Sunday, February 14, 2010

First glance: Get Cooking

When I learned that Mollie Katzen had released a new book, I had to get it, even though this queen of vegetarian cooking has crossed into carnivorous waters. Katzen, you may know, authored the original Moosewood cookbook in 1977 and it has become one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time. She is widely credited with moving vegetarian cooking off the periphery and into the mainstream of American cuisine.

She doesn't directly address why this new book isn't vegetarian; actually, she doesn't seem to be talking to her former, all-veg constituency at all. Rather, she's reaching out to people who have been smitten by the images on the Food Network and in the glossy magazines, but don't know how to create them.

Her primary message is to enjoy food and to eat healthfully. And, as I had hoped, the book is top-heavy with simple recipes for vegetarian soups, salads, pastas, and side dishes. So far, I've tried only the all-American three-bean salad, but it was the real deal, almost exactly like my mom's, only better (sorry mom). I'm looking forward to trying broccoli-cheddar cheese calzones and hot fudge sundaes, so stay tuned for upcoming dispatches!

Katzen's unmistakable style shines in this book. She's that good friend or older sister in the kitchen with you, whispering instructions and encouragement over your shoulder. Everything about the book, from the typeface to the sepia-toned photos (of which there are many) says comfort.

Having used her cookbooks for almost 30 years, I feel like I know Mollie and that we're growing old together. To me, Mollie Katzen is a state of mind as much as she is a talented, creative person. To sample her aura, be sure to visit either of her web sites, or And get cooking!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recipe Flash: Chickpea Curry

If you haven't been to the grocery store lately, the produce at this time of year is depressing -- even in so-called sunny California. The selection is sparse: apples that have been on the shelf since September, limp grapes, that kind of thing. The bright, fresh flavors of summer and autumn are just not to be found on the vegetable aisle in February.

Instead, you'll find the perky tastes you crave in cans and the on freezer shelf. At this time of year, canned and frozen goods are a better value than fresh. Because they're processed at their peak ripeness, canned and frozen veggies are almost as good for you as the real thing. This week, I tried Chickpea Curry in a Hurry from Lorna Sass' recently re-released book, Short-Cut Vegan. It's made using spicy Ro*tel canned tomatoes with green chiles, frozen spinach, and a can of chickpeas. For dinner, I added a pound of cubed tofu to keep my tummy full until breakfast the next morning.

Chickpea Curry in a Hurry
reprinted from Short-Cut Vegan

by Lorna Sass

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles (I used 2 10-oz cans of Ro*tel original)
1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach (I thawed it)
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1 T minced garlic
2 tsp curry powder
1/3 c unsweetened, dried, grated coconut
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1 lb firm tofu, cubed (my addition)

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Break up the block of spinach with a fork, cover, and continue cooking until the spinach is cooked, about 5 more minutes. Stir well before serving.

Serves 2 or 3.