Over the past month, I have been reading interesting recipes. That’s not a big deal, since I pore over recipes daily from newspapers, cookbooks and, especially, food magazines. These days I tear recipes from magazines and newspapers, then chuck them out.
Many of my 500 cookbooks are gone, too, living at the Book Barn. But two food memoirs I bought recently, and which I cannot recommend highly enough, are Jacques Pepin’s “Heart and Soul in the Kitchen” and Ruth Reichl’s “My Kitchen Year.” I read each of these books in bed. I am hungry while I read them, both for the recipes (which “taste” lovely) and the prose, which is glorious.
In Jacques’ book, he talks about cooking with Shorey, his granddaughter, his best friend, Jean-Claude Szurdak, the “greats,” like Julia Child and James Beard, his wife, Gloria (no slouch in the kitchen, either) and his daughter, Claudine. And much of the book is about Connecticut, where he and his family have lived for more than 30 years.
Ruth Reichl’s memoir is pretty much about one year in her kitchen in upstate New York, one year during which she and all her colleagues lost their jobs, and we lost Gourmet magazine. She wrote and cooked and wrote and cooked, through fierce winter storms and power outages. She learned how a pantry and some great recipes can keep sadness at bay. Both books should be under your menorah or Christmas tree this year…
Both these recipes include pantry items that require little money and little time at the supermarket. Most items may already be in your own pantry.
Rice with Cumin and Green Olives
From Heart and Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2015)
Yield: serves 4
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 and one-half cups thinly sliced washed leek greens
1 cup diced (one-inch) onions
1 and one-half cups long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Three-quarter teaspoon salt (less if stock is salty)
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
One-half cup pitted green olives, cut into three-quarter-inch pieces
Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat/ Add leek greens and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add rice, cumin, salt and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in olives, cover, reduce heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked through and tender. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
From My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (Random House, New York, 2015)
Yield: serves 4
one-quarter to one-half pound bacon
1 pound spaghetti
Bring as pot of water to a boil, salt it well and toss in the spaghetti. Most brands of spaghetti take about 10 minutes, which is all the time you need to make the sauce.
Cut anywhere from a quarter to a half-pound of bacon into small pieces and brown them in a liege skillet with a couple of whole peeled cloves of garlic.
Break eggs into a big bowl. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese (about half a cup). Cook your pasta al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately plunk it into the bowl with the eggs, tossing frantically so the hot pasta will cook them. Remove the garlic from the bacon and add the bacon, along with as much of the bacon fat as your conscience allows. Toss/ Add cheese. Toss again. Add salt to taste.
Grind a good amount of pepper over the pasta and serve. You will instantly understand why this quick, easy dish given so much comfort to so many people.