Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Moosewood Cookbook" by Mollie Katzen - Chilean Squash - Food for a very belated Earth Day observance!

Date I made this recipe:  May 7, 2017 – belated Earth Day celebration (April 22, 2017)

Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen (Compiled, Edited, Illustrated and Hand-Lettered by Mollie Katzen)
Published by Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 0-913668-68-0; © 1977
Purchased at BCPA Annual Sale (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association)
Recipe:  Chilean Squash – p. 97

Sigh.  There are times when I think I am prepared and ready to go to cook something on a day of significance like Earth Day, only to have it unravel on me at the last minute.  And so in this household we celebrated Earth Day on May 7 and then of course it took me a while to write up this blog, and if I don't get in gear, we'll be staring down the barrel of Memorial Day!

Part of the problem is that when it came to what cookbook and what recipe to use, I was torn between not one, not two, not three, but four Mollie Katzen "vegetarian" cookbooks.  For a while there, I was determined to cook from three of them (the 4th is on a different shelf and is presently AWOL) but happily came to my senses and thought better of that idea.  So then I was back to selecting one and that took me forever and so here we are.  In conclusion your honor....

I don't know about you, but I consider Mollie Katzen to be the mother of vegetarian cooking.  I remember when she published her first book – Moosewood Cookbook - the book I cooked from today, as it was widely celebrated by vegetarians who, at the time, were very much in the culinary minority.  Today, so many people are vegetarians or even vegans that you can't go two feet without finding a vegetarian cookbook or restaurant.  Not so in 1977.

Frankly, I have to admit that vegetarian cookbooks (including Mollie's) scare me because well, a) I'm a meat-eater, b) I tend to raise an eyebrow at classic vegetarian ingredients like tofu (worse, tofurkey—what is that even?), bee pollen, or wheat germ – all ingredients I won't use, and c) most modern vegetarian cookbooks want me to then stock and use said ingredients, some of which are pricey.  I'm willing to go a little bit out of my comfort zone, so long as I don't invest $50 in ingredients that are barely used after purchase.

Happily, Mollie's method was and is to use natural ingredients such as fruits and vegetables.  She also uses real dairy like eggs and cheese for which I am grateful.  In fact, today's recipe was a good mix of vegetables, eggs and cheese, AND it was tasty!  (I'm sorry, I refuse to eat "sawdust" in the form of substitutes.)  In other words, she celebrates the "fruits" of the earth which is what Earth Day and vegetarian cooking are all about.

The recipes in this book are all from her famed Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY.  Interestingly, Google says that this is a "natural foods" restaurant and that is true although that phrase was used early on by restaurants serving primarily vegetarian foods.

Mollie went on to write  twelve cookbooks, three others of which are in my collection: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest; Mollie Katzen's Still Life with Menu Cookbook, and Get Cooking which I shall save for next year.  Well, providing I can figure out where I put the Get Cooking cookbook.  All I will say is that it's got to be here somewhere but where among my 2,368 cookbooks is the question!  (BTW, I once spent over 2 years looking for a book that was smack dab in front of me but pushed back on the shelf so far that I missed it every single time.  Argh!)

As an aside, local restaurant The Good Earth, also advertises itself as a "natural foods" restaurant.  Interesting.  Back in their early years, you never, ever would have found any meat on the menu because that would be a sacrilege.   The menu was all  as all nuts and berries and fruit and veggies, period.  And to my great dismay, back when I started dining there (over 30 years ago), they wouldn't even serve coffee, never mind the decaf coffee I always drink.  Their beverage recommendation was and is their fruity tea which they package up and sell by the boatloads. I know people swoon over that tea but honestly, I cannot stand the smell of it. 

Another local restaurant that changed its menu approach is Spoonriver, owned by Chef Brenda Langton.  Langton's first restaurant, Cafe Kardamena was really the first of its kind (vegetarian) in the area.  Cafe Kardamena eventually morphed into Cafe Brenda which also stayed true to its vegetarian roots before morphing further into Spoonriver.  Although Spoonriver leans still toward a vegetarian diet, it also added locally-sourced meats to the menu and for that I am forever grateful. 

And so hooray, hooray, we are no longer held to "eating a pine tree" (Remember Euell Gibbons?) and I no longer turn tail and run at the thought of eating at a vegetarian restaurant.  That said, I will not eat tofu and there is absolutely no reason on this earth why tofurkey should exist, much less be eaten!

Even back in 1977, Mollie's approach to her restaurant menu and to vegetarian cooking was to keep it simple but well-rounded.  Recipe categories and recipe selections include:

Hot Soups
  • Cream of Asparagus
  • Brazilian Black Bean
  • Lentil
  • Minestrone
  • Split Pea

Chilled Soups
  • Buttermilk Beet Borscht
  • Gazpacho
  • Vichyssoise

  • Carrot-Yogurt
  • Cole Slaw
  • Green Leafy
  • Marinated Vegetables
  • Tabouli (because of course!)

Sauces, Sandwiches, & Spreads
  • Guacamole
  • Humus
  • Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches
  • Pepper & Onion Shortcake (the "shortcake" here is really cornbread)

Entrees (this is a long list!)
  • Broccoli, Mushroom, Noodle Casserole
  • Stuffed Cabbage
  • Cauliflower (4 recipes)
  • Eggplant (7 recipes)
  • Ratatouille
  • Zucchini (5 recipes)

  • Apple-Cheddar Strudel
  • Cheesecakes (4 recipes)
  • Lemon-Honey Mousse
  • Pumpkin Pie

Some recipes I considered before settling on the Chilean Squash recipe were "Best Split Pea Soup," "Cauliflower Cheese Soup," and "Vegetable Stroganoff."  All sounded yummy but for some reason the squash recipe grabbed me.

This recipe is pretty much a piece of cake once you get all your ingredients assembled and you cook your squash.  I liked it because the spices weren't overpowering and it contained a good mix of healthy foods.  I'd definitely make it again with just a few variations as noted below.
Okay then, so this concludes a very belated homage to Earth Day 2017.  If we are kind to Mother Earth, she will be kind to us, and so please do your part to recycle, to support local farms, and to reduce your carbon footprint as much as you can.

Chilean Squash – Makes 4-6 servings – 1 ½ hours to prepare
4 cups cooked squash or pumpkin, mashed or pureed
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped mixed red and green peppers
2-3 large cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 beaten eggs
2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 cup grated cheddar
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Dash of cayenne (more to taste)
Dash of black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Ann's Note: The easiest way to cook the squash is to steam it for 8 minutes.  The easiest way to deal with the squash is to purchase it, fresh or frozen, already peeled and cubed.  I did not do this.  I wanted to save money and so I cut up the squash myself and what a mess.  It also takes a lot of arm strength to cut through it.  Next time, I'm going to just spend the extra couple of bucks and buy it all set and ready to roll.  I've been trying also, to figure out a way to make the squash (or pumpkin) a little more creamy for this dish.  Steamed, plain squash is boring and bland and was a bit too thick for the dish.  Maybe a little butter?

Sauté onion, garlic, and spices in olive oil until onions and garlic are translucent.  Add peppers and salt.  Cover and cook 5-8 minutes.

Add sauté to mashed squash, along with the corn and beaten eggs.  Mix well.  Taste to correct seasonings.  Ann's Note:  How about we don't taste raw eggs?!  I would have and should have, tasted the mixture sans eggs to correct the seasonings. 

Spread into a buttered 2-quart casserole, and top with cheese.

Bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes, covered, 15 minutes, uncovered.

Ann's Note:  Let the dish cool before serving as the melted cheese is like napalm!

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