The Heart of the Plate: Veg­e­tar­i­an Recipes for a New Generation

Mol­lie Katzen
  • Review
By – February 5, 2014
Review of The Heart of the Plate: Veg­e­tar­i­an Recipes for a New Gen­er­a­tion by Mol­lie Katzen | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

Mol­lie Katzen’s best­selling Moose­wood Cook­book, pub­lished in 1977, was the right cook­book at the right time. Its cozy, spi­ral-bound, hand­writ­ten appear­ance and sim­ple, hearty veg­e­tar­i­an recipes had tremen­dous appeal to a gen­er­a­tion that was fed up with frozen TV din­ners and learn­ing to love their veg­gies. Moose­wood taught them to enjoy cook­ing whole­some, deli­cious meals from scratch.

Katzen’s newest cook­book, The Heart of the Plate, reflects our con­tem­po­rary pref­er­ence for lighter, live­li­er, and spici­er veg­e­tar­i­an fare. While the recipes in Moose­wood tend­ed to be a bit heavy on the beans and grains, those in The Heart of the Plate empha­size con­trasts in col­ors, fla­vors, and tex­tures, and often flip the ratio of veg­gies to carbs, deliv­er­ing more gar­den items to the plate,” as Katzen writes.

The recipes in The Heart of the Plate call for com­mon veg­eta­bles — car­rots, cab­bage, yams, zuc­chi­ni, along with oth­er eas­i­ly obtained ingre­di­ents — but the dish­es them­selves are any­thing but ordi­nary, like­ly to stim­u­late even a jad­ed cook’s inter­est. There are appeal­ing hot and cold soups, like Green Mat­zoh Ball Soup (made with broc­coli) and a beau­ti­ful pas­tel Cucum­ber-Mel­on-Peach Gaz­pa­cho. Among the sal­ad stand­outs are the Grilled Bread and Kale Sal­ad with Red Onion, Wal­nuts, and Figs; and Green Rice with Grapes and Pecans. Katzen’s veg­etable stews are fill­ing with­out being heavy; some are twists on tra­di­tion­al themes, like Mush­room Stroganoff over Cab­bage Noo­dles.” She devotes an entire chap­ter to the ulti­mate savory com­fort food: mashed veg­eta­bles, like Cur­ried Mashed Car­rots and Cashews. (“Why stop at mashed pota­toes?” she asks.) Even her rice, pas­ta, and grain recipes tend to be high­ly veg­e­cen­tric,” like her four Sea­son­al Lasagna Stacks — gen­er­ous com­bi­na­tions of veg­eta­bles hous­ing min­i­mal noo­dles, with very light touch­es of cheese. Tempt­ing oven-to-table meals include Caramelized Onion Frit­ta­ta with Arti­choke Hearts, Zuc­chi­ni and Goat Cheese; and Katzen’s new takes on veg­gie burg­ers and pan­cakes, like Sweet Pota­to-Chick­pea-Quinoa Burg­ers and Zuc­chi­ni-Ricot­ta Cloud Cakes. She also includes an assort­ment of nutri­tious and delec­table-sound­ing Sauces, Vinai­grettes, Top­pings, and Oth­er Mean­ing­ful Touch­es” as well as a selec­tion of her favorite desserts, like Bit­ter­sweet Mocha Bundt Cake and Brûléed Per­sim­mon Pudding.

The option­al enhance­ments” that fol­low most of the recipes encour­age exper­i­men­ta­tion, and Katzen’s warm, wit­ty nar­ra­tive makes her good com­pa­ny in the kitchen. Cook­ing should appeal to all the sens­es, she writes. Snap­ping aspara­gus can be as sat­is­fy­ing as pop­ping bub­ble wrap, replete with crisp sound effects.”

The Heart of the Plate fea­tures the author’s sig­na­ture sketch­es along with her beau­ti­ful pho­tos of select­ed recipes. Sug­gest­ed menus, sep­a­rat­ed into veg­e­tar­i­an and veg­an, can be fol­lowed exact­ly or used as tem­plates for cre­at­ing meals.

There’s noth­ing like an orig­i­nal and beau­ti­ful new veg­e­tar­i­an cook­book to inspire a cook to buy some fresh veg­gies and cook up a batch of some­thing healthy and deli­cious for fam­i­ly and friends. The Heart of the Plate is just such a book.

Car­ol is the exec­u­tive edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She joined the JBC as the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World in 2003, short­ly after her son’s bar mitz­vah. Before hav­ing a fam­i­ly she held posi­tions as an edi­tor and copy­writer and is the author of two books on ten­nis and oth­er rac­quet sports. She is a native New York­er and a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia with a BA and MA in English.

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