God Bless www.picmonkey.com – it allows silly pictures like the featured image to be created. Don’t Ivan (gray) and Jasmine (Siamese) look regally amused to be wearing toques? Let’s assume they are, shall we? And get on with Caterday Cooking with the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Specials Cookbook.
(Caterday? Why, yes, it’s an internet meme thingie. Given that the interwebs is all about those kitties, every Saturday is celebrated as Caterday.)
Caterday Cooking was sprung from my imagination as a way for me to share foods with you. And to continue exploring my cookbook collection that now exceeds two hundred volumes. That’s right, more than 200 cookbooks at my house – and only one human to feed who eats like a bird.
Anyone who reads cookbooks can tell you that they’re much more than simply collections of recipes. They’re a tour guide for the senses, and a way to explore places you probably will never visit. Not that the home of the legendary Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York is out of reach in terms of distance or price, but that Greens is out of reach in terms of distance and The French Laundry in Yountville, California is out of reach in both distance and price. If I’m ever in San Francisco, Greens is on my list of places I’d like to eat.
It started in Athens, Georgia, I suppose, and a love of The Grit and The Bluebird. So many things in my life point back to those four years as a major turning point – it’s pretty amazing. Anyway, both were vegetarian restaurants that you could take any meat-eater to and everyone would come away satisfied. The Bluebird is long gone – so long awesome breakfast and to-die-for biscuits. The Grit still stands (and there’s a cookbook. Get a copy NOW.) And at the time I was still learning how to cook, and was fussy about touching meat, and so got myself a couple vegetarian cookbooks. The New Laurel’s Kitchen – which I still love – and anything from Moosewood.
So what’s a Moosewood? In this case, it’s a long-established collective of nineteen individuals who -over the course of forty years- have produced thirteen internationally acclaimed cookbooks and an awfully lot of darned good meals at the restaurant. The Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special Cookbook brings together more than 275 of the most loved daily specials.
I just wanted dinner for a few days so picked three recipes: Mexican Shrimp Salad on page 309, Yellow Pepper Soup on page 58, and the Solstice Salad on page 227.
The Yellow Pepper soup was divine, and I’m sure I’ll make it again. Next time I won’t bother to roast the bell peppers, though.
I didn’t get a picture of the Mexican Shrimp & Spinach Salad, but it was also quite good and easy to make. The dressing was a little sharper than I like, but that was from the fresh clove of garlic; a roasted clove might be more to my liking. And, of course, I left out the jalepeno in the dressing because – no way. Too hot for me.
The Solstice Salad looked innocent enough until I started prepping. And continued prepping because there are many steps involved. Here are the ingredients:
From the red beets on top -and going clockwise – you have toasted pine nuts, red onion, oranges, golden raisins in a tasty sauce and -in the very center- jicama.
This is a flavorful salad, and well worth the effort, but boy. What an effort. The cookbook claims it will take 45 minutes from start to finish. It took me more like 2-3 hours. Of course I was doing other stuff in between all this chopping and toasting and marinating, but still. It’s SALAD. They’re not supposed to be hard work.
It’s still a damn fine salad: hearty, filling, delicious. A different taste in every bite – sweet, salty, earthy, piquant – it’s all here. Totally worth the effort. Not that I’m making it again anytime soon, but maybe you will.
- 6 cups lightly packed mixed baby greens, such as mesclun or spring mix (about 6 ounces)
- 3 beets (about ½ pound)
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup regular or golden raisins
- ¼ cup marsala, apple juice, or orange juice
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 oranges
- 2 cups jicama, cut into matchsticks (about ¾ pound)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ small red onion (optional)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse and dry the salad greens and refrigerate.
- Cook the beets in boiling water until easily pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends and rub off the peels. Cut the beets into paper thin wedges. In a bowl, toss them with the vinegar, salt, and pepper and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the raisins and marsala or fruit juice to a boil.. Remove from heat and set aside. Toast the pine nuts. Peel and section the oranges and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the julienned jicama and the lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste, toss well, and set aside. Thinly slice the red onion, if using. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
- To assemble the salad, arrange the mixed greens on a large platter. Remove the beets and jicama from their marinade and spread them over the greens. Scatter on the orange sections and red onions and sprinkle on the raisins and pine nuts. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the dressing over all and serve the rest of the dressing on the side.