I Heart The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation by Mollie Katzen

September 09, 2013

 

Full disclosure: Mollie Katzen taught me how to cook.

Well, not exactly. She wasn’t actually in my kitchen with me: I taught myself how to cook using The Moosewood Cookbook, her best-selling vegetarian cookbook published in 1977. I had already been a vegetarian for eight years but back in those days, being a vegetarian really meant just not eating the meat portion of the dinner you were served. Or as my mother said, “You can eat around what we eat”. While I already loved to cook and cooked often by the time I got to college, my repertoire was pretty limited. Like many of my generation, Mollie’s book was a revelation to me.

A little more disclosure: Mollie is also a ChopChop Advisory Board member. We had never met but she heard about ChopChop through the grapevine and the rest is history. We became pals because we were fans of each other’s work, not the other way around.

So, Mollie’s new cookbook: I have been cooking through it for a few weeks and so far, have not found a dud. In fact, each time I make something new I keep making it again and again so I’m not making much progress. The book is beautiful, personal, sometimes funny and often spirited. The recipes run the gamut from the very, very simple (the kind of recipes that make you smack your head and ask: why didn’t I think of that?) to the more complicated and slightly esoteric: most call for ingredients you will likely have on hand, but some require ingredients that some readers will find more unusual. The recipes have lots of instructions and personality, ideas for how to enhance, substitute, store and reheat. But don’t take my word for it, get it for yourself, whether you are a vegetarian or not (and I’m not anymore). - Sally Sampson


Both from The Heart of the Plate:

Olive Oil–Bread Crumb–Coated Fried Eggs

Makes 1 serving and can be doubled

I love fried eggs, whether cooked sunny-side up or flipped and all over tender. Fried eggs can easily and inexpensively round out and enrich your meals—and can well become your universal crown for home-cooked comfort foods. And this is my absolute favorite version, coated all over with delicious fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs and fried in olive oil.

  • 1/2 cup fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. In a medium skillet, toast the bread crumbs over low heat, stirring pretty much constantly and keeping watch. They will brown quickly (5 minutes or less).
  2. When the crumbs are toasted, add the olive oil, stirring it into the crumbs.
  3. Push the oiled crumbs into 2 flat beds (not too thick—leave some crumbs on the side) and crack an egg onto each. Spoon any extra crumbs over the tops of the eggs and sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover the pan and cook very slowly over the lowest possible heat, so the crumbs don’t get too dark. After several minutes, when the eggs have set, use a sturdy spatula with a thin blade to completely loosen them and carefully flip onto the second side, attempting to rearrange the bread crumbs for maximum coverage.(Don’t fuss.)
  5. Cover the pan again and cook until just set; the second side will go much more quickly than the first. Carefully but firmly loosen and lift the eggs out with the spatula onto a waiting plate and serve right away.

To make fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs, lightly toast 4 average slices of your favorite whole-wheat bread. When they are crisp, buzz them to your desired consistency in a food processor or blender. This will yield (approximately) a generous cup of fine crumbs or 2 cups coarse crumbs (or anything in between). Store them in a heavy zip-style plastic bag in the freezer.


Cheese-Crusted Roasted Cauliflower

Makes 4 servings

Cauliflower offers the broadest textural range of just about any vegetable. When spanking fresh, it’s delightful raw: Its crunchy white puffballs make satisfying crudités. And at the other extreme, cauliflower is also brilliant when boiled to oblivion and mashed. In this recipe, the high-temperature roasting process allows the cauliflower to become simultaneously fork-tender and chewy, with delicately crisp surface points (helped along greatly by the cheese) surprising you at random.

The roasted cauliflower will keep for up to 5 days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and will reheat beautifully.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups minced onion (1 large)
  • ¼ cup grated Italian fontina or sharp cheddar or shredded Parmesan, or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400, with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and slick it with the olive oil. (You can use a chunk of cauliflower to spread it around.)
  2. Arrange the cauliflower pieces on the sheet and sprinkle them with the minced onion. Roast for 15 minutes, then shake the baking sheet and/or use tongs to loosen and redistribute the pieces—gently, so they won’t pop off the baking sheet.
  3. Roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is becoming uniformly golden, then push everything together in the center of the baking sheet, keeping it a single layer. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.
  4. Roast for 10 or so minutes longer, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted, forming an irresistible golden crust. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and season with the salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Optional Enhancements:

Roast a sliced carrot along with the cauliflower. Try this same process using broccoli instead of, or in addition to, the cauliflower. Sprinkle some toasted bread crumbs over the cauliflower after it comes out of the oven.

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