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:

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!

 

King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Banana Bread

One of the very first things I can remember helping with in the kitchen  is making banana bread with my Aunt Cindy. We’d wait until the bananas were almost black and load them into the mixer to make the moistest batter on the planet. We’d bake a huge batch in little loaf pans, medium loaf pans and a few bigger ones as well and it was the best banana bread in my humble opinion. I’ve since made her recipe a few times and have not had the same success rate with it. Wonder if it was the magic of the moment spent together that made it so great?!

This year King Arthur Flour’s recipe of the year is their Whole Grain Banana Bread. This immediately appealed to me as we try to eat whole grains rather than white most of the time, not only for the health factor, but the hearty factor – I’ve got 4 boys (if you include Aaron) who are big eaters and my daughter can put the food away as well. So a while back I gave it a go when I also tried Tartine’s Zucchini & Orange Marmalade Tea Cake.

My thoughts…this was definitely the moistest WHOLEMEAL banana bread that I’ve had. I used to make one that incorporated oats that was pretty good as well, but this was better, especially with the addition of walnuts (seriously, good banana bread must have walnuts). I didn’t really care for the sugar topping and so this week when I make it again I’ll be leaving that off for sure. I’m going to adjust the temperature and timings a bit too and hopefully get it to cook without the top cracking this time around. I fear that it has to do with our dodgy oven, but making a few adjustments on my end can sometimes yield better results.

I guess you could say that if I’m trying again it is a good recipe. I’m going to have a nice thorough read of it beforehand as I’d like to have something gluten free for a get together at the end of the week, so maybe I’ll make two versions if it can be adapted. (If not, I may try that clementine cake from Jerusalem again.) But for now, it’s time to go bananas!

———————————————————————————————–

Update: I made the banana bread again today, ditched the cinnamon sugar topping and used choc chips instead of walnuts to make it more appealing to Little Miss 6 1/2. I baked it in my taller thinner ceramic loaf pan and in a lower oven for longer and it turned out amazing!

I could only manage about 30 minutes of cooling before cutting it and having a slice with some coffee. Mmm mmm….

And by the end of the day, there was nothing left!

Butterflake Herb Loaf

This butterflake herb loaf which was the King Arthur Flour Bakealong challenge in March 2017 is one of our very favorite dinner breads. It is ultra comforting and perfect to accompany a bowl of soup or pasta.

You make an enriched dough that has butter, eggs and milk and let it rise until doubled. Then you roll the dough out and cut out discs before spreading with a buttery herb and garlic filling and folding the discs into half moons. Then you just lay them in a row in two small loaf pans and leave to rise until the fill the pan. Half an hour in the oven and you are indulging in one of the greatest things since sliced bread!

Look at the golden buttery layered goodness…

And the glamour shot of the inside…break me off another piece!

Pane Bianco

Well, I did make bread over the weekend but we’re still working on reviving that sourdough starter. Aaron made a big batch of his pumpkin soup last week, and this is my favorite bread to accompany it and just so happens to be the first ever King Arthur Flour bakealong challenge: Pane Bianco.

The dough part is very straightforward, so if you’re interested, simply check out the provided links but what is unique about this bread is the shaping.

First though, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to get my bread to proof quicker now that it is cold in Canberra (we don’t get over 19C inside atm without a heater on) and since our oven is still on the fritz (the landlord is having trouble finding someone who repairs our particular oven) the oven light trick won’t work. Out of the blue I thought maybe I could use my microwave by putting a cup of boiling water inside next to my bread dough. And wouldn’t you know it worked in the prescribed amount of time on the recipe?!!

While it was rising, I made the filling by combining some sundried tomatoes, chopped basil, pizza cheese and garlic.

Then I rolled out the dough into a long rectangular-ish shape…

Spread the filling out over the top…

Rolled it up…

Pinched the ends closed then took a pair of kitchen shears and cut all the way down and shaped it into a figure 8…

Left it to rise while our dying oven preheated and baked it for 30 minutes.

(I didn’t bother with tenting it because opening the oven would have dropped the temperature too much, so this does look like I burnt the exposed filling a little. It still tasted amazing though.)

Look at that yummy filling! And the bread itself was cooked perfectly. =)

Aaron’s Green(ish) Breakfast Smoothie

We thought since the theme for this April’s Meatless Monday posts has accidentally become breakfast focused, what better way to end the month than with one last breakfast recipe, and it’s an Aaron specialty.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe – nothing too fancy, and pretty easy to make. I make it in a blender, so that has the added bonus of waking everyone in the house up, so they’re ready for their smoothies.

(I say green(ISH), because, well, it doesn’t look that green…)

Aaron’s Green Smoothie

Aaron's Green Smoothie

(Serves 2)
Ingredients:

Handful of baby spinach (about 1 cup)

1 large banana

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

3/4 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup cold water (or more if needed)

Add the first four ingredients, plus about half of the water, to a blender and pulse until combined (should be the consistency of a thick shake) or the blade isn’t doing anything. If the blade isn’t doing anything, add a little more water to loosen the frozen berries up. Only add as much water as you need to get things moving until the smoothie reaches the consistency of a thick shake. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

Aaron’s famous wholemeal blueberry buttermilk pancakes

Today’s Meatless Monday post is a guest post from Aaron. He makes this almost every weekend for me because he knows they’re my favorite, but sometimes it’ll even be made for dinner if that’s what I’m in the mood for and I ask him nicely. =)

These pancakes are really quite easy to make, and with our new electric grill plate I can cook all three at the same time so Jen gets her brekky quicker.

Ingredients:

1 cup wholemeal self raising flour

1 tspn baking powder (2 tspn if using plain wholemeal flour)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup skim milk (plus a bit extra if required)

1 egg

1/2 cup of frozen blueberries

Blueberry jam (we use St. Dalfour’s spreadable fruit)

Spray cream

Method:

Preheat pan/grill/whatever you’re using to cook the pancakes on medium-high. Use a bit of olive oil if cooking them in a pan. On our non-stick grill I don’t use any oil.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl until combined well. Add buttermilk and skim milk and stir until well combined. Add egg and stir until fully incorporated. Add more milk if the batter is too thick (i.e. doesn’t flow by itself, but you don’t want it too runny – add a little more flour if it’s too runny after adding more milk).

Pour/spoon the batter to about 10 cm (4 inch) diameter, then straight away spoon about 10 blueberries onto each pancake. (You can add the blueberries to the batter if you like – it colors the pancakes a little differently, and/or the blueberries can stick together which makes them a little harder to work with when pouring).

When the top of the pancake starts to get covered in bubbles, it’s time to flip them. They usually take 2-3 minutes for the first side, then 1-2 minutes more after you flip them. You can test if they’re ready by lightly pressing on the top of them near a blueberry and seeing if (uncooked) batter comes out. If they are springy and no batter comes out, they’re done.

Place the cooked blueberry pancake on a plate, spread the topside with blueberry jam. Repeat this twice to make a three stack, then add cream on top, and serve with freshly made coffee.

Happy wife, happy life!

Whipped banana porridge with berries

Given this is a regular feature of my morning eats on What I Ate Wednesdays, I thought it was about time I share how I make my bowl of porridge. I have been known to eat this at any time of day if I don’t feel like cooking for myself, and it is always filling and satisfying.

While it can be made in a saucepan on the cooktop, I tend to just do it in the microwave. I use a red decor microwave bowl and then transfer it to a nicer bowl if I’m feeling fancy, but often I just guzzle it straight from the microwave one to save on washing up.

To make it I put 1/2 cup of rolled oats, a sprinkling of cinnamon, 1 cup of water, and a broken up banana (I don’t even bother to cut it up) into a bowl and microwave it for 2 minutes. I give it a really good stir and microwave it for a further 2 minutes. Then I put a spoonful of peanut butter in, give it another really good stir to make it nice and creamy and finish it by topping it with 1/4 cup each of blueberries and raspberries straight from the freezer (the hot porridge defrosts them really quickly). The berries and banana offer sweetness without the need for sugar or honey and the peanut butter ups the protein content to keep you feeling full.

And that’s it – one bowl of deliciousness that will keep me going for hours – just what a busy mother needs!