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The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook

Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center

Written by Nadia NataliAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Nadia Natali
Illustrated by Marica Natali ThompsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Marica Natali Thompson

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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
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Synopsis|Excerpt|Table of Contents

Synopsis

The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook, based on Cooking Off the Grid, also by Nadia Natali, blends 126 tasty, healthful recipes with lively tales of the Natali family’s adventures living close to the land—in the wilds of California’s Los Padres National Forest. Nadia Natali's varied dishes, suitable for any group or family, are presented in a simple style that makes them both visually appealing and effortless, as a sequence of ingredients that correspond to numbered directions. Each chapter opens with a vivid account of the family’s trials and triumphs at Blue Heron Ranch, followed by a particular category of recipes, arranged in seven groupings. Whimsical illustrations adorn the recipes and embellish the sometimes poignant, often hilarious stories about raising a family in the wilderness, running a meditation center, and facing nature’s seemingly endless challenges—with the Blue Heron Ranch kitchen being the center around which these events unfold. Recipes include Blue Heron Ranch Potato Leek Soup, Saturday Market Quiche, Miso Pine Salmon, Ojai Bouillabaisse, Early Morning Rice Cream, Aunt Ev’s Cardamom Bundt Cake, and Honey Almond Chai. The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook offers culinary and spiritual sustenance to anyone who wants to experience, or revisit, the pleasures of comforting, communal meals at Zen and other retreat centers.

Excerpt

From the Preface:

Ten miles north of Ojai, at the end of a very long road in Matilija (pronounced Ma-til-i-ha) Canyon, lies Blue Heron Ranch. It nestles within the Los Padres National Forest in southern California. Here we, the Natali family, have faced fires, floods, bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes. We built a home, raised a family of three children, and have run a modest Zen center and fed a myriad of visitors for twenty-five years. This cookbook was inspired by the many individuals who visited our center and encouraged me to write about the meals prepared for our retreats.

Interspersed with the recipes, I’ve included stories about Blue Heron’s beginnings and how it has evolved. In addition to the recipes and stories, I’ve offered tips on cooking for a crowd and fresh ideas that you can use for weekend visits of friends or family members. Or perhaps you’re starting your own retreat center! You’ll find a good sequence of meals to serve to a small group over a weekend, along with helpful shopping lists.

My daughter Marica has drawn the piquant and charming illustrations, her vision and version of our family and life as she grew up on Blue Heron Ranch.

I cordially invite you to enter our home, by way of this book, and share in our meals and our stories.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 8
Preface 9
Introduction 11
Menus for Family Gatherings/Retreats 13
Food and Supply List 16

Our Arrival 19
Vegetarian Dinners 23
My Favorite Tomato Sauce 24
Grandma Elizabeth’s Polenta 25
Lasagna from Enrico’s Family 26
Lasagna Layering 27
Matilija Manicotti 28
Pizza with Goat Cheese 29
Seasoned Rice 30
Blue Heron Beans 31
Adzuki Beans and Rice 32
Black Bean Enchiladas 33
Ojai Chili 34
Sauteed Vegetables with Rice 35
Special Vegetables with Almonds 36
Vincenzo’s Risotto 37
Carrots and Tofu 39
Lentils and Mint 40
Curried Lentils 41
California Split Pea Dahl 42
Pucci’s Potato and Egg Curry 43
Sunday Stuffed Potatoes 44
Spinach and Anaheim Chilies 46
Baked Eggplant 47
Saturday Market Quiche 48
Garden Vegetable Quiche 49

Fish and Chicken Dinners 51
Kobun’s Rice Balls 53
Miso Pine Salmon 54
Escolar 55
Millennium Paella 56
Chicken with Chard and Noodles 58
Francis’s Chicken and Curry 59
Westport Pineapple Chicken 60
Apple-Baked Chicken 61
November Stuffing 63

The Floods 65
Soups and Stews 69
—Vegetarian
Simply Miso Soup 70
Rainy Day Tofu Soup 71
Blue Heron Ranch Potato Leek Soup 72
Cross-Country Lentil Soup 73
Garbanzo Soup with Tomato 74
Winter Minestrone 75
—Chicken and Fish
Southwest Chicken Stew 76
San Francisco Chicken Stew 77
Blue Heron Chicken Stew 78
Rainy Day Chicken Noodle Soup 79
Ojai Bouillabaisse 81
—Chilled
Summer Borsch 82
Avocado and Cucumber Soup 83
Marica’s Gazpacho 84
Poor Man’s Gazpacho 84
Yogurt Soup 86

Our Teepee 89
Salads and Dressings 93
Frankie ’s Salad Dressing 94
Blue Heron Salad Dressing 95
Baby Green Salad 96
Sackets Harbor Summer Salad 97
Santa Barbara Salad Variation 97
Cool Cucumber Salad 98
Potato and Bell Pepper Salad 99
Mixed Bean Salad 100
Rice Salad 101
My Roasted Red Bell Peppers 102
Goat Cheese Salad 103
Cloved Fruit Compote 104
Two Fruit Salads 105
Raita Salad 106

Fire 109
Breads and Muffins 113
Whole Wheat Bread 114
Rosemary Corn Bread 117
Garlic Bread 118
Tortillas from South America 119
Naan from India 119
Banana Bread 120
Weiner Sisters’ Popovers 122
Golden Scones 123
Marica’s Biscuits 124
Quick Ginger Molasses Muffins 125

Breakfast 127
Sunday Pancakes 128
Hearty Breakfast Crepes 129
Delectable French Toast 130
Birthday Waffles 131
Sesshin Oatmeal 132
Early Morning Rice Cream 133
Home-Baked Granola 134

Home Schooling 137
Puddings and Custards 141
Black Bear Apricot Pudding 142
Andrei’s Favorite Bread Pudding 144
Brown Rice Custard 145
Coconut Rice Pudding 146
Mexican Rice Pudding 146
Mocha Mousse 147
Zabaglione Cassis 148

Pies 151
Two Delicious Pie Crusts 152
Blue Heron Apple Pie 153
Blueberry Peach Pie 154
Persian Mulberry Peach Pie 155
Genevieve ’s Lemon Meringue Pie 157
Mitzi’s Chocolate Pecan Pie 158
Autumn Pumpkin Pie 159
Apple Crunch 160

Living Off the Grid 163
Cookies 167
Cardamom Cookies 168
Blue Heron Chocolate Chip Cookies 169
Genevieve ’s Butter Walnut Cookies 170

Cakes 173
Aunt Ev’s Cardamom Bundt Cake 174
Lemon Cranberry Bundt Cake 175
Chocolate Marble Bundt Cake 176
Chocolate Apple Sauce Cake 177
Birthday Coconut Cake 179
Persian Mulberry Cake with Goat Cheese 180
June Apricot Cake 181
Pear Upside-Down Cake 182
Meyer Lemon Half-Pound Cake 183
Carob Coconut Brownies 184
Tiramochamisu or Tiramintmisu Cake 185
Vincenzo and Kana’s Wedding Cake 186
Wedding Cake Filling and Icing 187

Our Zen Center 189
Sauces 193
Ginger Honey Sauce 194
Matilija Tamari Sauce 194
Ojai Lemon Sauce 195
Green Enchilada Sauce 196
Pesto Lemon Sauce 197
Mushroom Garlic Sauce 198
Marinated Ginger 199
Desert Hummus Sauce 200
Festive Cranberry Sauce 202
Frankie ’s Hot Fudge on Ice Cream 203

Drinks 205
Robin’s Chai 206
Teepee Hot Cider 207
4th of July Lemonade 208
Christine ’s Punch 209
Honey Almond Chai 210

In Remembrance of Andrei 213

Index 217
Praise

Praise

“Not only are the recipes in this book delicious and easy to follow, the story that accompanies the recipes is both fascinating and lyrical—a real life triumph in a world that needs to know of these possibilities and victories. The illustrations are inspired and stylistically magical. Kudos to this mother/daughter team for creating such a fabulous read for all of us looking not only for a new culinary experience, but love at the table. I have given this book to five different people as gifts, and I have received a glowing phone call and review from each of them, along with their thanks.”
—Christine Denney, chef, The Ranch House, Ojai, California

“How fondly I remember my days on the construction crew of Blue Heron Ranch. When we were hungry, we ate—when thirsty, we drank. Lucky for us, Nadia usually did the cooking! Now, lucky for you, she’s written a cookbook of hearty meals and heartfelt stories!”
—Jim Tolpin, author of The New Family Home and The New Cottage Home

“Natali’s simple, wholesome, and practical dishes are the result of long hours in the kitchen and can be adapted to serve two or twenty. Recipes are complemented by charming illustrations by one of her daughters and her short reflections on the joys and challenges of living in the Californian wilderness.”
Shambhala Sun

“Each of the dishes, dressings and desserts are explained in a manner that is clear and concise, and should be easily followed by everyone, from the culinary beginner to the expert chef. While most of the dishes are fairly simple to make, many are rare and adventurous enough to satiate even a seasoned palate.”
—Nao Braverman, Ojai Valley News

“Nadia Natali tells of her family and life’s work, while sharing the recipes that have sustained both for 30 years. Colorful drawings animate the narrative and garnish tempting delicacies like Ojai bouillabaisse and June apricot cake.”
Santa Barbara Seasons magazine

“[The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook] is not only a cookbook but a story…The illustrations are darling… warm and whimsical. And the recipes are down to earth and delicious."
Naptime Reviews

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