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'Moosewood' author polishes homespun vegetarian classic


"The New Moosewood Cookbook" (Ten Speed Press)
By Mollie Katzen

April 10, 2000
Web posted at: 1:07 p.m. EDT (1707 GMT)

(CNN) -- When art student Mollie Katzen began filling a notebook with recipes and doodles 30 years ago, she never expected her jottings would become a best selling vegetarian cookbook.

"I started out by writing stuff down for friends and family," says Katzen. "I found myself writing down the same recipes over and over and thought I should photocopy them, and that's how it began."

Twenty-three years after its first publication, Katzen's "Moosewood Cookbook" has been updated with streamlined recipes, au courant additions such as olive focaccia, glossy color photographs, an extensive author Web site and a companion TV series, to begin on PBS in late spring. Despite all the modern and multimedia trappings, "Moosewood" remains written and illustrated in Katzen's own hand.

  • Recipe count: 243
  • Art: Charming illustrations, color photographs
  • Nutritional information: No
  • Extras: Guidelines for reducing fat, dairy and egg content; Conversion tables
  • Price: $19.95 paperback
    Apricot-Almond Bread

    "That's the soul of the book," Katzen says. "Sometimes something will come out of my pen when I am hand lettering that is very friendly, very spontaneous. It's really my voice."

    The result is an accessible and unpretentious cookbook that reads like recipes from a friend. But don't mistake its homegrown simplicity for lack of sophistication: "Moosewood" is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbooks -- vegetarian or otherwise -- of all time, and last year Health Magazine selected Katzen as one of five "Women Who Changed the Way We Eat" (in good company with Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Deborah Madison of Greens). The cookbook is named after a still-existing Ithaca, New York, restaurant that Katzen helped her brother and some friends start in 1973.

    Katzen's culinary mainstream acceptance is no accident. Despite the vegetarian foundation of her work, Katzen does not proselytize in the way that stigmatizes some vegetarian cookbooks. In fact, the author is not a vegetarian.

    "What's become more important to me than whether something has animal protein in it is how clean the food is. Also, is it a balanced meal?" says Katzen. "I think there are a lot of people who do call themselves vegetarians for whom nutrition is not even a concern.

    "They might go eat nachos -- because they are making a statement about what they aren't eating, but they aren't embracing what they are eating. That worries me, especially when I see young people doing that."

    For people who want to add more vegetables to their diet, "The New Moosewood Cookbook" provides plenty of easy-to-make dishes in a broad range of ethnic flavors. Selections such as Eggplant-Almond Enchiladas, Hot & Sour Soup, Felafel, and Cauliflower Curry thwart the commonly held notion that vegetarian food is boring or bland.

    And the desserts aren't as ascetic as those in many vegetarian tomes. Blueberry Pound Cake, Cardamom Coffee Cake and Ginger-Brandy Cheesecake may not be fat-free -- but they're also not flavor-free.

    New recipes include a series of brightly colored vegetable purees (red pepper, beet, carrot and spinach), which Katzen calls "bright, delicious and exotic." Katzen has added several new blueberry-based recipes, as well.

    "I put in a very intensive blueberry pie," she says, "because I was really excited about all the information coming out about the particular antioxidant qualities of blueberries."

    The "Moosewood" companion television series on PBS covers new recipes, as well Katzen's classics. The series, to be released in mid-May, is Katzen's third. Scheduling will vary by local PBS market.

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    Mollie Katzen Online
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    Ten Speed Press
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