It’s safe to say that no one has had more influence over my cooking than Mollie Katzen. Her Moosewood Cookbook is the first cookbook I owned, one I still cook from regularly. I loved her whimsical style, her hearty vegetarian recipes, and the groovy, earth-friendly lifestyle illustrated on every page.
I cooked from Moosewood in my first tiny New York City apartment kitchen, in my next, much larger, Chicago kitchen, and in every one of my 17 kitchens that followed. Mollie is my Julia Child.
I used and changed her recipes over the years, adapting as my diet changed, but never straying far from her original intent.
So it was truly a thrill to meet Mollie at a conference last spring and learn that she had a new book coming out.The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation is gorgeous, fresh, and modern, while still retaining some of the Mollie qualities that made Moosewood such a classic. The 250 recipes are organized as follows: Soups, Salads, Stews and Their Accessories, Cozy Mashes, Rice and Other Grains, Pasta and Asian Noodles, Suppers from the Oven, Burgers and Savory Pancakes, Vegetables, Sauces Vinaigrettes Toppings and Other Meaningful Touches, Desserts.
This is a book you’ll want to read, as she is one of our best living food writers:
“Finely chopped broccoli merges with millet in one recipe and dives headfirst into mashed potatoes in another… The next meal might be basmati rice cloaked in a savory blueberry sauce and spooned into a boat of roasted acorn squash.”
The book also includes 20 vegetarian menu suggestions and 15 vegan menus.
I got right to work testing recipes for this review.I saw a version of Mollie’s smoky Brussels sprouts and onion on Food 52 and it intrigued me, because I had just bought my very first stalk of Brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s a few days before. I am not a fan of some cruciferous vegetables, as I can always taste the bitter sulfur-like compounds. But I know they’re good for me, and the stalks at Trader Joe’s had teeny tiny sprouts, so I thought they’d be sweeter. Mollie’s method of parboiling and then slow-cooking them did greatly improve the sweetness, and the dish looked beautiful. I’m not sure I would make them again, but only because they still taste a tad bitter to me. I needed a quick-ish lunch and had red lentils and the other ingredients on hand one day, so I tried golden lentils with soft, sweet onions. It cooked up easily (although not as quickly as I first thought, because the onions needed to caramelize) and turned into a dal-like stew. Even though the onions cooked for nearly 40 minutes, I had them on low as instructed and they didn’t soften up enough for my taste. So maybe Low on my stove is very different than hers. I liked the flavors and I love all the suggestions for add-ins she includes with each recipe.I had a taste for chickpeas, so picked up some more onions and made lablabi (Tunisian chickpea soup) one evening. I soaked the chickpeas overnight and then cooked them in my pressure cooker while making the onions. I made sure that I adjusted the heat on the onions this time so that they really did caramelize. I pureed some of the chickpeas as suggested, and added in some kale at the end for some greenery, as I generally eat one-dish dinners. I needed to add quite a bit more salt and some hot sauce. The soup still seemed thin to me, but I liked the flavors.Finally I made her spiced basmati pilaf with nuts and raisins for a food bloggers’ meeting. At first I thought that the ratio of rice to other ingredients was off (too much rice), but I followed the recipe exactly and was rewarded by subtle yet delicious flavoring. For the best presentation, use dark raisins, orange zest, and pistachios, otherwise the dish is very beige. It’s even tastier on day two.
What I liked about this book:
Beautiful design, easy to use, lovely hardcover, lots of color photographs. Every page is a wonderful read. Mollie’s whimsical illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book. Every recipe I have tried has been very good. It has many, many pages marked with recipes I want to try, even after making four for this review. Every recipe is labeled whether it is vegan or can be made vegan.
I wasn’t so keen on:
It would have been helpful to have gluten-free indicated on the recipes, as many of them are gluten-free or could be made gluten-free. More variety in the angle and styling of the photographs would have added to the book’s beautiful aesthetics. I was not able to test any desserts as is (as they all contain gluten and/or eggs or dairy).
Vegetarians, vegans, anyone wanting to eat healthful, fresh food.
Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients, Tuesday reviews, Wednesday essays, Thursday how-to’s, and Flashback Fridays recipe posts plus monthly giveaways on the last Friday of the month. We support Meatless Monday.
This book is an instant classic and worth every penny! Fantastic holiday or wedding gift.