The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook
Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center
Publication Date: July 29, 2008
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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.
Nadia Natali is a mother, a Zen practitioner, and a long-time cook for numerous Zen retreats on Blue Heron Ranch. The stories she tells of the triumphs and tragedies of her family’s life in the wilds of California’s Los Padres National Forest and her profound appreciation for the land are at the heart of her recipes. She has an M.A. in dance therapy and is working on a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She and her husband, photographer Enrico Natali, live in Ojai, CA.
“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.”
“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."