I love Ruth Reichl. Love. Love. Love. So much so, that for a long period of my life I wanted to BE Ruth Reichl.
(When you are not so happy with yourself, you spend a lot of time and energy wanting to be other people. People who you imagine are happier and more successful than you and who embody qualities you wish you had. As you become more happy with yourself, more kind to yourself, you realize that these other people are a-jumble, just like you.)
Not that Ruth is a-jumble. Well, actually she is and she admits it, but no more a-jumble than me, or you, or anyone else. Which is another reason why I love Ruth. She is real.
She was at the forefront of the California food trends of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Cooking more fresh, local, organic foods. Experimenting, traveling, discovering. Her food-themed memoirs with lively and lovely personal stories have been a big influence on me. Her curiosity seems insatiable as she goes exploring all over to try delicious food. I’m always awe-struck when she describes hunting down some obscure restaurant in a sketchy part of the world – something I would never have the nerve to do. She had several of my (many) dream jobs: Restaurant critic for the New York Times, and my ultimate dream job, Editor of Gourmet Magazine.
I grew up with Gourmet and slaved over many of its complicated recipes in the 70’s. Somehow I poured my obsession with food into cooking it because I would not allow myself to eat very much of it.
I worked at Condé Nast when she was at Gourmet and one of the things I loved about her was that she was real. Unlike many (well, most) of the iconic editors there, she came across as petite, friendly, open, genuine. I still stammered on the few occasions when I got to speak with her. Fandom leaves me speechless.
When her latest book released recently, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, I rushed out to buy it. I could completely empathize. Depressed, angry, directionless after the closing of Gourmet, she retreated to the kitchen to cook. The book is personal. Each recipe has a story and one of her special food haiku’s. And, perhaps most personal of all, each recipe is one that she really cooks and really eats. How better to know someone than to cook and eat with them?
While I am loving the memoir-aspect of the book, I am less enamored of the cookbook-aspect of it. Physically, the book is hard to cook from because it doesn’t open flat. But most of all, I don’t want to cook and eat like Ruth. At least, not any more. Too much meat, too much butter, with sometimes time-consuming details (that I am sure make all the difference in the flavor, but I don’t want to bother). While she cooks for flavor, I cook more for health.
It was with some difficulty that I found a recipe I wanted to try that I thought I would like (meat-free and relatively healthy!) and that I thought my husband would also enjoy (spicy!).
I made it last night and it was completely and absolutely luscious and delicious. The only change I made to the recipe was to use Brown Basmati Rice instead of White Basmati Rice (more nutritious!).
Here is the recipe, (my version), with her haiku:
Ruth’s Sriracha Shrimp Over Coconut Rice
Spicy Shrimp. Fiery red heat of
Sriracha. Cool jumble of asparagus,
garlic, ginger. Onions, gentle tropical
sweetness of coconut rice. Good!
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- ½ can or 7 oz Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 7 oz Water
- 1 cup Brown Basmati Rice
One of the tricks I learned from Ruth is to rinse rice before cooking. I have never done this. It makes a difference!
Heat 1 Tablespoon butter in sauce pan. Rinse rice. Add to saucepan. Stir into the butter and heat for a few minutes until rice is coated with the butter and just beginning to toast. Add coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 50 minutes. Let sit for another 10 minutes until all liquid is absorbed and rice is no longer hard and crunchy but about to transform from chewy to soft.
- 1 lb Wild American Shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 3-4 Tablespoons Lime Juice – squeeze 1 lime
- 3-4 Tablespoons Sriracha
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 (small) Onion, chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger, chopped
- 1 lb Asparagus, peel stems and cut into 1 inch pieces, discarding thick, hard ends of the stalks
Marinate shrimp in the lime juice and the Sriracha for 15-30 minutes, while the rice is cooking.
Heat oil in large frying pan. Sautée onion, garlic, ginger until soft and beginning to brown – about 5 minutes. Add asparagus. Cook for about 5 minutes until it begins to brown. Cover pan and turn off heat until asparagus softens. This step might not be necessary if the asparagus is very thin. When rice is done and you are ready to eat, turn up heat and add shrimp with the marinade. Cook until shrimp is barely done, about 3-4 minutes. It is crucial to almost undercook the shrimp, so that the shrimp doesn’t get tough.
Divide rice into bowls or plates. Spoon shrimp and asparagus mixture over the rice. Serve with extra Sriracha and lime wedges.
YUM! Toast Ruth. (We drank an inexpensive chianti with a bit of bite.)
Serves 2 enormous portions or 3 normal portions or 4 polite portions. (My husband and I split it – but were quite full afterwards.)