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:

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!

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.

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!

 

Nopalito: A Midweek Mexican Feast and book review

What I thought was going to be a simple dessert post for my last post from Nopalito for the month has turned into a veritable feast! Our planned dinner got changed, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to cook from the book and then I got hit with a terrible headache and Aaron took over and did an awesome job. I snapped some photos of our dinner served “family” style at our dining table with some whole wheat tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream and Mexican cheese…

Chicken Tinga – we already had toastadas this month, but I was looking for a soft taco filling that would be relatively easy and flavorful and this fit the bill. We bought a $7 Costco chicken and shredded the breast meat which was mixed with tin tomatoes, a chipotle chile, onion, garlic and coriander. Aaron deemed it the nicest Mexican protein we’ve ever made, and he’s not wrong!

Toasted corn – I was looking for a corn alternative to the Mexican corn cake I normally make and this is what I came up with. We used frozen corn kernels and sour cream and crumbled feta and it totally stole the show in my opinion. It only takes 5 minutes as opposed to the hour the corn cake bakes too, which is such a time saver. It has pico de gallo stirred through it to finish it off.

Refried black beans – these were good but I wouldn’t say better than my version. It was dangerous again with the hot smoking oil and  adding the onion and beans and cooking it out. My version stews the beans for longer in stock with some onion and garlic and chilli before blending it with my immersion blender and seasoning with salt. It was still good though.

Mexican Rice – I was keen to try this compared to my version. I’m not really convinced that this is any better to be honest. In our rice cooker we put basmati rice, chopped onion, diced carrot, garlic, tomato paste and water and set it to cook. It was nice, but I thought it was lacking some spice as I normally add a green chilli and some cumin.

Pico de gallo – this was a real hit as well. It’s a simple mixed of diced tomato, jalapeno, red onion, green onion and coriander with some lime juice and salt. I loved the random punch of jalapeno that you’d get every few mouthfuls. Just enough to send your taste buds soaring.

I have been surprisingly impressed with this book over the course of the month. There are certainly a lot more recipes I’d like to try, especially the desserts and the drinks, but also things like tamales and salsas.  They all turned out well, some of the recipes were good while others were great! I’m glad we tried a different cuisine in Food52 Cookbook Club as sometimes it seems like we don’t branch out that much. It’s one of those books that I would definitely recommend checking out from the library before deciding to purchase because you might get some good ideas rather than recipes as such. That being said, I’m glad I found it for $2 on Kindle a few months ago!

To see the other posts I’ve done this month, click on the links below:

 

Throwback Thursday: French Onion Soup from My Paris Kitchen

My love for My Paris Kitchen endures. I have been wanting to make French Onion soup for ages but Aaron was never super keen. Turns out all he knew of French Onion soup were dry soup packets that his mum would use to flavor chicken or store bought tubs of French Onion dip. I finally convinced him we needed to make it. And he is a changed man!

The soup is fairly basic in its essence, but the flavor packs a punch. It’s all about slow cooking and caramelizing sliced onions and then turning that almost onion jam into a rick broth. We opted for veggie stock in spite of the recipe choosing chicken stock instead of the traditional beef, because if we’re making a vegetable soup it seems wrong to make it a non vegetarian meal when it’s only that one ingredient that makes it not so. The broth also has sherry vinegar and white wine, garlic, salt and pepper. As I said, basic, but all the flavors pack a punch.

The show stopper of French Onion Soup is the soaking cheesy bread that is on top. We used the French bread that I made from Bread Bakers Apprentice, and since we didn’t have any soup crocks that were oven safe, we put slices of bread on a baking sheet, sprinkled the shredded Comte on top and baked it in the oven until the cheese melted.

This soup was so comforting for a cold Canberra night and luckily I had my soux chef available to do all the onion slicing so I wouldn’t be a teary mess. I think this soup will appear on our winter table again, especially seeing as though I now *have* to go find some oven safe soup crocks.

Nopalito: Chips and Guacamole

I held out as long as I could to try to get a sourdough post up this weekend but it’s just going soooo slow. I’ve had to retard the dough twice now because it’s finally reached the proper height right at bedtime, so tomorrow it should be right to be shaped and baked at last!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my next Nopalito post for the month. It’s been a busy weekend here at Casa de la Rosas and late night simple meals have been our go to. Friday night the older boys were at Youth Group, in the madness or taxiing kids around we got the younger two Happy Meals and Aaron and I had a huge lunch at the Burns Club earlier in the day, so when we finally got home at 9:30 we were all a little hungry but nothing a good bowl of chips and guacamole couldn’t cure!

The guacamole is not dissimilar to our normal guacamole recipe, it was nice but not revolutionary (although if I’d gotten a hold of some tomatillos that all may have changed). It’s simply some onion, green onions, lime juice, avocados, jalapeno, coriander, tomatoes, and salt. The recipe made stacks of guacamole and we enjoyed it Saturday as well alongside some cheese quesadillas (or cheese crisps as we used to call them growing up). The one thing I thought it was missing was some garlic. It really makes the flavors of guacamole sing.

When we used to go out to Mexican restaurants growing up my favorite thing would be the table-side made guacamole and the freshly cooked tortilla chips. I could eat bowl after bowl of those bad boys and there is seriously nothing like them here in Canberra. In Nopalito you are given instructions for making them from scratch, but also how to fry store bought corn tortillas to turn them into chips. So since we don’t have a tortilla press, I thought we should give them a go (especially since I got a deep fryer for my birthday). It really is just a matter of getting canola oil up to temperature, cutting the tortillas into wedges and deep frying them until golden. When they come out of the deep fryer you pat them dry on paper towels and then sprinkle them generously with salt. These were certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating that memory of chips and guacamole but it’s still not quite right. It may come to making the tortillas from scratch if I can find myself a tortilla press. Yes, I need all the gadgets.

The last part of this month is going to be insanely busy so thinking of what I might make next from this book has been challenging, given I haven’t been organized enough to go hunting for some of the more unusual ingredients (chili varieties, tomatillos and corn husks come to mind). I’ll likely reserve my last Nopalito post for some of the desserts as they look like my kind of fast baking. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good Mexican wedding cookie?!!

Throwback Thursday: Made in India Feast #2

A while back now, I posted about a Meatless Monday Indian feast we made using Meera Sodha’s book, Made in India, which Food52 Cookbook Club went through back in October 2017. This book is so good and we cook from it quite often, and we still haven’t come across a recipe we haven’t LOVED.

So today I thought I’d share about another meal that we made recently that was from her book.

Firstly, we made a mint yogurt chutney which is basically yogurt mixed with fresh mint, a green chilli and some lime juice. The recipe says you can use mint jelly if you don’t have fresh mint on hand, and we have resorted to that with success in the past too. I find this goes particularly well with the junjaro curry (kidney beans) and with the lamb curry that we made below. It also pairs nicely with the following…

Ondwa (semolina bread with spiced vegetables) – this intrigued me straight away because Meera says it’s practically expected that when you have guests over there is ondwa available for them in your fridge. It features zucchini, carrot and peas and a plethora of spices and has semolina and yogurt as its base. We can polish off a whole one of these for a savoury afternoon tea any day of the week.

And here we have two curries – Chicken & Fig curry and Howrah Express Cinnamon Lamb curry. For the chicken & fig curry you marinate the chicken in some yogurt with some spices and some rehydrated figs then you fry off some onion, ginger, garlic and a cinnamon stick before you add the chicken mixture and cook for 20 minutes. It’s pretty quick to throw together and I now prefer to pair this with the kidney bean curry as it is quick as well.

The lamb curry takes a much longer time to cook – about 2 hours from start to finish – so is not a good weeknight option. It starts of similarly by frying off an onion and some garlic, then adding some tinned tomatoes and some spices, cooking the lamb and adding some yogurt and water and then letting that simmer for a good 1 1/2 hours until the meat is falling apart. It is a beautiful curry – we were very impressed.

We also made the same naan from this book that we did in my previous post but we’re getting better and the last time we made it we actually brushed on garlic butter to take it up another notch still! Be prepared for more posts about this most awesome book in the future.

Nopalito: Tostadas de Picadillo and Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos

Having grown up in Arizona of course Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines so I am super excited that Food52 Cookbook Club is going through Nopalito by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando this month.

The first recipe (well two) that I thought I’d tackle is the Tostadas de Picadillo (otherwise known as Ground Beef Tostadas) with Refried Pinto Beans (Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos).

This tostada consists of a corn tortilla (which I bought from Woolies – I only found white ones so that’s what we used) that has been made crispy (we did this on our electric skillet but the book recommends frying in oil or baking), smeered with refried bean, then topped with a ground beef mixture and the side fixings (we’ve used lettuce, red onion, coriander, Mexican cheese, sour cream and lime juice).

The ground beef mixture (picadillo) is made by frying off some beef mince that has been generously salted, then cooking with onions, jalapenos, oregano, cumin, tomato paste and chilli powder. Then you add a tin of diced tomatoes and cook the mixture for 20 minutes. Finally you add some diced potato and shredded carrots and cook for a further 20 minutes until the vegetables have cooked.

The picadillo was really yummy, and I could see this being used for more than just tostadas, it would be great on nachos or tacos too. It was relatively easy, but I was suprised by the long cook time and kinda got caught out in the moment and had to come up with a quick dinner for our eldest who had a performance he had to be at well before we were finished cooking. Whoops!

The refried pinto beans were super easy. We halved the recipe because there was no need for 6 cups of beans for this meal, so we used 2 cans of pinto beans, draining one but keeping the liquid in the other. We warmed these up together and put them in a saucepan of hot oil for a couple minutes with some oregano and onion, then once they were cooked we blitzed them with our new stick blender. I thought this recipe was pretty good but was lacking in seasoning and I would definitely add salt next time. They also turned out paler than I imagined they’d be, not sure if that is the type of pinto beans we get here in Australia or if I needed to cook them longer or in a different oil. Normally I use some pinto and some black beans in my version, so it may just be what I’m used to.

Overall I was pretty happy with our first effort and I look forward to exploring this book a bit more over the next few weeks.

Simple Thai Food: Pad Thai with Shrimp and book review

I have been looking forward to making this dish all month. My favorite noodle dish of all time: Pad Thai. And this did not disappoint. We don’t buy seafood that often so our first impression of this recipe was that it was rather expensive to feed our family, but that did not deter us because we don’t do this sort of thing much – usually our meals are very budget friendly.

The first thing you need to do is soak the noodles. This takes around 30-40 minutes which gives you plenty of time to prep the rest of the dish so that it all comes together in about 15 minutes. If only we’d noticed that ahead of time, dinner would have been ready much earlier. Once the noodles have soaked you fry them in some oil and then you add a sauce consisting of fish sauce, tamarind and brown sugar. While the noodles cook in this you shift it over to one side of the pan and put shallot, garlic and tofu on the other and cook it. Then you add the raw shrimp and continue to cook, make a well in the centre of the pan and scramble some eggs. Once all the elements are cooked you stir it together and add some bean sprouts and green onion. Then it’s time to plate up by finishing it off with some more bean sprouts, a lime wedge and some chopped peanuts.

Hectic while in the throws of cooking and multitasking but quite amazing for one pan on the cooktop. I really enjoyed this dish, but like most Pad Thai recipes I prefer it without the “meat” – whether it be chicken or fish. I let Aaron eat all but 3 of my prawns but happily devoured every last piece of tofu. Next time we’re going to try to find a better firmer tofu – that’s my only real disappointment – by the end it kind of scrambled into non existence. The dish still tasted fabulous, but I did miss getting a bite of tofu on its own.

I’m going to leave this book review short and sweet: it has been a fun month cooking through  Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu with Food52 Cookbook Club – the recipes have been relatively simple compared to what I expected from a Thai cookbook and all of them have been delicious. I didn’t feel compelled to buy ingredients that were unfamiliar as many were listed as optional and each meal we’ve made we would make again. I’m glad I stumbled across this book on sale for Kindle because it is definitely worth owning.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below: