Gift Ideas: My Kitchen Year & Gjelina

Editor’s note: Linda Avery is in a gift-giving frame of mind, and has two choices for the food lovers on your holiday list. Read on to see if one of these new cookbooks fits your gift list recipients.


My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life
by Ruth Reichl
Food Photographs © Melissa DiPalms

Facts: Random House 352 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $23.37, Kindle $14.99)
Photos: Lots!
Recipes: 136
Buy for: For the reader who loves to cook or the cook who loves to read:

Ruth Reichl’s world was rocked when Condé Nast announced shutting down Gourmet Magazine in the fall of 2009. She asked “What about the December issue?” The December issue, Gourmet’s notorious five cookie cover issue. Yes, it had one cover atop another because the cookies were so gorgeous… it was already at the printer.

The response she received was blunt: “November is our last issue.”


In “The Kitchen Year,” Reichl tells her story of a year healing and figuring things out. She, as with many of us, found solace in the kitchen where there is time to think, time to heal, and time to create. The narrative is interspersed with the recipes. Reichl wasn’t going for sympathy, simply telling her story. I must admit, however, having a tear in my eye when, during that year — on top of everything else — her “Epicurean cat” of seventeen years died.

The book is divided by season and, as you might expect, contains a lot of comfort food recipes. Included are her version of the expected cheese-based dishes, egg-based dishes, pastas and pies, but also, creative I-really-need-that recipes for Vietnamese Caramelized Pork, Painless Pasta for Three, and Eggplant and Arugula Sandwich. Finish with Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel, or Roasted Winter Strawberries with Ice Cream.

The book — and the recipes — are classic Reichl, filled with warm imagery through words.

Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California
by Travis Lett
Photography by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott

Facts: Chronicle Books, 288 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $19.25, Kindle $14.99)
Photos: Over 175
Recipes: Over 150
Buy for: For the cook who loves Ottolenghi but ready to get a bit more complicated, or anyone who appreciates a beautifully written and photographed cookbook:


“Gjelina epitomizes grain-and-vegetable-centric, globally inspired cuisine.” The dustcover speaks of Gjelina (the restaurant) and I reminded myself to be even-minded, however much I like grain/vegetable centric. But it was more than being grain/vegetable centric that drew me into this book.

The photography is fabulous. First Chef Lett gives credit to his staff via eight pages of fun photos – somewhere between a happy family and the best high school yearbook ever.  Following, almost every dish has been artistically and beautifully photographed. I could almost taste the combinations of flavor as I read the recipes.

Lett’s headnotes are insightful. He talks about texture, what the dish pairs well with, how you might change up the recipe, and the juxtaposition of certain ingredients that add to the character of the dish. He gently cautions as to when an ingredient can overpower a dish, and when to use an ingredient liberally based on your tastes.

The book is comprised of nine generic chapters from Condiments & Pickles thru Salads, Pizzas, Vegetables… ending with Fish, Meat, and Dessert. But the recipes within those chapters are anything but generic: Grilled Kale with Shallot-Yogurt Dressing & Toasted Hazelnuts, Pizza with Guanciale, Castelvetrano Olives & Fresno Chile, Braised Chickpeas with Pomegranate & Feta, Sardines Baked in Tomato-Pepper Sauce, Guajillo-Glazed Lamb Ribs…. It goes on and on until the last recipe under Desserts: Warm Date Cake with Ginger Gelato. (No drooling on your computer).

Gwen has been to Gjelina, and I asked her about the experience.

“It’s no surprise to me that the book is gorgeous — the restaurant certainly is. My best friend took me to Gjelina for lunch for my birthday. It was simply amazing. Rustic plates bursting with flavor. So I’m thrilled Chef Lett has penned a book to capture some of that magic. Here are a couple images from my lunch. The left is a smashed potato salad with pickled red onions and dill, and the right picture is a wild greens and tomato confit pizza with bottarga.” — Gwen


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