The Moosewood Restaurant Table: Pasta with Spinach and Apricots and Cheesy Garlic Toast and book review

I have several more recipes from The Moosewood Restaurant Table I want to try, even featured on our menu this week, but due to the tragic passing of Anthony Bourdain, the Food52 Cookbook Club has decided to add two of his cookbooks to our lineup for the month and I really want to pay homage to him by cooking from his book Appetites for the rest of the month. That being said, I do have one more meal to share for now from Moosewood and a short book review today.

Spinach and Apricot Pasta – the thought of it had me immediately skeptical and intrigued. I love a good quick vegetarian pasta dish (see my creamy sun dried tomato pasta) and when I looked at the very basic ingredients that we already had on hand, I knew it was going to be a dish to make.

The funny thing about trying a recipe you know could be quick and easy is that the first time, you always stuff that up. And I well and truly turned a meal that should’ve only taken 30 minutes into over an hour and used probably 3 times the number of dishes that I should’ve. It’s all part of the challenge of a new recipe.

The first thing to do is chop up some dried apricots and leave them to soak in boiled water and toast some pine nuts. Put a box of pasta on to cook and get started on the rest of the sauce. Saute some minced garlic in olive oil, add spinach and let it wilt.

Drain the pasta reserving some of the pasta water and return the pasta to the saucepan. Add some more olive oil and some crumbled feta and the pasta water and stir it through to make it saucy. Then add this pasta to the big saute pan with the spinach and then drain and add the apricots and add the pinenuts. Season with salt and pepper and you’re done!

I couldn’t help myself when I saw a cheesy garlic toast recipe. I had to make it and we had to have it with this pasta. And it was so easy to throw together!

You cook a whole head of peeled garlic in olive oil over low heat until it’s nice and soft then you add some parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, lemon zest and red pepper flakes and wizz it all together with a stick blender. Spread this mixture onto a baguette that’s been sliced lengthwise and put it in the oven until it’s nice and melted. Then you just chop it into smaller pieces and serve.

This bread was the perfect complement to our vegetarian pasta dinner. What a feast!

The Moosewood Restaurant Table cookbook was not one I was very excited about to be honest. However, when I finally got a hold of it and flipped through it, there were a list of recipes a mile long I wanted to try. Each recipe we’ve had so far has been successful and I love that there are some recipes that are vegan in there too. I’m really looking forward to having the Butternut Latkes with the Fennel Apple Slaw (taste testing the slaw to see if it would be good to have on pulled pork burgers for Aaron’s birthday dinner). I’m also interested in the Cheesy Grape Risotto and for sweets there are definitely a few still – the scones and the vegan apple blueberry crumble come to mind.

This book makes vegetarian cooking feel approachable and the results are so comforting you forget you aren’t eating meat. I like that you don’t have to purchase weird ingredients to enjoy the meals in this book yet I love how elegant it all is. You feel like you’re eating something in a nice restaurant indeed.

To look back at the other recipes we’ve cooked from Moosewood, click on the links below:

Butterflake Herb Loaf, transformed

It was not that long ago that I posted about an old King Arthur Flour bakealong challenge that is loved by all of us – their Butterflake Herb Loaf. So it was to my surprise that this month they’ve brought the challenge back with some twists.

We were challenged to make different fillings and adjust the method slightly to yield a softer dough. Using the tangzhong method, you take a bit of the flour and milk that goes into the dough and you cook it in a saucepan until it forms a paste. Then you add it to the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough together. It didn’t take much longer and it definitely yielded a better result. Definite win.

The first filling variation was pepperoni pizza – you roll out the dough and spread marinara on it, then top it with pepperoni and shredded mozzarella. We loved this one! And there were many complaints that there was only the one loaf. When it’s out of the oven you brush on a bit of garlic oil and it adds just enough flavor without causing garlic breath. So good!

Not to diminish the dessert one. Butterscotch chips and cinnamon sugar – mmm mmm. This was so delightful with a cup of tea. You spread softened butter over the rolled out dough, then sprinkle on cinnamon sugar and butterscotch chips. It filled the house with the most heavenly smell, too. It was then finished off with a vanilla sugar glaze that made it a next level dessert.

I didn’t like the changed shaping method. While it is easier to just roll out a rectangle and cut strips for the pieces, it just didn’t seem to fit as nicely in the pans. Maybe I needed to be a bit more precise with the measuring (my measuring tape has disappeared and it’s driving me bonkers!) so I shouldn’t be too harsh a critic. It did fill the pan better and I do understand why they did it, the bigger fillings would’ve been a nightmare to individually place on the circles of cut out dough.

Overall I’m very happy with this month’s challenge. I hope next month brings something brand new though as the last two months have been variations on old challenges.

 

Throwback Thursday: Another Feast from Made in India

We must cook from Made in India at least once a week lately. Aaron’s sister and her sons came over and we thought it would be a great time to try a more complicated meal from the book. Here’s what we came up with…

Lamb Biryani – slow cooked lamb that has simmered for 1 1/2 hours with onions, garlic and ginger, tomato and yogurt, and a mixture of spices. In this way it’s very similar to the Howrah Express Cinnamon Lamb Curry that we made last time. But then you layer it in a crock with cooked basmati rice that’s been flavored with rosewater and fried onions and finish it off in the oven. The crock that we used had a lid so we didn’t bother to made the dough “lid”. This was a very special dish. My only complaint was that the rosewater flavor wasn’t pronounced enough, and next time I would use more.

We also made the Gujarati Potato Curry – it is basically chopped potatoes that have been cooked in a tomato based curry sauce – with aromatics such as onions, ginger and chilli and spices like mustard, cumin and coriander. A great little vegetarian curry and an easy way to use up potatoes when you buy too big a bag (this happens so often in our house).

I had my eldest make Pomegranate and Mint Raita – it was so funny to watch him try to work out how to seed the pomegranate. The raita is a mixture of pomegranate seeds, cumin, yogurt, mint and amchur (dried mango powder). The crunch of the pomegranate seeds made this so much fancier than our usual mint yogurt chutney.

We also made a couple of extra chutneys that have become our go to chutneys to serve with an Indian meal – date and tamarind and mango. The date one is made of dates, water, tamarind, salt, cumin and chili powder. This is simply wizzed up with a stick blender. The mango is some toasted mustard seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon sticks, cloves and peppercorns that you then add chopped mango, sugar, salt and chopped red chilli to and cook until it goes jammy. Discard the peppercorns and cloves, we usually keep the cinnamon stick in for continued flavor development.

All these photos were taken on the fly, thanks to having guests and it was already quite late. Sometimes eating just can’t wait any longer, especially when you’ve been torturing yourselves with the amazing dinner smells of food waiting to be devoured.

We of course served this with naan like we have before, more basmati rice, and the chicken & fig curry reappeared. It was our best Indian feast to date!

Golden: Rose-scented Cheesecake on a Coconut Base with Berry Compote

So we embarked on a gluten free cheesecake baking adventure last Thursday and it was very well received. Too bad our gluten free guest couldn’t make it. I guess that means we have an excuse to make it again though, at least!

I was very happy to read in the beginning of the cheesecake section that all the cheesecakes in Golden could be easily adapted to gluten free. I love a baked cheesecake more than just about anything so I have high expectations and rarely do cheesecakes live up to them. This was certainly an exception.

Aaron and I divvied up the tasks for the cheesecake preparation: I made the base and the compote while he conquered the cheesecake filling. The compote is basically some frozen raspberries cooked in a saucepan with sugar and a lemon that’s been cut in half until it boils and thickens. Then you pull the lemons out and over a mesh sieve juice the lemons into the mixture. It is so much easier to get all the juice out of a hot lemon. What a cool trick! Then it has a bit of rosewater and some fresh raspberries and strawberries stirred through before being refrigerated until ready to serve.

The base is pretty much a coconut macaroon – and what a clever way to make a cheesecake base gluten free! It’s simply coconut, butter, sugar, salt and egg that has been mixed together, pressed into the lined baking tin and baked until lightly golden – this took me about 20 minutes, while the recipe said 10.

Aaron tackled the filling which had all the usual cheesecake suspects – cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, flour which he used cornflour for – and then the flavorings added were rosewater and lemon zest. We poured this over the cooked base and baked it in the oven for 35 minutes.

I was so skeptical of this cooking time. I’ve never cooked a cheesecake so quickly or at such a high temperature. But, it turned out perfect! No cracks in the top and it was set yet creamy. Hallelujah!

The only weird thing about the cheesecake is this little concave side we have happening. I have no idea why that would occur?! It made the presentation not as beautiful as it could’ve been, but it’s hard to complain when it tasted so dang good!

Thanks Honey and Co – I now have to try all of Golden‘s cheesecake recipes!

The Moosewood Restaurant Table: Gingerbread Pancakes with Lemon Syrup

I love pancakes on Saturday mornings and Aaron makes them best! Here is a post of his most recent pancake adventure.

Backing the success of the walnut cheddar meatballs I made this week, I thought I would give Moosewood‘s gingerbread pancakes a try, as we’re big pancake fans in our house.

I started this recipe out with making the (absolutely delicious) lemon syrup…which used the usual suspects you’d expect to find in a good lemon syrup/sauce-related recipe, plus the (welcome) addition of freshly ground nutmeg. I am a HUGE fan of freshly ground nutmeg – I find it fun running that little thing over the microplane…and the fragrance – mmm!

The sauce was pretty straight forward to make – I possibly should have let it boil for a bit longer than the recipe suggested, just to get it a bit thicker, but the flavor was marvellous, so I wasn’t too disappointed I hadn’t.

Next up – the actual pancakes. And Moosewood were so kind as to split the ingredients into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. Easy. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients in another. Then add the wet to the dry. Very simple. Mix until just combined. Check. Hmm….this pancake batter seems very…thick. Surely it shouldn’t be this thick?

Go back to recipe. Well I’ll be…the ‘wet’ ingredients is more than just two items…there’s another column that has a few more I should’ve added. Including eggs. How the heck did I not think “oh…this is strange…not having eggs?” One of the biggest take-aways I got from this recipe was – pay attention to column breaks in ingredient lists!

Anyway, after a mad rush adding the missed ingredients, I got the pancakes onto the medium heated hot plate, and they cooked beautifully. Nice and fluffy, good cinnamonny/nutmeggy flavor. And the lemon syrup made them simply delightful.

I will definitely be trying this recipe again. All of it the first time, next time.

Throwback Thursday: PB&J Whoopie Pies from The Fearless Baker

I’m still totally addicted to the peanut butter and blackberry jam combo. One of the reasons I was really looking forward to getting The Fearless Baker back out from the library was because I knew that inside that magical book there was a recipe that would indulge that PB&J craving – PB&J Whoopie Pies.

The cookie is actually part wholemeal which makes it more reminiscent of a sandwich and it is light and chewy like cake or muffins. They were super easy to make and so satisfying to eat.

The filling is peanut butter marshmallow cream and it makes a huge amount! You make it by first making a sugar syrup and then adding it to whipped egg whites and once that’s combined you fold through peanut butter that’s been mixed with butter, salt and vanilla. I bought the good stuff – Bonne Maman blackberry jam to finish these off and they are easily one of the most amazing creations to ever come out of my kitchen.

They were messy to eat, I’ll be honest. The marshmallow cream being so generous wanted to ooze out the sides with each bite. I wouldn’t change that though, I wouldn’t change anything at all!

We used the leftovers to create cheats PB&J wagon wheels – I bought some chocolate wheatens that we spread with blackberry jam and peanut butter marshmallow cream and sandwiched together. There was no way I was wasting a single bite of that marshmallow cream!

There are still so many things I want to try from The Fearless Baker. One month going through that book was clearly not enough.

Golden: Vegan Ginger & Date Loaf Cake

Food52 Baking Club is going through Honey and Co’s book Golden this month and I just couldn’t help but be intrigued by their loaf cakes. I adapted the vegan was as the book suggests with their ginger and date loaf cake fillings to make this hybrid beauty.

The cake is a mixture of date syrup, water and canola oil that has been brought to a boil and then stirred through a dry ingredient mixture of flour, sugar, bicarb, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. Lastly, you stir in some chopped dates and crystallized ginger before baking it in a greased loaf tin for 30 minutes. When you pull it out of the oven, you simply brush on more date syrup and add some more chopped ginger to decorate.

I was surprised that the vegan cake recipe said 30 minutes in the oven, but when at 30 minutes I checked it and the top looked done and the skewer came out clear I promptly pulled it out, declaring the time had been right.

Or so I thought. I really should’ve gone with the date and ginger loaf time which was twice as long. While the cake was cooked on the outside, the middle is a bit raw still. Oops. Luckily it doesn’t contain raw eggs so it’s still edible, gooey and delicious. I’m such a ginger fanatic, I could eat the crystallized ginger straight out of the bag – maybe even to the point of eating the whole bag!

For my first recipe from this book,  I’m pretty happy and will definitely have a go at making this again with a longer oven time. Next up, I’ll be trying one of their divine looking cheesecakes. Mmm mmm….

Walnut Cheddar “Meatballs” from The Moosewood Restaurant Table

It’s a new month which means we have new cookbooks to explore! This month, the Food52 Cookbook Club is working through a vegetarian cookbook called The Moosewood Restaurant Table and I couldn’t be more excited to be adding more vegetarian meals into our repertoire. So this month I’ll be cooking from it for Meatless Mondays as well as for the normal club posts.

For our first recipe, Aaron, who is the meatball master, tackled their vegetarian meatball recipe and served it up as we would normally for our spaghetti and meatballs. The look and smell certainly would have fooled anyone into thinking these contained meat.

The balls contain some ingredients you would normally expect – onions, garlic, herbs, bread crumbs, eggs – but what bulks them up is shredded cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and coarsely ground walnuts. Unfortunately, it was the walnuts that gave these away as meatless. The recipe says coarsely ground which left too much crunch that you normally wouldn’t get in a meatball. Other than that though, we were super pleased with this recipe and cannot wait to make them again. Next time we’ll just make sure to grind the walnuts finely, which Aaron reckons will make them easier to shape and keep them ball shaped anyway.

Can’t wait to see how our next meal turns out!