Ruth Wright makes Farmers Market Apple Crisp
Doesn't every good cook have a kitchen drawer, a box or a folder stuffed with recipes they've clipped out but never tried?
Ruth Wright did, but during a three-month cooking spree late last year she plowed her way through a 5-by-5-by-3-inch box packed with good intentions clipped from magazines, newspapers and pamphlets.
She sorted them by category, shuffled them together to make whole meals and threw herself into the cooking process lock, (chicken) stock and garlic press.
"Once I got started, it was like I was driven," laughs Ruth. "I'll bet you I was at the store every day. I had the best-stocked kitchen after all this."
In the end, Ruth tossed the losers, roughly half the collection, into the circular file and kept the rest, including a handful that are so good she makes over and over for her and husband, Keith.
"Best of all, it gave me ideas about what foods I liked best with what kind of fresh herbs," she says.
She learned that basil takes the edge off oregano; she found interesting recipes for coriander and learned that it comes from the cilantro plant. She discovered how good vegetables are with basil and she developed an eye for planning the week's menus so she would use up those rather pricey, little packages of herbs.
"It became a game for me after a while," she says.
When her recipes called for a pinch of this or that herb, she started adding three or four times as much and cutting back on salt.
"I was amazed at how little salt I used because of the herbs," she says. "They build flavor in a different way."
None of this enthusiasm and energy would surprise those who know Ruth. A septuagenarian with the energy of two 35-year-olds, she never does anything half way.
"Everything interests me, especially if there's a creative element," she says. "Give me an idea and I get sucked right in."
A longtime member and current curator of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society, and a member of the local Historic Preservation Commission, she lives in a 1907 "four-square," the second owners in 103 years. The couple is involved in mission work through First United Method Church of Glen Ellyn and will travel to Appalachia with the youth group.
A former teacher from elementary though college level, Ruth was coordinator of the gifted program in Schaumburg Dist. 54 and still tests students applying for Northwestern University. With that kind of schedule, she says, "I go off cooking, then I go on a really long binge" that includes dinner parties and puttering around with new recipes.
Each summer she finds time to donate to the Glen Ellyn Historical Society's bake sale her signature apple crisp, made with a sugar substitute.
Look for Ruth's fruit crisps, while supplies last, at the historical society's booth at the Glen Ellyn Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 16, Aug. 6 and Aug. 20 at the Main Street parking lot.
A vegetable lover since childhood, she's always on the prowl for new and different produce. Today she gives us two intriguing possibilities.
In the meantime, Ruth is busy refilling that recipe box for the next cooking spree.
"I cannot go through any publication without cutting out a dozen or so recipes to try."
- Laura Bianchi