I was introduced to this gem of a cookbook many years ago at a friend’s house. I love to browse through people’s cookbook collections – there’s always at least a recipe or two that’s just begging to be discovered – and I happened upon a simple looking book. The cover was a bit tattered from wear and tear over the years, which is always the first book you should reach for – clearly there was a reason my friend used this book so much.
It was called “Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day”, and I’ve had it ever since (I had to buy my own, of course. My friend refused to part with his copy).
First off – and most importantly – the recipes are completely delicious. They are all rooted in simplicity – basic ingredients, basic preparation. This makes it a very accessible book, one that a beginner cook can easily grasp on to. Most recipes consist of a few vegetables, a fat, and maybe a carb base. There is a recipe for Cream of Spinach Soup that is delicately simple, but also unique. There’s also the “Tomatican”, made with tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
All of these come from the chef Mollie Katzen’s restaurant, Moosewood, in Ithaca, NY. It’s quite a gift she has bestowed upon us, as many chefs are secretive about their recipes. This is what makes this cookbook so great: she wants you to become a better cook, and to cook more for yourself.
Beyond the intrinsic value of a book filled with good recipes, the book is, in and of itself, a beautiful work of art. Every page, recipe, and word is written by hand. She’s illustrated everything herself. It feels less like a ploy to make money and boost numbers, and more like a labor of love. Every page is different, and one could spend hours just looking over the way in which she lays out text and image, and how they play and conflict with one another.
This book is highly recommended to anyone who is looking to expand their culinary horizons, while not busting the bank or burning too much time in the process. Specifically, vegetarians will enjoy this cookbook, as it offers a whole plethora of ways to utilize veggies in unique ways, giving them new flavors and textures that you may have thought were not possible before. Fair warning to those who are offended by meat, though, that there are a few recipes that involve fish. Simply thumb past these ones, though, and enjoy all the knowledge, useful tips, and delicious recipes that Moosewood has to offer.