Cookbook Review: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites: The 250 Most-Requested, Naturally Delicious Recipes from One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants by Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, founded in the 1970s. According to their website, they have published twelve cookbooks prior to this one. This cookbook aims to collect together the recipes that have proven themselves to be the most popular in their restaurant over the last 40 years.
Moosewood is pretty famous in the vegetarian crowd. It’s a name most vegetarians have heard, and I know some vegetarian who have even eaten at the restaurant. I’d always been curious about their cookbooks, so I was excited to see the newest one available on Netgalley. Given the fame, I was expecting something inspiring and special. Instead I found a rather ho-hum collection of decidedly average pescetarian recipes.
Moosewood claims everywhere (including on the main page of their website) that they are a vegetarian restaurant. But they aren’t. They are pescetarian. There is an entire fish section in the book. Calling yourself vegetarian when you’re not is misleading and wrong. (If you would like to read further on why it’s offensive for pescetarians to call themselves vegetarians, check out this post). I’m kind of shocked there isn’t more of an outcry in the veg community about this.
The rest of the cookbook (that is actually vegetarian) consists of: appetizers; dips and spreads; soups; sandwiches; burgers; main dish salads; curries and stews; beans; frittatas and pies; casseroles; stuffed vegetables; wraps, rolls, and strudels; tofu; pasta; side salads; sides; side grains; salad dressings; condiments and salsas; sauces and gravies; desserts; baking pan sizes and equivalents; and guide to ingredients and basic cooking. It’s a huge, long cookbook. But out of all these recipes, I only found eight I wanted to try. Usually I want to try at least every other recipe in a cookbook. The recipes here that failed to spark my interest fell into one of three categories: 1) they were painfully obvious and overly simple 2) they were deeply unhealthy, swimming in cups of oil, heavy cream, and tons of eggs or 3) they weren’t vegetarian because they contained fish.
Some examples of the painfully obvious include quinoa with veggies, basic chili, thai vegetable curry, and black bean sweet potato burritos. You don’t need a cookbook from a famous restaurant to give you these recipes. I’d say otherwise if there was anything about their recipes that at least made them a variation of the norm, but I have seen the same thing over and over again in multiple recipes in cookbooks, blogs, and websites.
As for the unhealthy recipes, beyond the already mentioned high fat and an unnecessary quantity of eggs, there were things like the suggestion to top your corn on the cob with mayonnaise. Or the fact that most of their dressing recipes contained 1/4 to 3/4 cup of oil. The recipes routinely don’t take a well-rounded diet into consideration. Protein doesn’t get enough attention. For instance, a vegetarianized jambalaya recipe has zero protein in it. And perhaps it’s not unhealthy, but I found it very odd that a restaurant’s cookbook called for canned pumpkin for their pumpkin pie.
On the plus side, the cookbook is well-organized and illustrated with beautiful pictures. Although, the recipes are written out in paragraph form. I generally prefer a numbered list. But this is a personal preference, and the recipes are easy enough to follow.
I have made one of the eight recipes I selected out as possibilities so far. I made the Winter Salad Plate (page 110). Since the recipe states it serves 8 as a side salad and my intention was to have it as a side salad with egg sandwiches with my partner and a friend, I halved the recipe. Also, since I didn’t have greens from my CSA that week, I replaced the greens with more root vegetables. The consensus was it was yummy, but the dressing needed a touch of bitterness like a vinegar and less oil. I don’t mind having to adapt a recipe a bit to get it just right but with a high-quality cookbook you don’t have to do that.
In spite of the shortcomings, the recipes do indeed work, and the cookbook is well organized and prettily illustrated. Recommended to pescetarians and omnivores who don’t cook a lot, so the recipes would be less familiar to them, who also don’t mind a high fat/oil and low protein content in their food. Also recommended to long-time fans of Moosewood.
3 out of 5 stars