The first person to respond to me when I asked for suggestions on our next cookbook to review was Dorothy Grover Read, https://vintagekitchen.org. She immediately suggested the Moosewood Cookbook. When I read her excellent review, it became immediately apparent why she had suggested it. I hope you visit Dorothy’s excellent blog, The New Vintage Kitchen. I know you will enjoy it.
Cookbook Confidential: The Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen, then and now
Growing up in rural New England, vegetarian meals were never deliberate. Yes, the corn chowder was vegetarian unless mom put bacon in it, and the boiled dinner definitely was, 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 consumption of meat had greatly diminished along with my knowledge about how many pounds of grain it took to produce a pound of hamburger, as I told my parents frequently “in this over populated, underfed world.” But I was ill equipped to really know how to fill my plate.
Then one evening at a party at a friend’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,” 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.
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 just for you. The dishes were luscious, filled with dishes 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 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, has never been out of print. Now, a 40th anniversary edition has been released with updates to many of the recipes and the addition of a few more. I was excited to try this.
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.
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 effortlessd. I traveled to lots of counties through the pages of this book. The Greek-inspired Mushroom Moussaka was a favorite of us all 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 for the first time; she also owned the book. 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) 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 cooking.
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 and 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 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.
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, use what you like. 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.
The new, hard-cover edition has most of the charm of the original, same hand-written look same illustrations. It is organized a bit differently than the first, each chapter has a list of recipes, which is handy.
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), and some of the recipes are lightened up in a way most of us do routinely, for instance substituting plant or lower fat milks.
But if you’ve never owned a copy, 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 tell them to make the Mushroom Moussaka.
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.
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.
My bio from the website:
I’m a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I’m also a wife, mother, grandmother, and sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, in no particular order on any given day.
I’ve been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column “Memorable Meals,” which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read.
Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. After many years of daily serving up our local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class as the spirit moves me. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always.
My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there have to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!).
I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies!
I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy.
I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a little healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in the sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips!
And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It’s a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all!
Thank you Dot for this fantastic recipe and beautiful review. I know I will be making the peanut sauce right away.