MY KITCHEN YEAR
Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year was reviewed by Ann Ronald in Bookin’ with Sunny in 2016. Ann’s review set the stage for my own. Ann wrote about why and how Reichl came to write the book. My review, on the other hand, is of several of the 136 recipes cooked in the year following the closure of Gourmet Magazine. My Kitchen Year is more memoir than cookbook. Along with recipes, Reichl’s short poems and observations are noted throughout the book, including pictures of her at home.
Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year follows the seasons starting with winter, and many of the recipes feature seasonal fruits and vegetables. The first recipe I tried was the Apple Crisp that calls for five types of heirloom apples. The topping is a simple crumble made with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Reichl serves it with fresh cream while still warm. A good Vanilla ice cream is also good. This is an easy recipe that lets the apples shine through. The apples are firm, sweet and juicy, and the topping provides crunch without being too sweet.
Panna Cotta is a lovely, silky Italian dessert and very poplar now in restaurants. This Lemon Panna Cotta recipe does not include gelatin, which is a typical ingredient, so I was curious to see how this would work. The top half did firm up with a nice silky texture, but the bottom half did not firm up. I always use gelatin when making Panna Cotta. Reichl’s flavor was deliciously lemony, but I will try this again with the addition of gelatin so all that scrumptious liquid will be firm.
I tried most of the recipes long before the COVID-19 crisis. However, here are two recipes that are perfect for staying in place (SIP). Ruth acknowledges Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread then modifies it for her recipe. If you have trouble with sourdough starter, this recipe is for you. The only ingredients are flour, yeast, salt, and water. It makes a sticky dough that sits for 18 hours or until doubled in size. The dough is punched down and left to rise again and repeated two more times before the final rise. Baking the bread dough in an iron Dutch oven with the lid on creates a very crisp, chewy crust with a slight tang of sourdough. This recipe takes two days to make, but it is worth the time and effort, the scent of bread baking is good for the soul.
My second choice for a SIP recipe is the Three-Day Short Ribs. As the title implies, this is a three-day process starting with marinating the meat in red wine on day one. Day two, cook the meat with vegetables and aromatics, cool, and refrigerate. Day three, skim fat and reheat until meat is heated through, then boil the liquid down to make a sauce. Marinating the meat in red wine before cooking gives the meat an extraordinarily rich, savory flavor. I served the ribs with polenta and a big green salad and invited two friends to join me for dinner. We finished every bite with rave reviews and requests for the recipe.
One of the many dishes that intrigued me was the Eggplant & Arugula Sandwiches. On buttered ficelles (baguettes are a good substitute) layer grilled Japanese eggplant marinated with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and arugula. Flavors pop on the tongue, the combination of sweetness from the vinegar, earthy eggplant, and peppery arugula made my mouth sing!
Another intriguing recipe is her Borscht Salad with beets, apples, red onion, and red cabbage. Toss the ingredients together then dress with balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and olive oil. The bright magenta color is perfect for an early spring meal, and a drizzle of sour cream is a reminiscence of a good bowl of Borscht.
My Kitchen Year includes Thai, Korean, Chinese, European recipes. There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including desserts. I am looking forward to making The Cake That Cures Everything (serves 20-25) for a large group. This is a rich chocolate cake that made my mouth water just reading the ingredients. I also want to try the Bacon and Marmalade Sandwich and the Cider Braised Pork Roast, just to name a few.
While we shelter in place and wonder what to cook tonight, this is the book for you. Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year was written in a time of personal crisis, but during the year, with the help of food and cooking, she renewed her joy of ordinary things. During this time of crisis, I hope her book will remind you to appreciate the small things in life and inspires your creativity with food and cooking as it did for me. — Marj Cordova
Also available by Ruth Reichl: Tender at the Bone; Save Me the Plums; Garlic and Sapphires; Comfort Me with Apples; Delicious; Not Becoming My Mother; The Queen of Mold.
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