Tag Archives: Ruth Reichl

Recipes from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: Cookbook Club #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Something I’ve always thought would be fun would be a cookbook club where everyone would try a recipe from a cookbook, bring it to the meeting, and the group would talk about the good and bad of the cookbook, the recipes we tried, and the recipes we still wanted to try.

So I got the Good Taste Cookbook Club started at my library last September, and it’s going strong! Except for meeting every other month instead of monthly, it’s just like any other library book club, except that the books we read are cookbooks. Oh, and we also eat extremely well at every meeting!

book coverMy Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl was the January selection. It’s a combination memoir/cookbook that the longtime restaurant critic ended up writing after Gourmet – the magazine she had edited for ten years – was suddenly shut down, with everyone on staff laid off. Its format, design, and recipe layout are unusual for a cookbook (e.g. loose, conversational-style, sometimes inexact, instructions; ingredient lists divided into “Shopping List” and “Staples”; personal notes woven into the recipe directions) which some of the group didn’t care for, but others enjoyed.

“For the past six months, cooking had been my lifeline, and I was grateful for everything I had learned in the kitchen. Most cookbooks, I thought as I reached for an orange and began to squeeze it for juice, are in search of perfection, an attempt to constantly re-create the same good dishes. But you’re not a chef in your own kitchen, trying to please paying guests. You’re a traveler, following your own path, seeking adventure. I wanted to write about the fun of cooking, encourage people to take risks. Alone in the kitchen you are simply a cook, free to do anything you want. If it doesn’t work out – well, there’s always another meal” – My Kitchen Year

I made Lemon Panna Cotta for my contribution to the meeting, which was a very simple recipe from My Kitchen Year, having just three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and three lemons. As an example of the inexact directions, the recipe calls for the juice and zest of three lemons, but doesn’t tell you approximately how much juice and zest you should end up with. So I wondered if I had it right as I mixed the lemon juice and zest together and plopped it all into the hot cream, but the recipe worked – simple as it was! Even people who don’t particularly care for lemon desserts raved about it.

I put the Lemon Panna Cotta into plastic shot glasses for individual servings, with the remaining amount filling two ramekins. During the meeting, we discovered that it would probably be best kept refrigerated right up until serving time, because it got a little soupy in the bottom of the shot glasses. (The thinner layers in the ramekins seemed to stay firm, though.)

Lemon Panna Cotta in shot glass-sized servings
Lemon Panna Cotta just after being poured into the ramekin

I also wanted to try the recipe for Food Cart Curry Chicken before the cookbook club met, but didn’t have time, so my personal chef (aka Mr. BaystateRA) kindly made it for me. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was delicious! Mr. B. complained about grinding spices when we had ground spices in the spice cabinet already, but I think the extra work – his, that is – was definitely worth it, for the flavor explosion.)

served in the pans

I’ve read many of Ruth Reichl’s other books, including the novel she also worked on during this year of unemployment (Delicious!). My Kitchen Year is divided into seasons – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – and chronicles her time spent in two residences, a New York City apartment and a country home, upstate.

My Kitchen Year happened to resonate with me, personally, because I had an unexpected six months of unemployment starting in the late fall of last year, which caused me to reevaluate my career and how I spent my time. Like Ruth Reichl, who found so much comfort in the kitchen during her year at home while looking for new employment, I did more cooking than usual during those months and also found it soothing. Although, unlike Ruth Reichl, I didn’t write a book (much less a cookbook AND a novel) during my time of unemployment, I discovered that preparing healthful meals can be as relaxing as baking, and got a lot more creative with salads, so I count that as an overall plus.

Now, settled happily into my new job, I’ve been finding less time to cook and had also been going to the gym less often, but thanks to New Year’s resolutions and the encouragement of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workouts, I’m getting back into a gym routine and have now finally gotten back to Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish Reads!

At our meeting to talk about My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, we sampled:

  • Anchovy Bread
  • Tuscan Bean Soup
  • Perfect Pound Cake
  • Banana Bread
  • Applesauce
  • Khao Man Gai (Thai Chicken Rice)
  • Beef, Wine and Onion Stew
  • Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel
  • Lemon Panna Cotta
  • New York Cheesecake
  • Bison Chili
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Pate
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Custard in a Crust (Quiche)
  • Pickled Red Onions

Click to enlarge the pictures:

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.My

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-23-17 #IMWAYR

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It’s blustery with occasional snow flurries, but our nor’easter is going to be mostly rain here, so no snow shoveling this Monday morning!

cover imageI’m reading My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl for the Good Taste Cookbook Club meeting at the library this week. I’ve read the Fall, Winter, Spring sections of the book already, and only have Summer left.

For Cookbook Club on Thursday night, I’ll be making and bringing Lemon Panna Cotta. The recipe is very simple, and I’m hoping it’s as easy as it looks because I’m coasting a little this month because of other projects. I’ll be able to taste some of the other, more complex, recipes that more ambitious members of the group will be tackling.

I’ve been meaning to try The Splendid Table’s recipe for panna cotta, (which includes gelatin, while Ruth Reichl’s does not) so maybe I’ll eventually make them both, and compare!

My Kitchen Year is a beautiful book. Ruth’s personal story of her experience of unexpected unemployment starting in the fall of 2009 combined with gorgeous color photographs from the different seasons makes for a highly pleasurable reading experience. And then there are the recipes! Most of which I want to try.

My Kitchen Year has some personal resonance with me, coincidentally, as I found myself unexpectedly unemployed last fall, as well. I also found solace in cooking and in writing about the recipes I made in Weekend Cooking posts. I never thought to read My Kitchen Year last fall, but I may be able to enjoy it more, now that I (like the author) have moved on and gained perspective on the experience. I do miss having all that time to cook and plan meals, and regret that I didn’t use my time wisely by making copious notes for a book as Ruth Reichl did (haha) but am trying to make up for it by using my time more wisely now!

I miss the Weekend Cooking crowd over at Beth Fish Reads, and hope to get back to writing about cooking again soon.

Happy Reading!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in, everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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An Appetizing Mish-Mash: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

cover imageDelicious! is a first novel by the long-time food writer and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl, and it’s a pleasant read. It makes a good book club choice because the themes are clear and there is a little something for everyone – a young woman’s journey into adulthood; a library scavenger hunt; budding romances; a race against time; a blend of contemporary New York life with small town life in World War II connected by old letters; and food! Enough talk about food and cooking to satisfy foodie readers.

Billie avoids her family by moving from California to New York, where her extraordinary palate and ability to discern various spices and ingredients lands her a job with the respected foodie magazine Delicious! (with an exclamation point).  When she gradually begins to uncover a trove of letters dating back to World War II written to a former magazine staffer (James Beard) Billie thinks they might be her own ticket to food writing fame.

Ruth Reichl is the author of several highly acclaimed memoirs about cooking, food writing, and being a restaurant critic, so she must have known she was going out on a limb by publishing a novel for the first time at age 60+. In fact, critical reviews kept me from reading this until it was a February book club choice, so I’m glad I finally gave it a chance. The parallels drawn between Billie’s life and the life of the young writer of the letters, Lulu, are a little obvious, but the multiple story lines and themes, as well as the twin quests that the two young women embark on in their different times, make it a good choice for a book club discussion, especially one with food!

Click here to read what our library book club thought of the book.

Delicious!
Reichl, Ruth
Whelan, Julia, narr.
Random House
May 2014

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy (ARC) of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program a long time ago! I ended up reading parts of the published book (not the ARC) and listening to parts of it on audio. Narrator Julia Whelan does a great job with all of the voices, including the male ones.

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click here for more Weekend Cooking posts from bloggers around the world.