50 Women Game Changers in Food: Paula Wolfert (Week 25)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 24 brings us to Paula Wolfert.

This photo taken Friday, May 30, 2014, shows cookbook author Paula Wolfert with a bunch of kale at her home in Sonoma, Calif. Wolfert spent more than 50 years researching and writing about food. Now, she’s enlisting food as an ally in a fight to stay mentally sharp. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

I knew nothing about Paula Wolfert until this. I had never even heard of her. And the first thing I learned about her is that she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. Once she was diagnosed, she essentially ended her culinary career, so she could spend her time raising awareness for the horrible, horrible disease.

After reading this, I couldn’t really focus on the other things I learned about her (She was born in Brooklyn in 1938, went to Columbia University, dropped out & got married, moved with her husband to Morocco, became fascinated by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, got divorced, remarried, authored nine cookbooks). Here’s a fact about me: Alzheimer’s gives me nightmares. in 2007, both of my grandmothers, who had suffered with the horrible disease for years, passed away.

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My mom’s mother.

And I am beyond terrified that it will someday happen to me. I’m not trying to minimize the suffering that people with cancer, or any other horrible diseases go through, but I honestly can not think of a worse thing to go through, or to put your family through than Alzheimer’s. I’ll never forget my grandmother, who I saw literally every day, or every other day of my life, not knowing me anymore. Or not recognizing my mother (her only child). I’ll never forget the fear of my brother’s friend calling us and telling us that he found her walking down the street of a very bad neighborhood, very late at night. I’ll never forget when she got mean. She had moved in with us at that point, but really didn’t know us anymore. It was worse at night, and I remember sitting in my bedroom, crying in my boyfriends arms while she ranted, raved, used profanity I had NEVER heard her use. I remember when it finally got bad enough that my mom had to move into an assisted living home I was relieved.


My dad’s mom & myself

Paula Wolfert spent 40 years teaching people to cook. And now she has to look at the recipes she wrote, to remember how much cream to add to a dish. Things get overcooked. Her husband has to check behind her to make sure that appliances are turned off. She knows there is no cure, but she’s doing what she can to slow the process as much as possible.

“Wolfert knows that her condition has no cure. But once she was given a diagnosis, she looked to food to help — not just to keep her mind engaged, but also to see whether superfoods could buy her time: “My feeling is, accept that it is what it is, but stall it by trying to do as much as possible.” (source)

Okay… that got serious. On to the recipe. I chose to make shrimp with orange, shallots & grilled radicchio from her book, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. This was absolutely delicious! G doesn’t really like eating shrimp that much… he claims there is never enough flavor. That definitely isn’t a problem with this dish! There is SO much flavor in every aspect of this recipe & I can’t wait to make this again!
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Shrimp with Orange, Shallots & Grilled Radicchio
(From Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. It can also be found here.)


  • 4 T. of olive oil
  • 1 t. of minced garlic
  • 1/2 c. of orange juice
  • 1 t. of grated orange zest
  • 3 T. of lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 T. of unsalted butter (or ghee), softened
  • 1 T. of finely chopped shallots
  • 1 T. of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lb. of jumbo shrimp; peeled, deveined & tails removed
  • 1 small radicchio, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 t. of balsamic vinegar
  • Baby greens


  1. Early in the day make the marinade. In a small skillet, gently heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and add the garlic, 3 tablespoons of the orange juice, the orange zest, 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Cook on low heat for about five minutes. Remove from the heat & let cool completely.
  2. Make the butter by mixing the shallot, softened butter, parsley, remaining lemon juice, & salt & pepper.
  3. About one hour before serving, marinate the shrimp in the orange juice mixture.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the radicchio wedges with the remaining olive oil, and grill for about five minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with salt & pepper, & place in a covered dish until ready to serve.
  5. In a small skillet, add the shrimp & the marinade. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are cooked through & the marinade is syrupy. Add the butter mixture, and cook for another minute.
  6. Divide the radicchio & the shrimp between two plates. Add the remaining orange juice, the balsamic vinegar, & 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and let the sauce reduce slightly. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp & radicchio.
  7. The original recipe says to top with a few baby greens. I just served a larger handful on the side.

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3 thoughts on “50 Women Game Changers in Food: Paula Wolfert (Week 25)

  1. Insanely Roy - Piece of Cerebrum says:

    I feel you because one of the closest person i ever had was my nani (my maternal grandmother) and although she dint have what madam Paula had..but her brain nerves dried up according to doctors and she forgot her favrt grandchild n her only daughter.
    I cried in front of her the day she couldnot recognize me..n she dint know what was wrong. 😥
    Sorry about what your family had to go through.

    Also, on a completely different note. I’ve an invite for us all. It’s a #WeeklyChallenge for #FoodBlogger to encourage genuine blog appreciation (not just empty likes).
    Please visit http://wp.me/p6c369-10 to participate & know more.
    Visit blog http://pieceofcerebrum.wordpress.com

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