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Friday, December 2, 2011

50 Women Game Changers in Food - #26 Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray - Spaghetti al Limone





River Café Kitchen




River Café Restaurant


From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The River Café in London was founded in 1987 by Ruth Rogers and her partner Rose Gray. The café was originally opened to feed employees of Rogers' husband, the architect Lord Richard Rogers, following the move of his company to a Thames Wharf complex where there were no restaurants in which to eat. Despite an age difference, the women had common political interests and moved in the same social circles, so, during the 1970's, they quite easily moved from nodding acquaintance to friendship. They also shared a love of food and their collaboration led to the creation of a Michelin star restaurant and six best selling cookbooks that can all be found here. In the process, their emphasis on fresh and seasonal ingredients changed the way London ate and brought the flavors of authentic Italian home cooking to a city that had been buried in steam table noodles and red sauce. While neither woman was a trained chef, they shared cooking responsibilities in the restaurant kitchen and they are credited with training young men and women who went on to become some of Britain's finest chefs. Both Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall apprenticed in their kitchen, as did April Bloomfield who is now co-owner of the Spotted Pig in New York City. Despite their native talent, much of the early success accorded to the River Café can be attributed to their stellar social connections and the left-wing glitterati that graced their tables when the restaurant first opened. The women, who both loved Italian food, set high standards for their kitchen and liked to think of their restaurant as another region of Italy. Rogers, who believes that discipline gives you freedom, learned to cook as a student, using Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as her text. That influence, with its insistence on precision and detail, can be seen in the River Café cookbooks. Like her partner, Rose Gray was self-taught as a chef. She was the maternal presence and influence at the restaurant and her children still work there. Prior to Rose's death in 2010, both women traveled often and extensively throughout Italy, searching for ideas, techniques and recipes that could be used in the restaurant kitchen. Some say the restaurant is in decline. I can't speak to that, but I can tell you it has held on to its Michelin star and has, by any measure, had a great run. Rogers and Gray are in position 26 on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in food.

The sheer number of recipes that have been developed by these women made it really difficult to select one that represents their body of work. Their most famous recipe is a flourless cake called the Chocolate Nemesis. The cake is not difficult to make but it is fickle and has developed a reputation for see-saw results that can be less than stellar in appearance. I decided to take a pass. Cowardly, I'll admit, but coming off the holiday I'm not up to high drama this week. My final choice was one of their simpler recipes, a classic pasta that's dressed with little other than lemon, olive oil and cheese. I've not had good luck with other versions of this recipe. I've found the lemon flavor to be quite harsh and not at all to my liking. I'm glad I stepped once more into the fray. Their version of the recipe, which comes from Genoa, Italy, is quite pleasant. The only trick is to use smaller lemons and no more than 1/2 cup juice. The lemon zest can carry the flavor burden in the pasta. The spaghetti makes a wonderful light supper, but it is also a natural to serve with chicken Parmesan or Sicilian sausage. Here's the recipe.

Spaghetti al Limone...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray

Ingredients:
9-oz. spaghetti
juice of 3 to 4 lemons, the freshest possible
optional: the zest (the grated, colored part of the peel) of some of those lemons
2/3 cup, olive oil
1-1/2 cups, Parmesan cheese - freshly grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano if possible)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves - chopped


Directions:
1) In a generous amount of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti just until al dente, then drain it thoroughly and return it to the hot (empty) pan.
2) Meanwhile, beat the lemon juice with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan until the mixture is thick and creamy. The Parmesan will melt into the mixture. Season, and add more lemon juice to taste.
3) Add the sauce to the hot, drained spaghetti and toss gently or shake the pan so that each strand is coated with the cheese. Finally, stir in the chopped basil and, ideally, some grated lemon zest. Yield: 6 servings

Cooks Note: I used 16-oz. of spaghetti rather than the 9-oz. called for in the recipe. I used 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest in the sauce which was seasoned with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I measured 2 loosely packed cups of basil prior to cutting. Additional cheese and red pepper flakes were passed at the table.

The following bloggers are also featuring the recipes of Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray today. I hope you'll visit all of them. They are great cooks who have wonderful blogs.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Joanne - Eats Well With Others, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed Susan - The Spice Garden, Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette - Healthy Living, April - Abby Sweets
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud, Mary - One Perfect Bite, Kathleen - Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds, Amy - Beloved Green, Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Linda A - There and Back Again, Martha - Lines from Linderhof, Nancy - Picadillo
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Annie - Most Lovely Things, Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook


Next week we will highlight the career and recipes of Anne Willan. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information no later than Monday, December 5th.

44 comments:

mia xara said...

Very flavorful pasta dish,Mary!! Can't wait to try it!! XO

Ginny said...

This looks so good, and easy, I'm going to try it. I have made a few recipes like this, and they taste good, but they turn very gummy and sticky. The picture of the kitchen looks so futuristic, like something from The Jetsons, and the dining room almost does, I love the big clock!

Biren @ Roti n Rice said...

The pasta sounds so light yet flavorful. I like that it is easy to put together too. Beautiful dining room - elegant and futuristic!

Cindy said...

Beautiful pics, Mary. I popped in to tell you that there is a South African company using your fork & salad photo in their advertising. Email me if you want a screen grab.

titty said...

Piatto fresco e gustoso, adoro il limone ; )

Taryn (Have Kitchen, Will Feed) said...

Beautifully done, Mary!

claire said...

looks absolutely amazing! hope you had a great thanksgiving! can you believe it is already dec 1?! ah!

Michelle said...

Hi Mary! Thanks for visiting my blog!! I can't wait to dive into yours!! :)

Foodycat said...

That's a great choice. I have a couple of River Cafe cookbooks, and I have been very happy with the dishes I have cooked. Very simple but big flavours.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Sounds delicious. Once again, I have enjoyed learning about innovative and creative women! Love the line about Rogers believing that discipline gives you freedom... one of my favorite paradoxes. Have a wonderful day, Mary. blessings ~ tanna

Barbara said...

Great post, Mary. And you chose a perfect pasta dish!

Rita said...

I just bought some lemon Olive oil that I am sure would really compliment this recipe. Looks so good Mary. I want to try this one.
Rita

Becki's Whole Life said...

What a cool looking restaurant/cafeteria. It looks so futuristing, how fun! Love this simple yet flavorful and fresh recipe. Lemon and pasta is such a great pair!

That Girl said...

That space is gorgeous.

Kim said...

Oh, you are pleasing me with this gorgueous recipe this morning. I really love lemon spaghettis, it's the meal I'm preparing to myself when I feel blue! Yummy!

Sofia.Lopez said...

Hello Mary,
I would love to learn and work in that restaurant...thank you for sharing.:)
This receip were perfect to show us the flavour and simplicity that italian kitchen are full of...but i'm very curious about that flourless cake ;)
I will try this spaghetti but without the zest, i think for me it's better only with the juice ;)
Big kiss for you Mary and have a really nice weekend...

Heather @ girlichef.com said...

Such a beautiful dish...I love the rustic, charming simplicity of it. Although now I can't stop dreaming of the Chocolate Nemesis... ;)

Jeanette said...

Thanks for sharing the photos of The River Cafe - spectacular inside. This pasta recipe sounds nice and light - thanks for the tips on the size of the lemons and amount of lemon juice. I think lemons here in the U.S. are sometimes oversized.

ButterYum said...

Very similar to my Garlic Lemon and Parm Pasta, only I use parsley instead of basil (which I'll try soon). Lovely photos.

http://butteryum.blogspot.com/2011/03/lemon-garlic-and-parm-pasta.html

Have a wonderful weekend,
ButterYum

Sue/the view from great island said...

If I could only eat one dish for the rest of my life, this would be it. Great post on the ladies, and I think this pasta perfectly illustrates their style. I can imagine the lemons plucked right from the tree and the fresh pressed olive oil going into it. It's funny because I just made pasta with lemon and garlic and was planning to write it up it was so good. I'll have to do a taste comparison.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm still drooling over your enchiladas!

Kathy said...

Mary, A wonderful post to represent these two wonderful women. I chose to make their Pistachio cake. It was lovely, moist and delicious. Your Spaghetti al Limone looks and sounds fantastic!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I enjoy the flavor of lemon so much and use it often at the end of preparing a dish to bring out flavor. This simple pasta dish sounds so good and I can't wait to try it.

Claudia said...

It's extraordinary how so often simple trumps complicated. And how simple, fresh ingredients never go out of style. I also have tried versions of this - which were fine but not extraordinary so you know I will be trying this. A perfect accompaniment to a chicken cutlet.

jo-lyn said...

my mouth literally watered when i read this! i so want to try this! :) thnx!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

It's amazing to see how few ingredients you need to turn out a delicious dish when you think you've got nothing in the house. I've always wanted to give this one a try and now I have more incentive.

Clint said...

This looks to be excellent as a light repast. Maybe wash it down with some chardonnay?

Kath said...

I adore Spaghetti al Limone! This version looks wonderful!

Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits said...

Mary,
You really found some beautiful pictures of the kitchen. I'm going to have to try the pasta. It certainly sounds unusual so it must be good.

Lauren @ hey, who cut the cheese? said...

This pasta dish look so good, and so simple!

bellini said...

This spaghetti dish exepmlifies their cooking style, simple and full of flavour. A very interesting read Mary!

Kim, USA said...

This just made me drool. Just awesome!

Georgia said...

looks delicious!
-Georgia

http://swonderfulgd.blogspot.com/

sweetcarolinescooking.com said...

Now I would love to try out that restaurant, it looks too cool! Obviously the food is wonderful as well, if the restaurant has a Michelin star. Very impressive. That pasta looks delicious, too. x

Stephanie said...

Looks like simple perfection to me!

betty said...

I always enjoy a citrus flavor on my pasta, something that isn't too strong, your recipe seems really good and it sure looks delicious

Joanne said...

I don't really feel up to high drama either, which is why I went with a simple soup. This lemony pasta sounds so comforting!

David said...

Mary, This pasta dish sounds terrific! I like it because it sounds flavorful and, at the same time, relatively healthy... Thanks and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Nancy said...

Mary, I ended up cooking Spagetti al LImone too and I'm so glad I did. It was simple and delicious. Great pics; what a kitchen!

Diana said...

Mary, this recipe is simple and has one of my favorite ingredients... lemon. Definitely will be one for to try, soon. Thank you.

lostpastremembered said...

This got bookmarked right away as I am a lemon addict. The recipe I currently use has cream... this is a lovely change... many thanks!!!

Miranda said...

The photos of the River Cafe are amazing. I love lemon pasta - this sounds perfect!

Deb in Hawaii said...

I love lemony pasta--especially when it isn't too harsh and has a delicate lemon flavor. I will definitely give this one a try. ;-)

CC11 said...

Oh yum!

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