Amid Washington’s graduation season, we look at the craft of writing and delivering commencement speeches. What advice sticks — and what doesn’t?
Mollie Katzen put vegetarian cooking on the map in 1977 with her best-selling “Moosewood Cookbook.” Three decades and 11 books later, her ideas about making vegetables the centerpiece of the plate still resonate in kitchens around the globe. Katzen joins Kojo to talk about healthful cooking, her new cookbook and why the term “vegetarian” should refer to food, not people.
- Mollie Katzen Author of the "Moosewood Cookbook"; her 12th and newest book is "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2013)
Recipes From ‘The Heart Of The Plate’
Fruit-Studded Madeleine Cake
Makes 8 to 10 servings
This highly buttery vanilla cake is the sunny circle on which you get to design a dreamy skyscape of berry stars and plum-slice half-moons. Fruit baked onto a cake: What could be better? Using a tart pan with a removable rim will add to its quiet splendor (and birthday celebration worthiness).
Unwrap the butter ahead of time and place it in the mixing bowl to soften. In the heart of the summer season, consider using a combination of variously colored plums: red, deep purple, yellow. Slice them lengthwise and place them all over the top in a random pattern of scattered half-moons.
You can use fresh berries or frozen unsweetened ones, which can go directly onto the cake still frozen.
If you have more fruit than will fit, make it into a fresh compote to serve on top or on the side.
Nonstick cooking spray
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk (low fat is OK)
4–5 firm, ripe plums, pitted and sliced
1 cup (or more) raspberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center position. Lightly spray with nonstick spray the bottom of a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with a removable rim.
Beat the butter for about 3 minutes in a medium-large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until completely incorporated and the mixture is very light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
In a second bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 2 installments, alternating with the milk. After each addition, mix from the bottom of the bowl with a spoon or a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.
Transfer the batter to the pan, spreading it evenly. Arrange the fruit on top of the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden on the edges, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and springy to the touch. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Mango slices (fresh or frozen) or fresh peach or nectarine slices can substitute for some of the plums.
Indian Summer Lasagna Stacks
Makes 4 large or 8 smaller servings. Vegan (if made as directed in the variation).
Swelter-free, this no-bake treatment, which is like a lasagna salad or a double-decker lasagna tostada, will be a happy addition to your summer dinner repertoire. First, you grill and marinate zucchini and/or summer squash with herbs and fresh corn. Then you layer the vegetables generously with a basil-laced cheese filling, cooked noodles, and a tomato “sauce,” which is simply a bowlful of diced, fresh tomatoes that have been given the opportunity to (literally) express themselves. Prepare all the components well in advance and assemble the stacks on a platter or on individual plates just before serving. After a brief heat-up in the microwave, the lasagna is ready to serve. Added bonus: there is no pan to wash afterwards.
I’ve divided this recipe into two parts, to make it easier to follow.
Make sure the tomatoes you use for the sauce are very fresh, yet still firm. After you cut them, juices will accumulate in the bowl as they sit. Save it as a delightful sop for fresh bread. Or just drink it.
Go ahead and use a good store-bought basil pesto, unless you feel like making your own well ahead of time. You can also just add ½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic and a handful of minced fresh basil to the ricotta, if you don’t have any pesto on hand.
With your good, sharp knife, you’ll find your own preference for the thickness of the squash—neither too thick nor too thin.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Dried rosemary, crumbled
1 pound small (4- to 6-inch) zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, cut into circles about 1/4 inch thick
Kernels from 1 ear fresh, sweet corn
3 tablespoons grated or shredded Parmesan
Combine the 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large, shallow bowl. Whisk to blend and place the bowl near the stove.
Set a ridged grill pan or a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, brush it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little thyme and rosemary. Place the zucchini slices on the hot, herbed surface in a single layer and cook on medium-high on both sides until browned and just tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper as it cooks. When it is tender and golden, transfer the cooked squash directly to the marinade, spreading it out so all surfaces can get flavor exposure. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan while it is still warm. (You will likely need to cook the zucchini in several shifts.)
Without cleaning it, heat the pan again, brushing with a touch more oil, if necessary. Toss in the corn and a little more thyme and rosemary and cook for just a minute or two. Scrape the corn and all the flavor from the pan into the marinating squash and toss to coat. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan, season with more salt and pepper, if desired, and set aside to marinate for up to an hour— and ideally, for several. (If it’s going to be much longer and your kitchen is hot, cover the bowl and refrigerate until it’s time to assemble the lasagna.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ripe but firm, sweet in-season tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
8 2 1/4-inch-wide lasagna noodles (about 1/2 pound)
1 pound whole-milk ricotta
Up to 6 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan
10 or more fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (optional)
Fill a large pot with water, add the oil, and bring to a boil.
Core the tomatoes and cut them into small (1/4-inch) dice. Transfer them to a bowl, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, cover, and set aside.
Lay out a towel on a counter near the sink, or spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Add the noodles to the boiling water, using a dinner knife or something similar to swish in a gentle slicing motion between and among them, to prevent their sticking together. Boil for exactly 7 minutes, then carefully drain the noodles in a colander. Immediately use tongs or a pasta gripper to gently lift them out, laying them flat in a single layer on the waiting towel or baking sheet.
Combine the ricotta and pesto to taste in a medium-large bowl. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
To assemble the lasagna, have ready four or eight broiler proof plates. Place a noodle— long, or cut shorter (or in half, if going for 8 servings) with scissors—on each, then spread it with about a tablespoon of the ricotta. Add spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture and the tomatoes, then repeat with a second tier. (Don’t worry if things tumble down—that’s part of the charm.) You’ll end up with beautiful stacks, topped with a preponderance of vegetables.
Sprinkle with the Parmesan and then microwave each stack on high power for 1 minute, or broil to heat through and possibly brown the top. Serve hot or warm, topped with strips of fresh basil leaves.
Pear Tart With Olive Oil, Cornmeal & Pine Nut Crust
Makes 10 to 12 servings
Baking lemon-laced pears in a sturdy, slightly crunchy cornmeal–pine nut crust, crowned with a beautiful lattice top, might well become your new tradition. The loving care you invest in this preparation will reward you with a tart that will feed many and can freeze and defrost seamlessly— so you can feed many at a later time.
This freezes well for up to 3 weeks, if wrapped very tightly. Defrost completely before serving.
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
Up to 1⁄3 cup water
1⁄3 cup pine nuts
Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Pour in the olive oil and run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the beaten egg and pulse a few more times, just until incorporated, then buzz in enough water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to bring the dough together.
Remove the dough from the food processor and gather it together, kneading it briefly into a ball and folding/poking in the pine nuts as you go. Break the dough into 2 uneven pieces, one about twice as big as the other. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten each into a thick disk.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle about 1⁄8 inch thick. Carefully lift the circle, and ease it into an ungreased 10- to 11-inch tart pan with a removable rim, gently guiding it into the corners and letting it climb the sides. Patch any breaks or holes by pressing the dough back together (with a touch of water if needed) and trim the edges flush with the top of the rim.
Scrape clean and lightly reflour the work surface, then roll out the smaller piece of dough into a smaller circle 1⁄8 inch thick. Cut it into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third position, while you make the filling.
2 1/2 to 3 pounds ripe pears, such as Bartlett, Comice, or Anjou (not Bosc or Asian, which are too grainy)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Peel and core the pears and cut them into thin slices. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and maple syrup.
Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle this onto the pears and toss to coat.
Place the fruit in the crust, spreading it out as evenly as possible. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a crisscross pattern, then push the ends of the strips onto the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (Use dabs of water, as needed, to make them stick.)
Place the filled tart on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Vanilla and/or salted caramel ice cream. Vanilla or fruit-infused frozen yogurt. If you want to make this with walnuts instead of pine nuts, add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts to the cornmeal and flour in the food processor in step 1.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHer first cookbook named after a funky food collective in Ithaca, New York was a runaway best seller that put vegetarian cooking on the map. The "Moosewood Cookbook" also launched Mollie Katzen's 30-year career as a cookbook author and leading champion of healthy food from the garden. Over the years the nation's tastes have changed. Eating vegetarian is no longer a curious lefty trend but a popular path to good nutrition and good health.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe cheese and eggs that used to hold a lot of vegetarian dishes together are now more often relegated to supporting roles. And Mollie Katzen has embraced these changes in a new cookbook that puts vegetables squarely in the center of the plate. Joining me to talk about vegetarian recipes for a new generation is Mollie Katzen, author of the "Moosewood Cookbook." Her new cookbook is called "The Heart of the Plate¨ Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation." Mollie Katzen joins us in studio. Welcome.
MS. MOLLIE KATZENThank you so much, Kojo.
NNAMDIGood to have you here. Your "Moosewood Cookbook"...
KATZENIt's good to be here.
NNAMDI...helped put vegetarian cooking on the map in the 1970s. How have tastes changed since then and how has your own approach to preparing vegetarian meals, well, evolved?
KATZENWell, it might sound odd but you kind of framed it beautifully when you talked about the eggs and cheese holding things together. It used to be very structural. And I think I could safely say that early on it was largely about replacing the meat in the center of the plate. So everything else was the same and we're just going to swap out the meat. And it had to be something convincing and substantial so that if you think about the ethos of that day, there was a lot of fear that if you don't have a very big dose of protein right in the center, that you might faint or worse.
NNAMDIYou'd be weak -- you'd get weak.
KATZENYou will just wobble away from the table.
KATZENAnd so this might sound (word?) , in fact, it kind of is but by vegetarian cooking and I think vegetarian cooking in general has gone more towards the actual vegetable. Because in those casseroles that, you know, I have fond memories of and I still make sometimes, the vegetable's kind of an afterthought or it was like speckled into the cheese and eggs. But now the vegetable is becoming more and more the focus.
NNAMDIThe heart, the center of the plate.
NNAMDII think a lot of people would be surprised to know that the author of one of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks ever is not a strict vegetarian eater herself. What are your thoughts on eating meat?
KATZENWell, I have -- I don't really think very much about meat one way or the other. I great up in a kosher home so that meat -- from a very early age I was taught that meat is guilty until proven innocent. (laugh) There were standards. But mostly I became such a vegetable enthusiast at such an early age. I mean, honestly I even loved the frozen vegetables my mother used to cook. I thought they were delicious. And so I've just always had a kind of yen for the things that grow in the garden.
KATZENIn fact, at one point I remember actually discovering that they actually did grow in the garden. Because I grew up thinking they grew in my mother's freezer. And so the meat was -- it was okay but it wasn't my focus. And the more I fell in love with plant foods the more they filled up the plate so thoroughly that there wasn't even room for the meat. I'm not against meat. I eat very little of it myself and I've gone for years without it. If one is to eat meat I do feel it should be, you know, healthfully, sustainably raised and environmentally, sensitively raised. But it's not my focus.
KATZENAnd I do think for a lot of people vegetarian -- the word vegetarian connotes meat as in the absence of. But then you also find vegetarians who don't necessarily eat a lot of vegetables. It's largely -- it can be largely about avoiding the meat. And for me it's about embracing the vegetables.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Mollie Katzen. Her latest is called "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation." If you're interested in joining the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. What do you find to be the most challenging part of vegetarian cooking, 800-433-8850? You could also send emails to email@example.com or shoot us a Tweet at kojoshow. With the growing interest in food and cooking, there's a tendency to identify ourselves by our eating habits. He's a foodie, she's a vegan. It's like joining a food fraternity or sorority. You've said these terms should apply to the food not to the people.
KATZENWouldn't that be nice?
KATZENBecause sometimes I feel that people, first of all, might back themselves into a corner. I mean, supposing, just supposing, highly hypothetical, you love vegan food. I mean, I love vegan food. To me vegan food is the heart of the plate. Many of the dishes in this new book are in fact vegan. But sometimes, for me at least, after the vegan dish I might want a touch of cream on it or I might want a piece of cheese, I might want a spoonful of ice cream. And if I've made too much of a big statement about, well my identity is as a vegan...
NNAMDIYou have backslidden.
KATZEN...then you have to kind of wear a disguise if you want to eat the ice cream or sneak out the backdoor. That's not true. I mean, some people -- I have to say, it's very important in fact for me to say that I have deep respect for people's food choices. And I ascribe good intentions to everyone about those choices. But what I don't enjoy seeing and what I don't want to be encouraging is more division among us just as humans, as Americans. There's such intense division, especially now it's getting worse and worse as we all know.
KATZENI hate to see food be another way of people being separated and pitted against one another and judging one another. I like to see people all sit down at the same table. And I really do enjoy seeing people eating a lot of garden food.
NNAMDII really like what you said. I quote you, "I like vegetarian to describe the food. Anybody is eligible to eat this. You don't have to sign up with a membership club. Relax your labels. Enjoy. Relax."
KATZENI know. I've actually been in situations of formal dinners where you have to check the box. You know, if you're a vegetarian you check the box. And it used to be you'd get the fettuccini alfredo. And the person with the chicken has all the vegetables on their plate. And the person who's ironically the vegetarian has -- or if they're vegan they'll have a plate of vegetables. But it might not be enough -- for me it would not be enough to hold me until my next meal. So...
NNAMDIYeah, one of the things I noticed that I read that you used to do when you went to restaurants is that you would look at the vegetables that came with the main dishes and you would order those vegetables. And then even the people with the meat dishes would be looking at your vegetable dish with envy.
KATZENI was the envy of the table and everyone's fork was heading towards my plate. And I was like, you guys, I don't know. And it was funny too, yeah, because my strategy -- and it still is, it's so much fun to do this and normally I don't think the chefs mind -- although if there are chefs listening who mind you should call and tell us if you have a problem with this. It's so funny, you order -- say, just make me a platter of the side dishes of everybody else's dish. And then you get this -- then you get something really interesting.
KATZENWell, in fact, that is kind of how I've designed my cooking in "The Heart of the Plate." "The Heart of the Plate" doesn't refer so much to one main dish in the center of the plate. More like a collaboration of smaller side dishes that combine. I love the word -- I love the phrase side-by-side dishes instead of side dishes. And instead of it being a combination, everything thrown into one big casserole, it's a coordination or a collaboration of dishes.
NNAMDIWhich brings me -- well, you've almost answered my next two questions. In decades past there was a perception that you couldn't eat healthy and also eat fun. How has that changed?
KATZENThis was the dividing line that we see in our culture. On one side you're healthy, you're eating healthy but you're miserable because it tastes so bland. (laugh) And on the other side you're having a blast but you'll pay. (laugh)
NNAMDIYes, you will.
KATZENAnd you'll pay and you'll, you know -- so I absolutely believe that no division, no firewall is ever necessary between healthy and delicious. It can be all good but you really do need to learn how to cook. I'm on a campaign here, Kojo, I have to confess. I want people cooking at home. I want people learning how to cook and learning how to make it a draw rather than a push into good food.
NNAMDIBecause even though you have been cooking for such a long time, as it turns out you now go to restaurants less than you did before because you enjoy cooking more than you did before.
KATZENIsn't that strange?
KATZENI mean, maybe...
NNAMDIStrange for me maybe but not for you.
KATZENI love cooking more than ever. I surprise myself because when I was working on the recipe tests for the new book, I would find myself clearing my -- that was my day's work -- I would clear it and then I would make dinner. And it's a whole different -- for me it's a whole different kind of cooking. But that's also because personally in my real life and when I take off the hat of the cookbook author, I'm actually somebody who is incapable of following a recipe. So I can dish it out but I can't take it.
KATZENIt's more of a lab mentality when you're creating a recipe for others to follow. And my recipes aren't for me. They're for others. But I love to -- for me the biggest treat in the world is to go into my kitchen and cook something without writing it down.
NNAMDI"The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation" is the title of the new book. It is your 12th. What prompted you to write it?
KATZENI realized my cooking had changed and I wanted to share that whole modular sense of the different dishes side by side. I spent quite a few years working with the nutrition researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, unofficially working with them, kind of like a friend and mascot. Because they felt that their nutrition research was not tremendously sexy. Like they would come up with these decrees about, you know, healthy oils or whole grains. But then people would glaze over and they were mostly talking to each other and to scientists. And I saw my role with them is to show people what that actually looked like as dinner.
KATZENAnd the station that we created at their cafeteria at Harvard was something we called "The Heart of the Plate" which was a more modular -- like a DIY, almost like a salad bar for everything. And if you were to come to dinner at my house, which I hope you will someday soon, dinner at my house does look like one big salad bar on my dining room table where people are helping themselves to smaller modular dishes that are not necessarily -- I have to add, not necessarily more work to make because they're simpler.
NNAMDII'm making a note here. Dinner at Mollie's as often as possible. Okay.
KATZENWe'll get our calendar out as soon as we're done here.
NNAMDIPlease don your headphones because I'm headed to the phones.
NNAMDIWe go now to Andrew in Alexandria, Va. Andrew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANDREWYeah, hi, Kojo. Hey, I've been around vegetarianism on and off for many years and now I'm doing fish and salad and, you know, veggies. One of the things I wanted, you know, just to anybody to speak to is, you know, cutting and pasting a particular lifestyle or diet on anyone, you know, they have for a long time eat according to your blood type. And I think more in those terms now than I do in other terms. So I just don't -- I don't know, you know, where we come down with adopting lots of lifestyles and diets that may or may not be best for us.
NNAMDII'm not sure I understand your question, but let me see if Mollie Katzen does.
ANDREWWell, the question is, the jury, to me, is still out about, for example, adopting vegetarianism versus other forms of eating.
NNAMDIOh, okay. Mollie Katzen, he says the jury is still out on adopting vegetarianism versus other forms of eating. The whole notion of a contention, one versus the other, is one you seem to be avoiding.
KATZENWell, here's the thing. I don't even know what vegetarianism means. To Andrew, it might mean something and to you it might mean something else and to me, it -- it's very broad. I have actually found in the many decades that I've been writing cookbooks -- and it's actually close to four decades -- that I find self identified vegetarians whose definition of that is very different one from the other. And for many people it is about keeping meat away and it's like kind of anything but meat. Just -- but it is an avoidance of meat, which doesn't necessarily include vegetables.
KATZENFor other people, it is -- really honestly, that it might be, you know, just a lot of bagels or I don't know what -- again, it's very individual. And there might be people who love a little bit of meat but also adore vegetables and need a plate piled to the sky with vegetables every night for dinner along with a small piece of meat. So I'm not sure I even know what vegetarianism is. Is it an embrace of vegetables? Is it an aversion or an avoidance of meat?
KATZENI know vegetarians who eat fish and they call themselves pescetarians. And then there are lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat eggs and cheese. And then there are vegan vegetarians who eat no animal products. And then I once had over to dinner a vegan for whom I went out of my way to make a beautiful vegan meal. But then when we served ice cream for dessert she said, well let me adjust that. I'm a Haagen-Dazsian vegan. And it was -- I'm sorry, I don't mean -- I mean no disrespect to vegans but that is exactly the kind of flexibility I hope people will afford themselves if they're so inclined.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Andrew. Now to the -- back to the cooking itself. Some people would argue that vegetarian cooking is more time consuming, that it takes longer to chop and slice and prepare vegetables than it does to, well, throw a chicken breast in the oven. What do you say to those folks?
KATZENWell, they're right. And there is -- there are strategies and there are techniques and there's also a philosophy -- and I'll try to keep the philosophy part brief because otherwise you'll have to, like, drag me out of here when the hour is up.
NNAMDIWhen the time runs out, yes.
KATZENI will keep going on that one. Okay. Let me first just say that the knife is everything. And there is no one right knife for everyone. But when you find the right knife for you, you will know it because it will feel good in your hand. And when you go towards the onion it will grab the onion or the apple or whatever you're charging, it'll sink right in. You'll hear that little swish, that sound effect. And a sharp knife will -- you'll get religion right then and there. It will want you -- not only will you not mind chopping vegetables, you're going to go out looking for more vegetables to chop.
KATZENSo that's one piece of it is the right equipment. Having a strategy because I will admit vegetables, first of all, they take up a huge amount of space in your refrigerator. Before they're cooked they're very big. And if you were to, for a family of four in one shopping trip, try to get enough vegetables for the whole week, you would need to fit 140 servings of vegetables into your refrigerator. It's hard to do. They cook down. Of course they reduce.
KATZENSo there are ways to precook vegetables when you get home from the produce market. It's very easy. It involves blanching them in boiling water very briefly, squeezing out the water. They're shelf life increases and the space that they take up in the refrigerator greatly decreases and they become very easy to finish up. they become an instant food for the next -- you know, tomorrow when you're going to just heat them in olive oil and garlic and you're good to go. So there are strategies.
KATZENThe bigger philosophy is what is our relationship to time.
NNAMDIOkay. I'm timing you on this one.
KATZENYeah, okay, great. Okay. Let me get this said -- let me get this spoken. If we want something quick, we have to ask ourselves what kind of time are we affording cooking and what kind of commitment do we have to let it have take up some space in our lives?
NNAMDIWell, we're also going to talk about that some more because not only do we seem to think that cooking should be done in a shorter period of time as possible. But we also seem to think that eating should be done in a shorter period of time as possible, which is another problem. But enough of me. Allow me to go to Rachel in Silver Spring, Md. Rachel, your turn.
RACHELThank you. I wanted to thank Ms. Katzen. I've been a vegetarian since I was 14 in 1974. And by vegetarian I mean I've never liked meat even when I was a little kid. And I never liked fish and chicken I was easily willing to give up. And it embarrasses me sometimes to say it's not a health issue as much as a what-I-don't-like issue.
RACHELBut your cookbooks, "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and "Moosewood" cookbook and other books at the time of the vegetarian epicure not only taught me how to cook but it also made other people -- my parents were not opposed to me being a vegetarian but knowing that there were fun, interesting cookbooks out there that, you know, I could cook things for other people. And it wouldn't be a chore and I enjoy cooking. It really, really made a difference in my life.
RACHELAnd particularly "Moosewood" was a Bible when I worked at a summer camp for the vegetarian kids. I mean, that was the book. And so I just want to thank you and I'm looking forward to looking at your new book.
KATZENThank you, Rachel, that's beautiful. I really appreciate that so much.
NNAMDIWell, meanwhile, Rachel, I've been calculating. You said that you were 14 in 1974. That means that you were born in 1960.
NNAMDIAnd are you parents still alive? How do they feel about your vegetarianism today?
RACHELOh, they are still alive, and actually they moved -- I grew up in a kosher house, so we did often have meals that had not meat in them, although they are very fond of fish. But they have definitely -- my father is a huge vegetable fan, even more than I am. So their meals have, maybe partially because of me, but even more so I think because of the fun, once my father retired, of cooking, they are more vegetably. But I do have older relatives who still, I mean, you know, doddering people who can barely say anything when they see me and recognize me except for, are you still doing that vegetarian thing?
RACHELIt's amazing to me because I don't think I was that out of it then, you know, I mean, that much of a...
NNAMDIIt just goes to show...
RACHEL...different then and certainly now. I'm one of many.
NNAMDIIt just goes to show how Mollie Katzen subtly influences people who have known people who read her books. Thank you very much for your call, Rachel. We're going to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. But the lines all look busy, so if you're trying to get through, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. What tips would you like to share for getting more vegetables into your diet? You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org and ask a question or make a comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Mollie Katzen. She joins us in studio. Author of "The Moosewood Cookbook." Her new cookbook is called "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation." You talked a little bit about this before, but I'd like you to expand some more. A lot of vegetarian meals in decades past relied on large amounts of dairy like cream and cheese and eggs to hold the dishes together. How do you see the role of Dairy in general in vegetarian cooking today?
KATZENI have done what I call a flip with a lot of foods that -- where there's some element that we really just love. There's emotional attachment, there's psychological, you know, kind of association, there's nostalgia, the comfort foods, cheese, eggs, noodles. I mean, it can be called pasta, but when you're in an emotional state you got to call them noodles. And so they've become kind of the culprits and, you know, some people see them as oh, they're, you know, the foods that have evil designs on us or whatever.
KATZENBut we still love them and we don't want to live a life without them. So what I've done in many cases is I've just let them swap places with the vegetables. So the vegetables take center stage and it's like a trade. So instead of, for example, I used to, you know, I used to make my own version of the Chinese vegetable fried rice. So I'll just put a bunch of vegetables in the stir fry -- in the wok, and sprinkle it with cooked rice at the end and it become rice fried vegetables. It's a flip.
KATZENOr for example, another thing is I have four seasons of lasagna, for lasagna based on the seasonal vegetables in the heart of the plate, and the vegetables are the main layering items, and the noodles are secondary. So there's like vegetable, vegetable, noodle, you know, for example, in the fall one it's a slice of roasted squash and a big slice of roasted red onion, and then a noodle, and a little bit of cheese. And as far as cheese goes, I go for more flavorful cheeses because when you use a bland cheese you use more of it because it just needs all the help it can get.
KATZENAnd when you use a more potent cheese, you can use a lot less of it. Just a few crumbs of a potent bleu or feta, and you've got the flavor, and you go for flavor. So it's a questions of ratio reversal.
NNAMDIRatio reversal, and the point you were making earlier about people depending on how important they felt it was not taking enough time to cook, taking time to savor the flavor of cheese or other dairy ingredients can be a challenge in today's hectic world when we throw dinner together after a long day at work. You'd like to see people slow down and enjoy their food more.
KATZENI do. And I understand that some people get frustrated when they hear this over and over from culinarians such as myself because, you know, as a professional food person, I spend all my time in my kitchen, or most of it. But many people are just getting to their kitchen at 7:00 p.m. Maybe they didn't get to the supermarket. For a lot of people, it really is a bit of an uphill climb to get to dinner, and so it does require some strategizing and some planning. But it can -- it can be a simple dish.
KATZENAnd even if the mindful moment that you share with that food is short, even if it's just five minutes, it's -- I -- oh, I'm going to sound so corny when I say this, no way around it. It is a gift that you give to yourself. It is a moment you deserve.
KATZENAnd I think we can find it. If we can find the time to check out Twitter feeds and go online down the rabbit hole of whatever we're Googling, I sometimes sit around and Google things and I think, oh, I'm doing research. No. I say to myself, self, no, you're not doing research, you're going down the rabbit hole of the Internet. But I don't know anyone who says, oh, I wish I could do more of that but I lack the time. There's something about cooking where we need to make better friends with it. Rachel said something on the phone a few minutes ago. She used the word craft.
KATZENThe craft and the fun of the craft. This is our human right. As human beings we have -- we're dexterous, we have hands, we have good palates, we have eyes, we eat visually, we have all sorts of cues that draw us to the food. We deserve to put all of those cues into action to serve us, to bring us joy, and to bring others joy.
NNAMDIMollie Katzen. She says fast food is not only purchased quickly, but eaten quickly too. People don't slowly on fast food. They don't even need to chew it. You can practically slurp a French fry from McDonalds. I hadn't thought about that before, but it's true.
NNAMDIHere is Mikah in Annapolis, Md. Mikah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKAHHi. How you doing?
MIKAHGood. Here's my question. I'm -- first of all, I want to thank you for, you know, taking my call, and I also want to say to Mollie, thank you for writing all these great books. I've got your "Moosewood" cookbook which I've had since around 1981.
KATZENYay, thank you. I'm glad.
MIKAHSo here's my question. I'm aware that you're a classical pianist. You were trained at Julliard among other places.
KATZENWell, actually Eastman, yes.
KATZENMm-hmm. But fine.
MIKAHOh, great. Not a bad place.
KATZENNot bad at all. It was wonderful.
MIKAHYeah. So I was just curious about how your musical, you know, your knowledge of musical composition has informed your creation of recipes.
KATZENThat might be the questions I've ever received in my life, thank you. I have no idea. Let me think about it, because there is a certain logic and symmetry to both music and to cooking. It -- I have to say, music feeds me, and it centers me. so it's part of my diet. Playing it, listening to it, and also, it was also how I used to time my baking when I was -- even as far back as when I was testing recipes for the "Moosewood" cookbook, when I'd put something in the oven, I'd take the timer with me into my practice room and practice the piano and I knew like that the banana bread was the entire partida.
KATZENAnd it's interesting because I'm referring to the banana bread, and in fact I ended up illustrating that recipe with the music from a Bach violin and piano sonata.
NNAMDIWell, I was asked -- I was -- and Mike, stay on the line because I was going to ask a related question, because one of the things that makes your cookbook special is you do your own illustrations, and in this new one, your own photography. You have a degree in fine art. How does your visual sensibility affect your cooking? We've heard about your musical sensibility.
KATZENVery much so. It affects it very strongly. I know that even people who are not trained painters -- and I am a trained painter, but I am a photographer who is learning as I go, and very much influenced and inspired by real food photographers, since I'm an amateur and a home cook. But we all eat with our eyes. We are all -- our first impression of our food is kind of shared between the olfactory and the visual, and I think it's very important for food to be beautiful.
KATZENAnd sometimes the beauty of the food is in the natural color, and sometimes the beauty of the food is in the lost color. When the pigment fades out and the brown color of it having been cooked sets in, sometimes I find that actually almost archeologically gorgeous in and of itself.
NNAMDII grew up in a home where my father regularly said to my mother, that looks too good to eat.
KATZENOh, but then what did he do?
NNAMDIHe ate it. Mikah, thank you for your call.
KATZENThank you, Mikah. I really appreciated that question.
NNAMDIHere is Hari in Rehoboth Beach, De. Hari, your turn.
HARIHi. Thanks so much for taking my call. I'm a chef, and I used to live in Ithaca, and being raised in a partially vegetarian household, I just love and respect what you do. The question is, is I'm aspiring as a chef, but also as a cookbook author. Any advice to writing a cookbook or, you know, what is you practice in putting it together?
KATZENThe very most important thing that you should start doing right now, as soon as we're done talking, keep a journal, and I don't know if you would keep one by hand or keep one on your computer, but write down all your thoughts and everything you cook and everything that you observe about your cooking, thoughts that come to you while you're cooking. Anything you would want to teach somebody who was standing next to you, and also things you might even want to say to yourself as you're going along. So keep a record of all your thoughts and all your cooking.
KATZENAnd also, this is something that people are very surprised by when I tell them this. A cookbook, at least to me, is not about my favorite foods. I don't really write -- I don't write my cookbooks for myself. I write for others. And so you have to practice the art of extrapolating to another person's taste and skill level. I mean, assuming that's what you want your book to do is to serve others, you need to come up with a variety of recipes that both reflect you, but also are going to be speaking to another person's kitchen skill set and taste.
KATZENSo you have to kind of get out of yourself. First you have to get into yourself, and then you have to kind of juggle to the objectivity with the subjective. I hope that wasn't too abstract.
HARINo. No. That's perfect. Yeah. I definitely think keeping a journal, you know, we write down all the recipes on every level, but it's good to think about, you know, as a chef we cook for others every day, but it's also in serving ourselves and serving others.
KATZENAnd at the same time, keep it very personal in the voice because people really, I think, are looking for a friend and a coach in a cookbook author. They want to feel that you're there with them in the kitchen keeping them company, and taking blame for whatever doesn't work.
NNAMDIHari, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you.
HARIThank you very much. Have a good day.
NNAMDIMollie Katzen, you live in California where there's more fresh produce year round, but for those of us on the east coast where the farmers' markets are going to close for the cold season, what's the best way to keep vegetables front and center on the plate as we head into fall and then winter?
KATZENIf you're willing, and if you have the freezer space, do a whole bunch of cooking and pack things very well in freezer-worthy containers, and label -- oh, please label because otherwise I guarantee you will wonder what it is later.
NNAMDIMy memory isn't what it used to be.
KATZENRight, exactly. And if you're even super organized, keep an inventory. There are also some vegetables that are just fine in frozen form. All the leafy greens, spinach and kale and collards and the tops of beets and the tops of turnips, they're all incredibly healthful and they freeze beautifully, and they pretty much are interchangeable with fresh if it's in a cooked dish. There are also some vegetables that are available throughout the winter, and you can develop great recipes for all sorts of onion tarts and onion soups.
KATZENOnions are as nutritious as garlic, and yet people don't understand how good they are for you. They are a very respectable vegetable. They're not just something that makes your tomato sauce taste better.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an email from Mike in Baltimore who says, "I became a vegetarian about a year ago for health reasons. It's not a way to lose weight, so now I'm ready to go back to protein, fat, and vegetables, and no carbs or sugars. How do I do that with no meat and not feel hungry all the time?"
KATZENSo this is an email, so I can't ask him further -- to clarify further. Let's see. No meat?
NNAMDIProtein, fat, and vegetables.
KATZENOkay. Then I would recommend -- oh, you know, this is tricky because legumes -- beans, whole grains. Yes. They contain carbohydrates, but a whole grain also contains fiber, protein and a lot of vitamins and a lot of minerals as do beans. And so they're packages. They're packages that have a conglomeration of things. So they're not just plain carbohydrates, they're complex carbohydrates with a lot of other things added in by mother nature. So if you're willing, and if you're not lumping beans and whole grains necessarily in the carbs, I'd say you're good to go with beans, grains, nuts, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, avocadoes. Avocadoes are incredibly healthful.
NNAMDIWhat is your mission? What are you trying to accomplish with your work both as an author and as a champion of healthy eating?
KATZENI would say it's twofold. And one we already touched upon which is to erase that division between healthy and good tasting. The good for you on one side, the good tasting on the other to get rid everything except the good. Just use the word good. And so my overall -- my overarching mission is to have there be no separation between good for you and good. My other one is to get everyone in the kitchen cooking at home. Rescue home cooking.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Joan who said, "I just wanted to thank Mollie for the children's cookbook she wrote, "Pretend Soup" and "Honest Pretzels." My kids love them and are great cooks to this day. When many friends were afraid to let their kids into the kitchen for fear of making a mess while cooking or cutting themselves, your books gave us an entrée into reading recipes and learning to cook together. When they could read well on their own, I would tell them to pick out any recipe they wanted and make something for Thanksgiving for the extended family.
NNAMDI"If they didn't know a term, we would discuss it and off they would go. Thank you for being such a big part of our family for so long." What can you say to that?
KATZENNothing. No words. That is so beautiful. I really, really appreciate that. They were the most fun I've ever had writing books.
NNAMDIYou started working in restaurants when you were 15 years old.
KATZENYou don't really want to know what I was doing though, do you? I was flipping burgers, and frozen burgers that were kind of a weird color in a department store café. And it wasn't because I loved the burgers. It's because I preferred to put on an apron than to work in an office. It did go up from there.
NNAMDII was about to say, that experience is one of the inspirations for a career in vegetarian cooking for Mollie.
KATZENActually, it really was.
NNAMDIMollie Katzen. She is author of "The Moosewood Cookbook." Her new cookbook is called "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation." Mollie Katzen, thank you very much for visiting with us.
KATZENIt was a pleasure, Kojo. Thank you.
NNAMDIMollie Katzen will be at the Sixth and I historic synagogue tonight at 7:00 p.m. Be there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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