An Italian Meal for Autumn

Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Wild Mushrooms and Shaved Vegetable Salad

Women have traditionally had a rough time in the kitchens of American restaurants. And it's even worse in France, where many of them have gone to train.

Catherine Brandel, who trained as an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley, is a case in point. When she went to work in French kitchens, her native competence and her experience working in the Napa Valley assisting legendary French chefs who came to teach at the Robert Mondavi Winery meant that she was given kitchens to direct. But she was discouraged from working on the stove, which was reserved for men.

Even after becoming chef of Chez Panisse—the Berkeley restaurant many consider to be the best in America—when Brandel would travel with a male assistant hotels would show him to the room with the welcoming flowers and champagne.

Brandel took and takes it all with good humor and down-to-earth practicality—qualities that serve her well as a chef-instructor at the new Napa Valley campus of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, a spectacular former winery. There she imparts hard-won wisdom to students and shows them some of her natural approach to cooking, in which simplicity and the best ingredients count for all.

Here are two of Brandel's recipes from the new Great Women Chefs by Julie Stillman (Turner Publishing, $29.95), a collection of stories about how several dozen American women have fared as chefs in traditionally male preserves. It's also full of recipes, including the ones below—both of which would be welcome at any Thanksgiving table or winter supper.

Ricotta Gnocchi
with Roasted Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6-8


1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms, such as cepes, morels, or chanterelles
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or herbs of your choice)
2-4 tablespoons juice from roasted chicken or game bird (optional)


1/2 pound ricotta cheese, drained
2 large eggs
Scant pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1-2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
Salt &freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

To make mushrooms: Preheat oven to 375&deg F.

If mushrooms are dry and not gritty, brush or wipe them clean. If they are very wet, hard to brush, or gritty, fill a deep bowl with water, plunge the mushrooms into the water and agitate them with your hands. Lift the mushrooms out of the water and drain. Repeat the process with clean water until the mushrooms are clean. (You should never have to do this with cepes.)

Cut mushrooms into half-inch wedges or chunks. Place in a baking pan, season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with olive oil, wine, thyme sprigs or other herbs, and bird juices, if using. Cover and roast 30-40 minutes.

When a good deal of juice has rendered, pour the juice into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by one-third. Set aside.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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