This post and the recipe for Lemon-Cumin Dal, from my book Ruhlman's Twenty, has been updated today April 7, 2020.
"You're not going to be happy," Bill said. Bill was the editor of Ruhlman's Twenty, the guy who more or less line-drived it into play. I was meeting him at Chronicle's offices for the first time.
"Twenty's going to be sold out."
"I thought you printed a lot of copies."
"It's December 1st, Bill—this is, like, the biggest book-buying month of the year."
Which is why he said I was going to be unhappy. It wasn't even on Kindle yet (which is how I usually read my copy today, because of the search function).
And which is why I'm printing one of my favorite recipes from the book below. And re-promoting it as a Superlative and Timeless Work of Culinary Artistry, as fun to read in bed as it is to cook from. Watch the video some woman I don't know posted to Amazon (no, she's not my mom), better than anything I could do. Or read the unsolicited praise below.
This is a book I cherish. If you want to win a free signed copy, you have to watch the public service announcement video. Can only ship within the U.S., sorry. But you still have to watch the video. Just kidding. Not really.
Sample comments from Amazon mainly 5-star below (though there was one really snippy one not included here, obviously, by a woman who was offended, yes, offended when I responded to her comments; as though she's allowed to review me but I'm not allowed to review her. Sheesh, some people.)
I am a big fan of his books and his blog. Time and again, I have seminal moments of my life as a cook that involve his work. So it is no surprise that I stayed up late one night to read TWENTY and then immediately started in on the recipes. The book is nothing short of brilliant.
–Ellen Malloy, restaurant publicist and trained chef
As a cookbook reviewer, I occasionally come across exceptional cookbooks. Ruhlman’s Twenty is a truly exceptional one. Whether you are a total novice or an advanced home cook with an extensive library, this book is a superb addition to your kitchen shelf. This is not really a cookbook, rather a cooking instructional text with great supporting photo illustrations. If you learn all about the 20 techniques Ruhlman carefully describes and D. T. Ruhlman illustrates, your cooking is likely to improve by several levels.
Each chapter focuses on a key element of cooking, and then culminates in pertinent recipes that reiterate the chapter. Each recipe has pictures that are step-by-step. The “teach and then do” approach is not much different than the way a traditional high school Chemistry book would be set up. However, this time it is much more colorful and tasty!
For fans of Ruhlman, the book is much more colorful than Elements of Cooking, and more thorough than Ratio. This makes it my favorite book by him so far, and probably one of my favorite books to use in the kitchen. For everyone short of a professional chef, this book has something to teach them.
I’m a fairly experienced cook, and wanted to improve my skills. Additionally, my daughter, who’s 20, is learning to cook. I bought both of us a copy, and have found it to be a virtual cooking class for nearly every aspect of cuisine.… I’ve enjoyed not only my new skills and recipes, but also seeing her skills blossom. This is, without a doubt, the very best cookbook in my collection.
As a professional chef, cookbook collector, and someone who just cooks for fun this is the most intriguing book about food I've read in 20 years. Today was my day off, and I went into the kitchen with a different way of thinking about what I was cooking. Thank you–I had so much fun, and great imagination.
As an obsessed cook and amateur musician, I'm struck by how often good cooking and good music seem to follow the same rules. Yes, we practice until our arms ache and our taste buds rebel, and yes, we sweat the details over and over. It's hard work, and we can get jaded—so we need a shake-up now and again: we need regularly to be pulled out of our practice routines and told, as my teacher patiently tells me, "Listen to what you are playing—don't just listen for mistakes, listen for music!" When Michael Ruhlman tells me to "THINK" I'm reminded to pay attention, ask questions about things I think I already know, and taste mindfully. And that makes for better food and a lot more fun in the kitchen!
And, by the way, the cured salmon is brilliant.
I rent most books from the library and have culled my significant cookbook collection down to just those that actually make it to my kitchen to help me learn more about cooking. I've been cooking professionally since 1999 so I read a lot of cookbooks and I try a lot of recipes. One of my pet peeves is poorly written recipes; and they abound. I'm already a fan of Michael Ruhlman since meeting him personally at a convention for personal chefs that I hosted as CEO of Personal Chefs Network in Charleston, SC. I've been an avid fan, following him like a stalker online and learning so much more about my craft. His first book, The French Laundry Cookbook, changed my idea about cooking and sits on my desk today as a reminder of the profound effect it had on my cooking career.
As soon as Ruhlman's Twenty came out, I purchased it and was amazed at what I found, and Donna's photography is simply amazing. To me, this book is equal to attending culinary school for the price of a book. My Cookbook Club is now cooking our way through it and I'm proud to say one of my friends actually made bacon! Everyone should be able to say, "I have a friend that made bacon!" The Dutch Oven Bread has led to an obsession and I can't stop making it. What I love most about his writing is well. written. recipes. that actually WORK in the home kitchen! Thank You. Thank You.
Michael, thanks again for supplying the culinary scene with another great work. You are indeed a lucky man to have found your niche so successfully. Cook on!
Thank you, all commenters, even Ms. Snippy. I always try to comment when I like something because honest, crowd-sourced comments really are valuable in the aggregate, and we need enough of them to counterbalance the paid-for, vindictive, competitor-written, and plain loony-tunes comments.
Happy holidays and happy cooking!
My favorite India dal, using mung beans and black-eyed peas, inspired by an Indian chemist who moved to Cleveland and opened a restaurant, The Saffron Patch.
- 1 cup mung beans, rinsed and picked over for unusable beans or inedibles
- ⅓ cup black-eyed peas
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp shaa jeera (optional but I think it's important)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder (I like it spicy; reduce if you do not)
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 cloves smashed with the flat side of a knife and chopped
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 3 tbls butter
- 2 tbls lemon juice
- ¼ cup picked cilantro
- In a medium saucepan, combine the beans and peas. Add 3 ½ cups/840 milliliters water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the water has reduced to the level of the beans and the beans are tender, 45 minutes.
- In a small dish, combine the cumin, kala jeera, turmeric, cayenne, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, garlic, and ginger. In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook until the frothing subsides and the butter has browned slightly. Add the spice mixture and sauté for 20 seconds or so. Stir into the dal. Bring the dal to a simmer, remove from the heat, and stir in the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon or salt as needed. Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.