Friday, March 13, 2009

Cookbook Friday: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

Vegetarian home cooks will recognize this name -- a number of Moosewood cookbooks have come out over the years, based on recipes from the cooks at Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. Four men and 14 women publish under the name "The Moosewood Collective" and their recipe collections have been extremely popular, even winning the James Beard Award for Best Vegetarian Cookbook.

There are seafood recipes in their books, but otherwise the recipes are vegetarian or vegan. Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home is filled with uncomplicated dishes that are relatively easy and quick to prepare. There are sections on soups, salads and sides, grains, pastas, stews, and desserts, among others. Also you'll find a useful pantry list, as well as a guide to ingredients and cooking tips and techniques.

Pressed for time? There's also a list of recipes within the book that can be made within half an hour for a super-fast supper.

No photos here, but the authors helpfully suggest other recipes from the book that will complement what you're making. For example, for the Pad Thai I made, the authors recommended serving a tossed salad with Japanese Carrot Dressing, and Creamy Banana Ice for dessert.

I admit that as a meat-eater I haven't made as many dishes from this cookbook as I have some of my others, but in the desire to eat more grains and vegetables I'm going to try to change that this year. I did make their Pad Thai, in part because I was craving those Thai flavours of cilantro, lime, and fish sauce, but also because I was curious to see what a Pad Thai devoid of chicken, shrimp, and even tofu (not sure why they opted to leave that out) would be like.

How was it? Surprisingly tasty, although next time I'd add some soy-marinated extra-firm tofu for an additional bit of protein and to add more texture to the dish. Otherwise though it was quite tasty.

If you're making it, don't skip the peanuts on top -- yes, they add fat, but they also add a necessary crunch and flavour. Note that this recipe is in U.S. measurements.

Pad Thai

2 quarts water
3/4 pound mung bean sprouts
6 oz rice noodles (1/4 inch wide)

3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (or soy sauce)

3 tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp minced fresh chile, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups grated carrots
4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
2/3 cup chopped peanuts
6-8 scallions, chopped (about 1 cup)

In a covered pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Blanch the mung bean sprouts by placing them in a strainer or small colander and dipping it into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Set aside to drain well. When the water returns to a boil, stir in the rice noodles and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but firm. Drain the cooked noodles, rinse them under cool water, and set them aside to drain well. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, ketchup, brown sugar and fish sauce to form the Pad Thai sauce.

Prepare the remaining ingredients and have them near at hand before you begin to stir-fry. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the garlic and chile, swirl them in the oil for a moment, and stir in the grated carrots. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Push the carrots to the sides to make a hollow in the center. Pour the beaten eggs into the centre and quickly scramble them. When the eggs have just set, pour in the sauce mixture and stir everything together. Add the drained rice noodles and mung sprouts, and toss to distribute evenly. Stir in the peanuts and scallions, and serve at once.

Serves 4
Total time: 40 minutes

Don't be too concerned if the dish seems overly orange when you're stirring it together in the skillet. The peanuts and scallions offer some contrasting colour when you're serving it up. Also, consider garnishing with fresh cilantro, if you like. It's another complementary flavour that people tend to love or loathe. It took me a while to get onto it but now I see just how well it works in certain dishes.

As for other recipes that caught my eye in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home -- Apricot Bulghur Pilaf, Spaghetti with Pecorino and Black Pepper, Portuguese White Bean Soup, Spicy Peanut Dip, and Moosewood Fudge Brownies. Can't wait to try them all!



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