Recently, I interviewed Rachael Ray when she came through San Francisco to promote her ninth season on the air. She’d just been included in Fortune and Food & Wine’s new “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” list, largely for her incredible success at raising money for good causes (she’s raised more than $10 million for kids’ health and animal shelters). For the new season, she’s come up with a remarkable 9 Million Meals campaign to donate that number of meals to food pantries and soup kitchens in America.
In person, Rachael is warm and unpretentious and very focused. Also very tightly scheduled. She had time for exactly two questions.They went like this:
Margo True: Imagine you’re renting a house here in San Francisco and the host has left you a produce basket of tomatoes, purslane, padron peppers, fresh cranberry beans, and corn. What would you do with them?
Rachael Ray: Can I trade the purslane? For any other green? No bueno on purslane.
For the beans, I’d make a nice minestre [an aside: RR is coming out with an Italian cookbook next spring] with bay leaves, a little speck or guanciale, onions, chopped Tuscan kale, escarole, and dried porcini rehydrated in chicken stock. It’d be smoky and earthy.
For the tomatoes, I’d do a stuffed roasted tomato. I love anchovy breadcrumbs—with tons of olive oil, panko, garlic, parsley. These are Grandpa’s anchovy breadcrumbs. They’re great on artichokes, too. We’d have them for Christmas. You boil them in acidulated water with a dishtowel over so they don’t get brown. Then you scoop out the chokes and put in the breadcrumbs, and roast in the oven until the leaves curl back. They look like Christmas stars when you’re done.
MT: Wow! I’m going to try that. Now for the next question—
RR: —but I haven’t told you about the corn! You do it with fettuccine or tagliatelle. Scrape it down off the cob and use some butter, onion, garlic, chile, pecorino AND parmigiano. Toss the whole thing together. So sweet and delicious!
MT: My. It sounds great. Here’s my second question: What kind of edible souvenir will you take with you when you leave San Francisco?
RR: [slightly abashed] Well, it’s edible, but it’s for my dog. At the airport, I always find a stuffed animal with beans inside for Isaboo. As soon as I get in the door, she rips its little head off.
MT: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
RR: Great to meet you.
[We pose for a fast photo. The next interviewer hops onto the stage. I hop off. Hey, Rach, I hope you raise your 9 million and then some.]