By Kathleen Purvis/The Charlotte Observer (MCT)
Rachael Ray was already the host of multiple TV shows and the editor of her own magazine (Every Day With Rachael Ray). Now she has literally turned her life upside down: “My Year in Meals” (Atria /Simon & Schuster, $29.99) documents every meal Ray cooked for a year. And when you flip it over, it becomes “My Year in Cocktails,” with 100 recipes by her husband, musician and producer John Cusimano.
Before she hit the road for a recent speaking engagement, we asked Ray five questions.
Q: You’ve got books, TV shows and a magazine. When you run out of ideas, how do you juice your brain?
“I always keep these little notebooks with me. I write recipes all day long, so I can go back when I get stuck. … And quite honestly, running, which I started when I turned 40. It really wakes me up. I have to bring my notebook with me to the gym. I’m literally climbing Stairmaster, listening to Foo Fighters and writing in my notebook. I look like a crazy person.”
Q: Did you have to hide anything embarrassing in “A Year in Meals,” like the night you ate Frosted Flakes over the sink?
“No! My husband and I love to cook. None of them were disasters, although there were things I wouldn’t do again. One thing I probably won’t do again — I did days of Christmas cookies last year. I’ve decided I really don’t like baking. It sucked all the joy out of my holiday. I’m going back to the Archway homestyle cookies this year.”
Q: So much of your life is in public view. Can you name something we wouldn’t guess?
“Probably not. I babble on about literally everything. I love to jump out of planes. I take Italian lessons every Wednesday night. My dream job would be rock drummer.”
Q: If you had to pick one to give up forever, would it be salt, extra-virgin olive oil or chocolate?
“Chocolate … I like dark chocolate, but no big shakes if I gotta give that up. The olive oil gives me a shiny coat and I am a salty girl.”
Q: What do you make when you don’t know what to make?
“Aglio e Olio (pasta with anchovies and garlic). You always have it in the pantry.”
AGLIO E OLIO
From “My Year in Meals,” by Rachael Ray (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2012).
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 to 10 anchovy fillets
5 or 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped
2 red Fresno chiles, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Melt the anchovy fillets into the oil, stirring until they break up and dissolve completely into the oil. Add the garlic and chiles. Reduce heat to low. Stir that a few minutes, then add the vermouth.
Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta to al dente. Before draining, ladle out about a cup of the starchy pasta-cooking water and add to the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce along with the parsley, tossing with tongs for 1 to 2 minutes for the flavors to absorb.
Note: Ray and her husband, John Cusimano, usually add a little black pepper “because we like things ridiculously spicy.”
Yield: 4 servings.