How time flies when you are enjoying great recipes!
My friend Bernadette from New Classic Recipe (https://newclassicrecipe.com) came up with the wonderful idea to have an on-line cookbook club with some of her blog buddies. What a fun, and great way to choose a recipe or two from the books, cook them, and review them. Then, you decide if the book is worth you shelf space! Please go to her site for other reviews.
Growing up in rural New England, vegetarian meals when I was a kid were never deliberate. Yes, the corn chowder was vegetarian unless mom put bacon in it, the boiled dinner and summer hodgepodge definitely were, but otherwise, meals were designed around a piece of meat or fish of some sort with obligatory green and yellow veggies to support the main event.
How my family cooked
Heading out on my own, I pretty much cooked the way I learned from mom and the other females in our family. I could make a stew blindfolded, fashion a loaf of bread, and create a layer cake worthy of any celebration. But times had changed, and brown rice and tofu were spinning around the world at warp speed, and I was listening. My budget was tight, and thus our consumption of meat had greatly diminished. I was also learning about the environmental impact of our food choices, and how many pounds of grain it took to produce a pound of hamburger. In this over populated, underfed world, it certainly gave me pause. But I was ill equipped to really know how to fill our plates.
And thus, it changed
One evening at a party at my friend Cindy’s house, I sampled her Spanakopita and fell in love with it. I asked her for the recipe and she simply said “Oh, it’s from Moosewood.” I went out the next day and bought “The Moosewood Cookbook: Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, Ithaca, New York,” 1977, edited, illustrated, and hand-lettered by Mollie Katzen. Many of the recipes were from the diverse families of the restaurant’s cooks and reflect a nice range of styles and ethnic cuisines.
It was my first vegetarian cookbook and looking back, I can truly say it changed how I cooked.
The book was unique. Not only did it focus on vegetarian dishes, but it was printed as a handwritten and illustrated notebook. Nothing like that on my book shelf! I think this made the book seem more personal, like a friend who wrote a recipe down and shared it just for you. The dishes were luscious, filled with ingredients and flavors that many of us had not experienced before. It was a timeless book that dabbled a bit in cuisines from all around the world, but using ingredients we could find with little trouble. Not vegan, the recipes included lots of scrumptious cheese and eggs, to my delight then, but there were also many that did not use animal products at all.
Never out of print
The book was first published in 1977, revised in 1992 and 2000, and has never been out of print. Now, a 40th anniversary, hard-cover edition is available with updates to many of the recipes and the addition of a few more. I was excited to try this.
A few favorites
I definitely had my favorites in the original book, dishes I continued to make for my children – the calzones, the egg rolls, and the White Rabbit Salad were among their favorites. The cauliflower pizza crust that everyone thinks is so unique today? Molly had a similar zucchini crust back in the day that was even better, and a shredded potato one as well.
New techniques, for me at least
I learned to stuff grape leaves and artichokes, how to make pâté out of nuts, and how to build my own hot sauce from scratch, and it all seemed effortless. I traveled to lots of counties through the pages of this book. The Greek-inspired Mushroom Moussaka was a favorite of all of us, and I would have retested this recipe had it not been for the fact I developed an allergy to eggplant in my 40s. Not good! So I decided on one of my other favorites – Gado-Gado, an Indonesian dish that I adored from the first bite, and actually had at my sister-in-law’s table for the first time. A bed of spinach with lots of fresh and steamed vegetables, which wilts the spinach a little, a bit of tofu, some eggs, and best of all, an exquisite peanut sauce that I used on just about everything. It is still a favorite.
The revised edition changed the recipe considerably, and went from one to two pages. First, the mound of yellow rice (not traditional and not included in the original) was added atop the spinach and under the veggies. I really think this rounded out the dish and so I included that here. There was an addition of fried toppings: quickly fried garlic and ginger slices, and finely minced onion. While these added a bit of interest to the dish, I didn’t find them necessary, and it did involve another 20 minutes or so of hovering over the stove, so consider these optional.
That peanut sauce
But the biggest change was the peanut sauce. While adding time with the finishing garnishes, the sauce attempted to streamline the cooking process by mixing all the sauce fixings in the blender and calling it a day. The onion was removed, water decreased since there would be no simmering, vinegar increased, lemon juice omitted, and the honey was replaced with brown sugar. It also swapped crushed red pepper flakes for the original cayenne. I made the sauce as directed and didn’t think it had near enough flavor, the heat was not the beautiful warmth from the cayenne, and it tasted a bit flat without the onion. So, I remade the sauce the original way and was quite happy. It was like coming home. Not sure why they messed with this one!
Use what you have, make it how you like
The vegetable component was, and still is, what you want or have on hand. You can mix and match, using your favorites. This time around, I used steamed carrots, green beans, broccoli, and raw radishes and purple cabbage. As for the protein, I used just eggs, and I soft boiled them because that is what I prefer. It is also really delicious with tofu.
Some things never change, much
The new, hard-cover edition has most of the charm of the original, same hand-written look, many of the same illustrations. It is organized a bit differently than the first, each chapter has a list of recipes therein, which is handy.
To buy or not to buy
My bottom line is, if you are happy with your old dog-eared, most likely stained, copy on the shelf, there probably is no reason to buy the new edition. There are 25 new recipes included (I haven’t found them all and they are not noted specifically), and some of the recipes are lightened up in a way most of us do routinely, for instance substituting plant or lower fat milks for the richer dairy.
Go ahead, you need this on your shelf
It may have been my first vegetarian cookbook, but it was certainly not my last. Next for me was “The Vegetarian Feast” by Martha Rose Shulman, who remains one of my favorite cook book authors. Katzen’s cookbooks are many, whether you are contemplating The Heart on Your Plate or you want to stroll through The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, you’ll be all set with her books.
If you’ve never owned a copy of Moosewood, by all means pick up this hard cover 40th anniversary edition and it will most likely be used by your grandchildren decades from now! Just make sure to tell them about the Mushroom Moussaka.
The following recipe uses some of the old and some of the new, and is still a winner.
Gado-Gado, then and now
Peanut Sauce (Then):
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 medium cloves crushed garlic
- 1 cup good pure peanut butter (I used chunky with nothing added but salt)
- 1 tbsp. honey
- ¼ tsp. cayenne, more to taste (I used ¾ tsp.)
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 to 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger (I used a heaping tbsp.)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
- 3 cups water (reserve one cup to add as needed)
- ½ to 1 tsp. salt (I added just a pinch)
- Dash of tamari (I used 2 tbsp.)
- 2 tbsp. butter for frying
In a saucepan, cook the onions, garlic, bay leaf, and ginger in lightly salted butter. When onion becomes translucent, add remaining ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Simmer on lowest heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use this on everything!
The Yellows Rice (Now):
To make yellow rice, cook two cups rice (I used brown tri-color) in three cups simmering water with ½ tsp. turmeric until tender. Add a little extra water toward the end of cooking if needed. This is not traditional, but is a nice addition to the plate.
The Vegetables, an assortment you like (Then and Now) such as:
- A small bunch of broccoli cut into small spears and steamed
- Fresh green beans, lightly steamed
- Red and green cabbage, very finely shredded
- Thin slices of carrots, lightly steamed or raw
- Mung bean sprouts
- A drizzle of sesame oil
- Apples, lemons, oranges
- Toasted nuts and seeds
- 2 tbsp. fresh ginger slices sautéed in peanut or canola oil
- 12 garlic cloves sliced thin and sautéed in the oil
- 1 cup finely minced onion, sauteed
- Shredded, unsweetened coconut, toasted
- Crushed red pepper
- Slices of fruit
Protein (then and now):
- Tofu, or tofu sauteed with sesame seeds
- Sliced hard-boiled eggs
Spinach (then and now):
- A nice layer of fresh spinach under all. I used baby spinach.
On a platter, make a nice bed of the spinach. Top with the yellow rice, then arrange any raw or cooked vegetables you like in any way you like on top. Add the protein (I used just eggs), and drizzle with the peanut sauce. Sprinkle with any toppings you like, or serve them on the side, along with extra sauce.
Note: there will be a lot of sauce left over. I tucked two containers in the freezer to use on noodles or vegetables at some happy later date.
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