Cookbook Book Club: Dinner with Ruth Reichl

Cookbook Book Club  is my once a month most months “cooking from the same cookbook” meal with Jan and  Jenn, and this month we cooked from Ruth Reichl’s recipes.  Jenn chose to work with the signature recipe from Delicious! ( you can read my review here).  Jan chose to work from Ruth’s most recent book, My Kitchen Year, which she wrote in the year after Gourmet magazine, where she had held the position of Editor-in-Chief for ten years, was abruptly closed down by its parent company in September 2009.

The book spans the course of the four seasons that followed this change –  we see Reichl slowly heal herself through re-discovering the simple pleasure of cooking and really taking the time to appreciate food. She writes that when she was busy working on  Gourmet, she would often just “throw together” a meal for herself and or her family/ friends but in that year in the kitchen, she was able to renew her love affair with food and remember why she loves cooking so much.

It’s a wonderful read (I wrote a little more about hearing Ruth speak about the book here – she inspired me to teach 8 and 9 year-olds to make risotto! – and reviewed the book here.  I highly encourage you to check it out if you love to read about food. It’s an interesting “cookbook” (it’s not your traditional cookbook in many senses) –  Reichl doesn’t believe recipes should simply be a list of ingredients and a method, so if you’re used to the standard format of recipes (i.e. ingredients listed in the order in which you use them), it may be a bit of a learning curve to work from this book. Ingredients are listed according to what’s Reichl classifies a pantry “staple” and what should be on your shopping list for the recipe. Since everyone’s “staples” vary wildly, this recipe style requires a little more pre-reading and planning than others.

For my appetiser course, I chose to make a recipe from Reichl’s website – ironically, based on what I had on hand (so, my  “staples” I guess!). In my fridge the day before our get together, I spotted ricotta, mushrooms, thyme. In my pantry, shallots and in my freezer, puff pastry. With a splash of sherry, I was all set to make Reichl’s mushroom tart, aka what she calls

Such an easy appetiser

Ruth Reichl mushroom tart on eatlivetravelwrite.comThis was really very simple and a variation on a mushroom tart recipe that I’ll be sharing here soon – it’s the perfect appetiser or even, a lunch for two if served with a green salad. A wonderful autumn dish.

Get the recipe for Ruth Reichl’s Mushroom Tart here.

For the main course, Jan chose Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder from My Kitchen Year (p14).

Ruth Reichl cider braised pork shoulder oWow – what a dish –  excellent on a chilly October evening. Braised in cider and cooked the day before serving, this was incredibly tender and tasty and we all went back for seconds. Jan had chosen Reichl’s buttermilk mashed potatoes to serve with this but there’s something not quite right about the recipe, we all agreed. Cooking 4lbs of potatoes in 4 cups of buttermilk seemed excessively liquidy and the potatoes (though sliced thinly) never got “soft and slumping onto themselves” (Reichl’s words) especially after just 30 minutes. After well over an hour, the potatoes were still not cooked and the liquid had not reduced much but we figured we would have a go at draining them a bit and mashing them anyway – the result was not great – the bite of undercooked potatoes in buttermilk was not appealing to any of us so Jan whipped up a batch of rustic mashed potatoes instead. We’re not sure what happened with the buttermilk mashed potato recipe – three of us who know our way around the kitchen…  I guess not every recipe can work all the time, but we were surprised.

Get the recipe for Ruth Reichl’s Cider Braised Pork Shoulder here.

For dessert, Jen brought a beautiful version of Reichl’s Gingerbread Cake from Delicious!

I knew this cake had a ton of ginger (1/4 cup packed fresh ginger!) and was a little worried it would be too strong. Au contraire, this hit the spot at the end of a long week. The spicy ginger and the hint of bourbon from the post-bake soak felt like they were doing us all good as we enter cold and flu season!

Ruth Reichl gingered applesauce cake on eatlivetravelwrite.comIt’s glazed with a simple icing sugar/ orange juice glaze which was perfect – adding a bit of sweetness to the not-so-sweet cake. This would be a wonderful morning or afternoon coffee or tea accompaniment as well.

Gingered applesauce cake on eatlivetravelwrite.comThis totally changed my mind about ginger cake. I’d never have chosen to make this based on the huge amount of fresh ginger but after one taste, I’m happy to say ginger cake might be on the menu more often from now on!

Get the recipe for Ruth Reichl’s Billie’s Gingerbread Cake here.

Want more Ruth Reichl recipes?

My-Kitchen-Year-cover on



Purchase My Kitchen Year for yourselves on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store closest to you). Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository










Buy Delicious! on on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store closest to you). Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.





Please note: The product links from Amazon, and The Book Depository are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!

Disclosure: I received copies of My Kitchen Year and Delicious! from the publisher for review purposes.

Interested in our Cookbook Book Club? So far we’ve enjoyed:

Dinner with Marcella,
Dinner with Nigella,
Dinner with Ottolenghi,
Dinner with Maria Speck,
Dinner with Naomi Duguid,
Lunch with Jamie Oliver,
A dessert party with Butter Baked Goods,
Dinner with Jacques Pépin,
Dinner with Smitten Kitchen,
Recipes from Rachel Khoo,
Brunch with Donna Hay,
Dinner with Mark Bittman,
A Gatherings-inspired baby shower brunch,
Dinner with Simple Bites,
Lunch from Food 52’s Genius Recipes,
Dinner from The Broad Fork,
A holiday “Food Gift Love” party,
Lunch with Mairlyn Smith,
Dinner with Seven Spoons
Lunch in David Lebovitz’ My Paris Kitchen.
Lunch with Ina Garten

6 thoughts on “Cookbook Book Club: Dinner with Ruth Reichl”

  1. I love that you ladies have managed to keep your little cookbook club running despite all the big life changes of the last few years. I have to admit that I live vicariously through your Instagram posts… it’s always so much fun to see which author or cookbook inspired you on a particular month, and to see which dishes each one of you decided to bring. That ginger cake is totally going onto my must-bake list for the holidays. It sounds perfect for a little Christmas gathering, don’t you think?


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