Cookbook Confidential: The Moosewood Cookbook, Gado Gado, then and now

How time flies when you are enjoying great recipes!

My friend Bernadette from New Classic Recipe ( 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.

Many changes

      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
  • Celery
  • Mung bean sprouts

Toppings (then):

  • A drizzle of sesame oil
  • Apples, lemons, oranges
  • Raisins
  • Toasted nuts and seeds

Toppings (now):

  • 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.

The Assembly:

      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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61 Comments Add yours

  1. Eha says:

    Oh how absolutely lovely to read, smile and learn! . . . shall go try find the book – had heard the name! Have not made gad-gado for years > mine is with eggs and I shall copy your peanut sauce! Yes, time and trials and reading and friends and travel . . . and meeting people like you have made huge changes in how I cook dishes . ., . when I got married at 23 I thought ‘curries’ came mild, medium and hot from India . . . now I cook them from 23 countries . . .

    1. I know what you mean! When I was growing up, a curry was an exotic food from India that my father probably wouldn’t like. There are so many other doors to these dishes that have been opened. 23 countries! Amazing!

  2. leggypeggy says:

    I still have my original Moosewood, and glad I do.

    1. Did you have favorites?

  3. Sheree says:

    Looks delicious and how lovely to revisit an old friend

    1. That’s what it felt like Sheree, visiting an old friend and being reminded of some good memories.

  4. Mary says:

    I have never had the pleasure of eating Gado Gado. It’s looks like something I could gobble up very easily. I have seen the Moosewood Coomery book but never had it in my hands. Seems I’ve missed a treat.
    I shall have to make this lovely looking dish especially as I really love Peanut Sauce!! Always have to make Yellow rice because my husband doesn’t like white rice!? What’s a shake or two of Turmeric matter! :))

    1. It’s long been one of my favorites, especially when my new spinach is coming in in the garden. That peanut sauce has graced many a noodle, and is amazing on grilled vegetables.
      I’m sure your husband will love this yellow rice, so easy!

  5. Mary says:

    These evil computers!! :))

    1. I know, they think they are so smart!

  6. Bernadette says:

    You are an expert vegetarian cook and I have this sauce bookmarked for future use.

    1. Ah, thank you! You’re going to love this sauce!

  7. Great post, D! Interesting, informative and entertaining. I can’t take my eyes off that gorgeous dish! It’s so vibrant and appealing! ✨

    1. It’s one of those dishes that makes you happy just arranging everything! The first feast!

  8. Jenna says:

    This sounds like a great book, and if you learned so many of your tips and tricks from it, I know it’s filled with great recipes~ this is going on my to do list, I need to learn much more about healthy substitutions and vegan recipes.

    1. This is a good place to start! And with local produce on the way, so much incentive!

  9. Ronit says:

    Such a feast on this colorful and healthy dish. Peanut sauce makes everything tastier! 🙂

    1. It is a feast of lovely vegetables! I adore this peanut sauce and also love it on noodles!

  10. Ally Bean says:

    I know of the Moosewood cookbook, but have never had a copy of it. It does sound like I’d enjoy it now that we cook and eat in more veggie ways.

    1. It was certainly important in my own cooking journey, seasoned the path ahead so to speak!

  11. I love love peanut sauce!! I’ve also heard so much about the moosewood cookbook. Have to get it now! Gado gado sounds absolutely delicious!

    1. Thank you! It’s long been one of my favorites, mostly because of that scrumptious sauce!

  12. Suzassippi says:

    I love the name: gado gado sounds so exotic! I have tofu, and have been wanting to make peanut sauce and rice noodles with veggies. I shall borrow from you!

    1. I hope you enjoy this sauce as much as I do!

  13. NativeNM says:

    There is so much to discover when revisiting an old cookbook. I enjoyed reading about how the Moosewood cookbook inspired how you cook today. Love the creativity with this dish.

    1. It really did make a difference back in my younger days!

  14. Neat. Great memories and recipoes. Besides my Italian cookbooks, Moosewood was one of my cookbooks soon after I got married.

    1. It earned a spot on many a book shelf!

  15. Sherry Mackay says:

    I have had a copy of Moosewood cookbook for many years. I really must dig it out and check out the recipes again!

    1. It’s a really good one to revisit, Sherry! I had a great time looking through it again.

  16. Sherry Mackay says:

    My housemate many years ago used to make gado gado. I thought it was soooo amazing and interesting.

    1. Lots of good memories I’m sure! It really is a delightful dish.

  17. terrie gura says:

    Wow! I’ve never heard of gado gado, but it has so many ingredients that I love. How cool is it that you have the original version of the cookbook, too? I love the way you compared “then” and “now.” Honestly makes me want to go out and pick up a copy!

    1. Ah! You definitely should! And make that peanut sauce!

  18. Nancy says:

    I never had Gado Gado, but it looks like something I would love to try!
    I’m so glad you shared this well-loved cookbook with us. I may try to hunt it down.
    Thank you! And have a great new week.

    1. It is a wonderful dish, and I’m so glad I found it all those years ago.
      Have a great week too my friend!

  19. JOY journal says:

    Love this and the cookbook, too! It’s a classic.

    1. It’s been on my shelf for decades, like revisiting an old friend.

  20. Christy B says:

    Given your endorsement of the Moosewood Cookbook and its 40 years continuing to be in print, I’d say it sounds amazing!

    1. One of the best, and opened a lot of doors for many people!

  21. nancyc says:

    This sounds delicious! I used to have that cookbook, but it got lost in one of my moves…I’ll need to get another copy! 🙂

    1. It’s been kicking around my house for decades, and little gems find their way to our plates!

  22. Dorothy you never fail to amaze me. With the new vegetable garden in place I’m thinking this cookbook might be the perfect gift for Larry for Father’s Day! I’m going to attempt your peanut sauce tonight over noodles. It sounds delicious. So you’re recommending the hardcover? I’ll go look for it. By the way, do you have a cookbook published? Hugs, C

    1. Either the original or the the updated hardcover would be find. As I said, the changes in the new one mostly make sense, except they messed with the peanut sauce which was perfect as it was! So, I’d probably get the hardcover for durability, but print out the original peanut sauce recipe and use it for your bookmark.
      I have self printed both a cookbook of my inn recipes and a family cookbook, but have just about finished a seasonal cookbook that I hope to get published for real. It’s been quite a task, and now I have to decided where to go next, get a publisher or self publish.

      1. I can’t wait to purchase your cookbook! I wrestled with the same issue when I finished the manuscript I wanted to publish. Someone said to me, “what harm would it cause it you queried a few publishers and just see what happens.” So I did. Very quickly I stumbled on Black Rose Writing, a very small publisher, and I decided to go with them because I didn’t know anything about publishing. It’s a tough decision but I agree with the original advise. What harm would it cause to query a few publishers that specialize in cookbooks?

      2. It is very good advice my friend, and I think I will do so. What harm would it do. I’ve been a write all my life, so I have a pretty thick skin for rejection!

  23. It really sounds like a nice book, and I love the handwriting idea 😉 The dish looks so delicious 😋

    1. I hadn’t made it for years, but was delighted to rediscover it!

  24. Carolyn Page says:

    Oh my gosh, Dorothy, this is ‘all’ mouth-wateringly good…
    The sauce sounds divine; as does it all.
    Have a great weekend…

    1. It was one of my favorites back in the day, and now too!

  25. Donna says:

    I have a very well used Moosewood cookbook, as well as some of the later books. But the first one is my favorite. I will try to send you a photo of it. It has been well used.

    1. Oh, I am sure it has been Donna! Mine has certainly been a part of my kitchen for decades, and is full of stains and water marks! I’m sure yours is too!

  26. brwbmm says:

    About 30 years ago, in my travels I had Gado Gado in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia. It was served as a restaurant buffet. The spread was a delight for vegetarians and included a wonderful corn and pineapple salad, which I have tried to replicate at home.

    1. Corn and pineapple, what a lovely combination! Do you remember how it was seasoned?

  27. brwbmm says:

    Here’s the ingredients in my version of the salad –

    1. Looks so refreshing! A perfect recipe for corn season (or if you have some of last year’s tucked in the freezer that needs to be used up!).

    1. Thank you! This looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it!

  28. I have a couple of Moosewood cookbooks, but never found this first one as accessible for some reason though I cook a lot of their recipes. I agree with you that Moosewood was using a lot of the vegetarian ingredients and techniques decades ago that people try to pretend are a new thing!

    1. I know! Everything old is new again I guess!

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