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The queen of EVOO launches new book
Food Network star Rachael Ray signs copies of her new book, 'My Year in Meals,' for fans at Wegmans

 Karen Watts (left) and her daughter, Molly Watts (right) look over the latest Rachael Ray cookbook while waiting to meet the celebrity chef at Wegmans Sunday evening.
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Date published: 12/12/2012

BY KATIE THISDELL

Rachael Ray's go-to meal on late nights is Aglio e Olio, a simple pasta dish with anchovies, oil and garlic.

With a well-stocked pantry, she can whip up pastas and soups with no advanced preparation--even after the busiest of days, she said this weekend in Fredericksburg.

It's exactly that ease of cooking that has made the Food Network star and cookbook author a household name.

"She's just a real person. She just tells real people how to cook real food that looks good," said fan Beth Seidler, of Stafford.

Ray signed copies of her latest book, "My Year in Meals," for hundreds of fans Sunday at Wegmans in Central Park.

Many credited Ray as their inspiration to get into the kitchen more often and to use new ingredients.

Among them were friends Sharon Babineau and Lesley Moore of Fredericksburg.

"She's like, the biggest fan," Moore said, pointing to Babineau, who stood with a full bag of Ray's books as she waited to meet the celebrity, whose plane had been delayed.

The pair of women, who had a ticket with the letter F to indicate their spot in line, said Ray seems genuine and enthusiastic.

Babineau first heard of Ray when cooking with her mother-in-law years ago. She wondered why she kept putting trash in a bowl on the counter--Babineau learned that's one of the many practical tips Ray shares during her shows, including the popular "30 Minute Meals."

"She's the one that inspired me to branch out," said Babineau, who tried jicama after learning about it from Ray.

The TV personality, who grew up in her family's restaurants but has no formal training, has nearly two dozen cookbooks to her name. She describes "My Year in Meals" as her most memorable.

Flip the book over, and you'll find 100 cocktail recipes from her husband, John Cusimano.

"It's certainly the most personal and the largest book ever, and we've never done anything like this, sharing so much of our family and our home life in a book," Ray, 44, said Sunday.

She points inside the front cover to pictures of hand-written journals--the behind-the-scenes work for the cookbook and part of her longtime daily routine.


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RACHAEL RAY's Q&A

Why Wegmans? She visited her first store in upstate New York years ago. "I just think they're a remarkable organization--they're wonderful."

On Virginia: "The whole state is friendly, and good eaters."

Where will you eat in Fredericksburg? "I was just going to have room service tonight--we've been going out the last couple nights. And on Sunday I like to watch "Homeland," so I think we'll grab something quick at the hotel."

What's a great holiday gift? "I think it's a wonderful thing to make whatever you make best--lasagna, brownies--and make it in a dish that you don't mind gifting, and then leave the dish as the gift. Who doesn't need a meal or a dessert taken care of for them? And it's a great thing for a whole family."

Do you ever just want a frozen dinner? "I make meals ahead just like on a 'Week in a Day' show, many nights I go home and just turn on the stove. But it's my food. No frozen meals unless it's mine."

She and her husband also eat takeout occasionally--especially pizza and Thai.

Want to make dinner for me? "I wish I could! I'm sort of missing my kitchen because I've been out of it a couple days now."

--Katie Thisdell

AGLIO E OLIO

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Makes 4 servings

cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) 8 to 10 anchovy fillets 5 or 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped cup dry vermouth 2 red Fresno chiles, seeded and finely choppedSalt 1 pound spaghetti cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped Black pepper

Cook's note: During her book signing, Rachael Ray said this was one of her go-to meals. She also recommends using lemon-flavored spaghetti. Directions: 1. Bring large pot of water to boil 2. Meanwhile, in skillet, heat EVOO over medium heat. Melt anchovy fillets into oil, stirring anchovies until they break up and dissolve completely into oil. Add garlic and chiles; reduce heat to low. Stir a few minutes, then add vermouth. 3. Salt boiling water and cook pasta to al dente. 4. Before draining, ladle out about a cup of starchy pasta cooking water and add to sauce. 5. Drain pasta and add to sauce along with parsley, tossing with tongs for 1 to 2 minutes for flavors to absorb. John and I usually add a little black pepper as well because we like things ridiculously spicy. Recipe from: Rachael Ray's "My Year in Meals"

WHOLE-GRAIN SPICED WAFFLES

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Makes 4 servings

teaspoon ground ginger teaspoon ground cinnamon teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg A pinch of ground cloves 2 cups whole-grain waffle mix 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus some for brushing the waffle iron 1 egg, beaten 1 to 2 cups 2% milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to cup chopped toasted pecans

Cook's note: Rachael Ray shares several variations of waffles throughout her book, such as topped with blackberries and warm, dark amber maple syrup. She usually serves them with baked bacon. ("Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange a pound of bacon in a single layer on a slotted broiler pan. Bake until crispy, 15 to 18 minutes.") Directions: 1. Heat waffle iron. ("I use mine at the highest setting.") 2. Mix spices into waffle mix. Add butter, egg, and enough milk to get a consistency that is just pourable--start with 1 cups milk; if mixture is too thick to pour, add more milk. Pour in vanilla and pecans. 3. Liberally brush hot waffle iron with melted butter. Fill with enough waffle mix to just cover nubs. Cook waffles until crisp. Recipe from: Rachael Ray's "My Year in Meals"