Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Books That Changed My Life

I wasn't planning on adding another post to this series, but as I was making my weekly shopping list this afternoon, I thought that I should, given that my list was based on recipes from this book.

I've always loved to cook. When I was a kid I'd help my mom stir the tomato sauce, and eventually progressed to making desserts (my specialty as a teenager) and then full meals. Then I went out on my own and had to cook everything for myself. About six months after I moved out I got bored of making the same thing again and again.

I had been collecting cookbooks for a while, and one day found myself at my favorite used book store, perusing through the cookbook section to look to add to my collection. I came across one cookbook that was different from all of the others, mainly because it was handwritten and had some gorgeous black and white drawings of food.

The drawings and hand lettering were enough to make me buy the book, but I knew I had to examine its recipes. I soon discovered that this was a vegetarian cookbook. It had recipes for some very yummy dishes--lentil soup, chutneys, raita, falafel, and some other dishes that I never grew up experiencing, but was ready for my adult palate to try.

That book? The Moosewood Cookbook. Its author? Mollie Katzen.

I bought the book, took it home, and read it some more, dogearring the pages of the recipes that I wanted to try. I later found out that this was based on recipes served in the Moosewood Restaurant, a now-legendary vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, where my sister attended Ithaca College. I asked my sister if she ever dined in this restaurant, and she said she never did. So there was another justification for me to buy this book.

I was terribly excited to make a recipe from this book, and my first endeavor was "Perfect Protein Salad", an intriguing combination of soybeans, wheat berries, garlic, cottage cheese, scallions, carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers in a dressing of cider vinegar, black pepper, mayonnaise, and parsley. (I substituted the mayonnaise with plain yogurt for a healthier, and zippier tasting version). It was very tasty, but my co-workers thought it was un peu bizarre. It didn't stop me from making it, though, and the natural food store became one of my favorite destinations on the way home from work.

As is the case with me, once I find an author I like, I scramble to get all of the editions of his/her books as soon as I can. There was no exception to this situation, when I learned that the Moosewood Collective had published a few other cookbooks. I eventually bought them all, and every time I make a Moosewood recipe, my guests and friends keep asking for more. I did the same thing with Mollie Katzen; a few years ago she published a book called Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, which has become one of the top 5 cookbooks I use in my kitchen. I got my recipe for Bittersweet Mocha Coffee Cake from this book, and it has become one of my signature dishes.

Today, I own many cookbooks, but The Moosewood Cookbook is the one I keep coming back to, time and again, whenever I want a change of pace. The recipes for lentil soup and minestrone have become two of my mainstays during the winter months. I also enjoy the recipes for gado gado and falafel. I'm planning to try the tabouleh recipe this week.

What is gado gado, you ask? I guess I'm going to have to post the recipe sometime soon so you can find out!

1 comment:

Gloria Chadwick said...

I love the Moosewood Cookbooks. I've got three of them. My favorite recipe is the Spinach-Ricotta Pie on page 156 of The New Moosewood Cookbook. Mollie Katzen used to have a cooking show on PBS and I'd watch it every Saturday, then go into my kitchen and recreate the recipes she presented. Really delicious food!