A Cook’s Manifesto: Ruhlman’s Twenty Cookbook

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments
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ruhlman twenty

Michael Ruhlman — you’ve heard his name before — is in love with numbers. His previous book, Ratio, focused less on hard-and-fast recipes and more on the proportions of ingredients to one another.

With his latest book, Ruhlman’s Twenty, he zeroes in on twenty culinary techniques and ingredients over the course of 100 recipes. While I haven’t read his first instructional cookbook “The Elements of Cooking,” his new work seems to be a more expansive, visually-rich book filled with glossy photos taken by his photographer wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman.

From salt to water, roast to braise, Michael gives a thorough run down of methods and terms before launching into the recipes. There’s nothing in the book that the average home cook couldn’t successfully attempt with a modest amount of effort, and “Ruhlman’s Twenty” seems geared more for the beginner cook who’d like to add more sparkle to old favorites. The recipes are a collection of comfort food standards, from “Perfect Meat Loaf with Chipotle Ketchup,” “Pulled Pork with Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Sauce,” “Mac and Cheese with Soubise” and “Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken” to basic fare such as “Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese and Chives” and “Tomato Sauce.” There’s nothing too complicated or exotic within its pages, and it would be a good addition to the bookshelf for any aspiring foodie looking to step up their culinary game.

Under “Soup: The Easiest Meal” — because he agrees with former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s assertion that, “You know what they say, if you’ve got chicken stock, you’ve got a meal.” — he includes a recipe for “Sweet Bell Pepper Soup” that includes just four ingredients.

Sweet Bell Pepper Soup
Serves 5

1 pound / 455 grams red, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers / capsicums, seeded and cut into 2-inch/5-centimeter pieces
1 cup / 240 milliliters heavy / double cream
Kosher salt
Lemon juice

Combine the vegetables and cream in a saucepan and bring the cream to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook the vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes. Puree, adding a three-finger pinch of salt and leaving the blender cap off and covering the the blender with a kitchen towel until the contents are thoroughly pureed, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add a squeeze of lemon. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pan or bowl. Taste again for seasoning and adjust if neceessary. Serve 1/2-cup/60 milliter portions.

Ruhlman says, “The same method works with nearly any vegetable, but the best choices are nongreen vegetables such as root vegetables, fennel, cauliflower, and mushrooms.”

If you’d like to meet the author in person, Michael will be appearing at Omnivore Books this Wednesday, November 30, from 6-7 PM. A celebratory dinner at Incanto will follow afterwards, and he’ll be present to sign copies for guests. The dinner is standard seating, so reservations can be made online or by phone at 415-641-4500.

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About the Author ()

Jenny is happy to wear multiple hats at KQED; she works as an Interactive Producer for the Science & Environment unit and blogs for Bay Area Bites, KQED's popular food blog. Jenny graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television program and has worked for WNET/PBS, The Learning Channel, Sundance Channel and HBO.