Food lovers from coast to coast have savored Ruth Reichl's restaurant reviews and culinary insights for nearly 50 years. The trailblazing food writer first made a name for herself working at the Los Angeles Times before taking her expertise east to the New York Times.
Then she took over as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine in 1999. In her new book, "Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir," Reichl opens up about her decade running Gourmet, which she described as a "Cinderella story."
Reichl told "CBS This Morning" she wanted her book to be useful to readers, so she decided to write about "what it feels like to learn to be a leader."
"Here I am, I'm a writer. I sit in my little cubicle, and suddenly, I've got 65 people who work for me," she said.
But she found her key to effective leadership: "Realizing I don't know everything and I'm going to hire people who are smarter than I am and let them have their head. And that for me, the key to management is, find people who are really good and trust them. And that your job is to run interference for them."
She also described the moment when she picked up a Gourmet magazine at 8 years old and realized writing about food could be a career.
"I suddenly saw that food could be a magic door. That everything I had ever read was fairy tales. There was always like some kind of magic thing that happened. And in this story, suddenly, everyday objects are wondrous," Reichl said. "And I suddenly saw, 'Oh, if I pay attention to what I'm eating, I can have extraordinary experiences here on Earth.' It doesn't have to be fiction. From that moment on, my life changed, where I really saw that paying attention to ordinary things was a way to have a great life."
Reichl shared some of her favorite recipes included in her memoir:
Ruth's spicy Chinese noodles
½ pound Chinese noodles, dried egg noodles, or spaghetti
½-inch-long piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black bean paste with garlic
1 tablespoon Chinese bean paste with chili
½ pound ground pork
- Cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente (the time will vary with the type of noodle). Drain, toss with a half tablespoon of peanut oil, and set aside.
- Peel and mince the ginger (you should have about two tablespoons).
- Chop the white parts and slice the green parts of the scallions.
- Mix the sugar and the two kinds of hot bean paste, and set aside.
- Heat a wok until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil, toss in the ginger, and stir fry for about half a minute, until the fragrance is hovering over the wok.
- Add the pork and white scallions and stir-fry until all traces of pink have disappeared. Add the bean sauce mixture and cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the green scallions and noodles, and quickly toss. Add a drop of sesame oil and turn into two small bowls. This makes a perfect snack for two.
Jeweled chocolate cake
Adapted from Café Mezzo
1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pan (not Dutch process)
3 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Butter a deep 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust it with cocoa powder.
- Melt the chocolate with the cocoa, butter, oil, and water over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar.
- Cool completely, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk into the chocolate mixture. Shake the buttermilk well, measure, and stir that in.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out, peel the parchment from the bottom, and allow to cool completely.
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
½ cup blanched hazelnuts
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
- Toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. (If you're using hazelnuts with skins, put them in a towel and rub the skins off, but don't bother being fussy about it. Whatever comes off easily is fine.)
- Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until it begins to darken, swirling the pan until the mixture turns a beautiful deep gold. It takes a while for the mixture to darken, but once it does it goes very quickly, so don't walk away or it will burn. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts.
- Pour onto a baking sheet that you've lined with foil, parchment, or a Silpat, spreading evenly. Use an oven mitt—a burn from hot sugar can be very painful. Allow to cool completely.
- Break into pieces, put into a plastic bag, and smash with a rolling pin until you have lovely crushed pieces you can sprinkle over the frosting, adding both crunch and flavor.
Frosting ingredients and directions
Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar into a cup of mascarpone. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake and heap the praline bits on top.
Thanksgiving turkey chili
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
3 canned whole chipotle chilies in adobo
1 bottle dark beer
2 pounds tomatillos (husked, rinsed, and quartered)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large onions (chopped)
½ cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano (finely minced)
2 jalapeños (diced; if you don't like heat, remove the seeds)
3½ pounds ground turkey
1½ cups chicken broth
8 large cloves of garlic (peeled but left whole)
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked white beans
1 4-ounce can diced green chile peppers
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until they're fragrant. Allow to cool, then grind to powder.
- Puree the chipotle chilies with the adobo.
- Put the beer into a medium-sized pot, add the tomatillos, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes, until the tomatillos are soft. Strain the tomatillos (reserving liquid), and puree in a blender or food processor. Pour back into the pot with the beer.
- Slick the bottom of a large casserole with a couple of tablespoons of oil, and sauté the onions until they're translucent. Add the cilantro, oregano, jalapeños, and cumin and stir for a couple of minutes. Break the turkey into the mixture and stir until it just starts to lose its raw color. Add the pureed tomatillos and beer, the chipotle puree, the chicken broth, and the garlic, along with a couple of teaspoons of salt and the bay leaf, and simmer the mixture for about an hour and a half.
- With a large spoon, smash the now-soft cloves of garlic and stir them into the chili. Add the white beans and diced chile peppers and taste for salt. At this point I like to start playing with the flavors, adding a few splashes of cream sherry, a bit of balsamic vinegar, or perhaps some soy or fish sauce. Heat for another 10 minutes.
- Serve with sour cream.
From "Save Me the Plums" by Ruth Reichl, published by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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