This week’s meal-planning was inspired completely by one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. My dog-eared copy of this book has seen its fair share of splashes of tomato sauce, drops of water, and puffs of flour; it is a comfort just to read, and even more of a comfort to cook its contents.
My original, 70’s Moosewood cookbook was a gift from my Aunt Betsy. It was hers before she passed it on to me, so there are all sorts of notes about what was good, what substitutions worked well, and other fun little treasures throughout. If you are thinking of doing more vegetarian cooking, Moosewood is definitely one of the ways to go. I still dream of making a trip out to their Ithaca, NY restaurant someday.
My first meatless meal of the week evolved from a baked ziti of sorts. The recipe in the Moosewood book was an Italian Orzo Gratin.
I started with the basic idea and then used what I had in the house to whip up a balanced meal, starting with a cup of raw orzo and a can of Trader Joe’s marinara. While I prefer to make my own sauce, TJ’s marinara is a great substitute and can be doctored up with veggies and herbs for more of a homemade taste.
To the marinara sauce, I added an entire container of silken tofu, whipping it with a whisk until the tofu blended into the sauce, sort of like ricotta cheese, making it more of a “cream” sauce.
On the side, I chopped several cups of baby spinach, half of a white onion, and a red pepper.
When it came time to cook, I borrowed Moosewood’s idea of cooking the orzo from raw. I started by ladling enough of the sauce and tofu combo to cover the bottom of a casserole dish, then covered that with dry orzo.
On top of the orzo, I layered the spinach, peppers, and onions. The moisture released from the cooking veggies definitely helps to cook the orzo. On top of the veggies, I layered another thick layer of tofu and sauce, then popped the dish in the oven to bake for 40 minutes at 350.
The orzo cooked perfectly, and while the final dish was a little bit watery, once mixed together, it was fine.
This made a few extra servings, perfect for weekday lunches. While this baked pasta dish was not the fancy grilled tofu I originally planned, it was the perfect low key meal for someone who was not feeling well but wanted to eat something healthy.
Do you have a favorite family cookbook? One that has been passed down or given to you as a gift by a close friend or relative that instantly brings you comfort, like my Moosewood books do?