MY KITCHEN YEAR: Two Recipes From Ruth Reichl

We are thrilled to welcome Ruth back to EatDrinkFilms. And she will be returning to the Bay Area this week for dinner parties, conversations and book signings. Full list below.

My Kitchen Year coverIn the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary. “I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.”

My Kitchen Year follows the change of seasons — and Reichl’s emotions — as she slowly heals through the simple pleasures of cooking. While working 24/7, Reichl would “throw quick meals together” for her family and friends. Now she has the time to rediscover what cooking meant to her. Imagine kale, leaves dark and inviting, sautéed with chiles and garlic; summer peaches baked into a simple cobbler; fresh oysters chilling in a box of snow; plump chickens and earthy mushrooms, fricasseed with cream. Over the course of this challenging year, each dish Reichl prepares becomes a kind of stepping stone to finding joy again in ordinary things. 

Photo by Tony Cenicola, New York Times

Photo by Tony Cenicola, New York Times

The 136 recipes collected here represent a life’s passion for food: a blistering ma po tofu that shakes Reichl out of the blues; a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that accompanies a rare sighting in the woods around her home; a rhubarb sundae that signals the arrival of spring. Here, too, is Reichl’s enlivening dialogue with her Twitter followers, who become her culinary supporters and lively confidants. 
Part cookbook, part memoir, part paean to the household gods, 
My Kitchen Year may be Ruth Reichl’s most stirring book yet—one that reveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of the world’s most famous food editor as she shares treasured recipes to be returned to again and again and again. Horizontal Rule

Black birds swooping onto orange trees; beautiful ballet of the air.
Ashmead’s Kernels whisper from their skins. Apple crisp!

Reveling in my cooking vacation, I wandered through the farmer’s market tasting apples, trying to decide what to do with each variety. One of the great joys of fall is the explosion of apples, each with its own unique character, and I took my time, tasting carefully.

Photo by Nathaniel Brooks, New York Times

Photo by Nathaniel Brooks, New York Times

At one stand I found Ashmead’s Kernal, an ancient English russet apple with a thick skin that’s more brown than gold. I took a bite, and the flesh was crisp, snappy, exploding with flavor. I swallowed, and was left with the faint lingering scent of orange blossoms.

Another stand proudly displayed Esopus Spitzenburgs. Such a wonderful name! It’s a handsome, old-fashioned apple, with great integrity and fine flavor. Knobbed Russets, on the other hand, are extremely ugly. They taste good, but their biggest asset is the way they hold their shape beneath the hottest assault. I bought all three, thinking I was going to have a crisp with serious character. (If all you can find are insipid apples, you’ll probably want to look for a recipe that offers them a bit more help.)

RRCrisp2Apple Crisp

Shopping List:

  • 5 heirloom apples,
  • 1 lemon,


  • flour
  • brown sugar
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel a few different kinds of apples, enjoying the way they shrug reluctantly out of their skins. Core, slice and layer the apples into a buttered pie plate or baking dish and toss them with the juice of one lemon.

Mix 2/3 cups of flour with 2/3 cups of brown sugar, and add a dash of salt and a grating of fresh cinnamon. Using two knives — or just your fingers — cut the butter, then pat the mixture over the top of the fruit. The cooking time is forgiving; you can put your crisp into a 375-degree oven and pretty much forget it for 45 minutes to an hour. The juices should be bubbling a bit at the edges, the top should be crisp, golden and fragrant. Served warm, with a pitcher of cream, it makes you grateful for fall.

Pies just went in.
On to chili for hungry early arrivals.
We’re nine now, will be twenty-five before day’s end.

We don’t eat Thanksgiving dinner until dark, which means that the day turns into an endless meal. Breakfast is no problem: as people wake up I cook them eggs, bacon, pancakes—-whatever they want. For those who arrive around lunchtime, there are cheeses, slice salami, dried fruit, and olives. And there’s always a big pot of chili bubbling on the stove so people can help themselves.

I’ve got two chili secrets. The first is ground bison, which cooks up cleaner than ground beef and doesn’t throw off much fat. More important, I make my own chili powder so I don’t have to rely on the tired commercial kind.

The classic ingredients for chili powder are a variety of ground chiles mixed with cumin, oregano, and garlic powder. I put fresh garlic, oregano, and freshly toasted cumin right into the meat mixture, then add a blend of chiles that I’ve toasted and ground myself. Then, as the chili cooks, I stir the sultry smokiness of chipotles in adobo right into the meat.

RRchili2The Basic Chili Recipe

Shopping List:

  • 1 tb. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 lb. ground bison
  • 1 small can chipolte peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 bottle robust dark beer
  • 1 can black beans


  • 3 medium onions
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Homemade chili Powder (see below for recipe)*


  • cream sherry
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ounce chocolate
  • soy sauce
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar
  • fish sauce
  • cilantro
  • scallions.

Serves 4-6

Dice 3 medium onions and sauté them in olive oil until they’re soft. Add 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, and let them soften too. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano, some salt and pepper, a bit of cumin and two teaspoons of your homemade chili powder – more if you like really hot food.

Add a pound of ground bison and cook, stirring, until it loses its redness. Puree 3 or 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a can) and stir that in along with a large can of tomatoes, chopped up, and another teaspoon of your chili powder. Add a cup of chicken stock (preferably homemade), and a cup of beer and let it all simmer at a slow burble for a couple of hours.

Before serving stir in a cup or so of cooked black beans. Now you get to play with the flavors. Is it hot enough? Do you want more chili powder? Sometimes I’ll melt an ounce or so of really good chocolate and stir that in to give it depth. Other times I’ll add a spoonful of fish sauce, or a splash of excellent balsamic vinegar. Sometimes soy sauce to spark it up, other times cream sherry to mellow it down. It all depends on my mood. The point is, when you’ve made your own chili powder, everything else is just window dressing.

You can serve this with cilantro, sour cream and grated cheddar. Or not. It’s that good.

*Homemade Chili Powder

Shopping list:

  • 2 Dried Anchos
  • 3 New Mexico
  • 3 Habanero Chiles.

I like to use anchos for their winey richness, habaneros for their fruity heat and New Mexicos for their earthy sturdiness.

Wearing rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands, sponge off 2 Anchos, 3 New Mexico and 3 Habanero chiles (they’re almost always dusty). Cut them in half and remove the tips where the majority of seeds congregate. Discard the seeds.

Put the chiles into a heavy bottomed pan (I use cast iron), and toast them over medium high heat for about 4 minutes, turning from time to time with tongs, until they have darkened slightly. Allow them to cool and then grind the chiles to a powder in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Stir in a teaspoon of toasted and ground cumin.Horizontal RuleExcerpted from My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl Copyright © 2015 by Ruth Reichl. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Ruth’s web site, where you can sign up for her daily blog.

Ruth Reichl talks to the New York Times about being in her kitchen.

Ruth will be appearing along the west coast during the next week.

  • October 5, Seattle, WA,  Signing at Book Larderdinner at Walrus and Carpenter 
  • October 6, San Francisco, CA, Party and dinner at Bar Agricole, with Omnivore Books
  • October 7, Palo Alto, CA, Commonwealth Club 
  • October 7, San Anselmo, CA, Dinner at Insalatas, with Book Passage
  • October 8, Healdsburg, CA, Cocktail reception and signingat Copperfield’s Books
  • October 8, Sonoma County, CA, Raven Performing Arts Center, with Copperfield’s Books
  • October 9, Danville, CA, Lunchwith Rakestraw Books
  • October 10, Portland, OR, Powell’s Books Cedar Hills
  • October 10, Portland, OR, Livewire!at Revolution Theater
  • October 11, Los Angeles, CA, Dinner at Lucques,details TBA

We urge you to purchase My Kitchen Year from your local bookstore but if that is not possible all of Ruth Reichl’s books and audiobooks are available through our affiliate programs with IndieBound or Amazon.

My Kitchen Year is also available as an audiobook.

Ruth Reichl on creating My Kitchen Year as an audio book

A audio sampling from My Kitchen Year: Prologue.Horizontal RuleRRsigRuth Reichl (pronounced “RYE-shul”) was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009.  Before that she was the restaurant critic of both The New York Times(1993-1999) and the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993), where she was also named food editor. As co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines. 

Ms. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, and the recent novel Delicious! (read an excerpt ). She is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books in addition to Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet; Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet; The Gourmet Cookbook, History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet, and Gourmet Today. She has also written the introductions for many books and been honored with six James Beard Awards. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer.

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