Waffling for My Kitchen Year

Having been a fan of Ruth Reichl for quite a few years, I'm only surprised it took me this long to read her latest memoir/cookbook, Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year, 130 Recipes that Saved My Life.   Most cookbooks, I find at least, you don't really read from cover to cover.  This is one of those that you should.  I suppose it's the memoir aspect.  And, okay, so the title is a bit dramatic, but no one gets into the positions she has over the years without being something of a drama queen.

Her book was written in a depressive aftermath following the rather abrupt shutdown of Gourmet magazine, where Reichl had been editor in chief for 10 years. Most of us have gone through stuff equally horrid, say the death of someone close, relationship traumas, divorce, children gone off the deep end, job loss, etc., but for a writer like Reichl, it becomes material for a new book.  Taking lemons and making lemonade.  Which is good.  I just wrote a few desperate poems.  Though Jesus was and is my main support.

She is consistently a fine writer, especially the tweets, dividing her notes and recipes, haiku like, are so descriptive, sense evocative and full of Ruth's wonder at and love of the surrounding world.  i.e.:

     "Sun coming up. Hawks hovering outside.  Dancing in the kitchen with gnocchi and the blues.  Good way to start a Sunday."

I was hard pressed to narrow down an inspired recipe for this post.  There is much to tempt one in this volume, especially if you enjoy trying vibrant new flavor combinations - and experimentation!  I've bookmarked a bunch of things, made the Ma Po Tofu (her recipe) which is not at all subtle.  Definitely knocks your socks off.  Though it took some searching to find Szechuan peppercorns, which at least I did manage to locate here, and not have to order online. Always fun, trying a strange spice.

Some things were just spur of the moment, thrown together meals, I mean do we really need a recipe for a bacon and marmalade sandwich.  At least it was on pumpernickel bread, or Matzo Brei?  Excusable, as often comfort food, at a time when that was greatly needed, and all a part of the storytelling, which she does so well.

But, while she was recovering from a foot injury (which I recently had to do, and can totally relate) Ruth asked her husband to throw together this classic Fannie Farmer waffle batter.  It's yeast raised and sits in the fridge overnight (mine did anyway.  Next morning you add the eggs and a bit of baking soda.  But what I really liked - after making the waffles, you stick the remaining batter back in your fridge - and next morning, and the next, you have more waffles.  I do this with scones too.  Make a batch which lasts most of the week.  From the book:

     "'All you have to do is mix up the batter tonight', I pleaded.  'Leave it on the counter to rise.  Then in the morning, you just stir in a couple of eggs and heat up the waffle iron.'
     'I think I can manage that.'  Michael went off to the kitchen, and the cats, sensing an opportunity, jumped off the bed and followed him hopefully down the hall."

That was so funny, to me anyway.  My husband would balk as well.  In fact, he saw the waffle iron sitting out later, when he came home from work and asked about it.  I told him, all you have to do is pour some batter into the hot iron, it's easy.  Not at all believing he would actually do it, but next morning, by the time I was up, he'd eaten one and gone.   Got to be a first.  Bob, baking his own waffle!

These are splendid, so light, crisp and a little yeasty.  I added part whole wheat flour, as I do when baking most things.

"Leave it on the counter to rise", that's of course, if your room temperature is pretty darn cold.  Here, the batter went right into the fridge, and as you can see, rose up to the plastic wrap even in there.

Highly recommended with or without fruit.  I had mine with lovely fresh mango and pineapple. So nice to know there will be more tomorrow morning.  Will share the goodness with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather at the July Foodies Read Challenge.  Check out some excellent book recommendations, and good recipe ideas.


Beets with an Avocado Cloud for The Marseille Caper

Peter Mayle's The Marseille Caper was a terrifically enjoyable read, right from the first sentence:

 "Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars' worth of wine."

Although pretty lightweight, his novel was throughout, entertaining, funny, romantic and included a thrilling high jinks rescue off a grand yacht.  There are gangster thugs, and an intrigue-ridden local real estate war going on in Marseille.  Sam, the fixer, takes on various tricky jobs mainly to make his life more interesting. This is on top of all the wonderful food and wine descriptions, being as our intrepid hero and his client are both connoisseurs.   Good summer reading.

The only other book of Mayle's I've read was French Lessons, a memoir which our Cook the Books group did a few years back.  That link will take you to the round-up with all our inspired dishes for the book.  I think, all in all, I like his fiction better.


A Trade Wind Pizza

 This post has only a marginal link between book and culinary interest.   Trade wind by M. M. Kaye, is set in Zanzibar, so I had thought of investigating the food of that Island and making something.  Never got to it.  Anyway, I don't really recall  much  local cuisine being mentioned in the book.

However, that is a digression from the central point of any review of her novel.  It is so well written and researched, with fabulous characters who come alive, right off the pages; pirates, slave traders, concubines and sultans included.  The setting is a tropical paradise, though contrasted with the filth, disease and squalor of the time.  Ameliorated by romance, and fascinating history worked into an amazing plot and story.  I absolutely loved this novel.

"The year is 1859 and Hero Hollis, beautiful and headstrong niece of the American Consul, arrives in Zanzibar. It is an earthly paradise; it is also the last outpost of the slave trade. A passionate opponent of slavery, Hero is swept into a turmoil of royal intrigue, abduction, piracy, smuggling, and a virulent cholera epidemic. There in Zanzibar, the most cruelly beautiful island of the southern seas, she must choose her love and unravel her destiny." (from Goodreads)