasonally; $21 for a 3.5-pund tub; 888-527-8606 or www.bellwethercheese.com).