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Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the

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About The Book

Since its opening in 1973, Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York, has been synonymous with creative cuisine with a healthful, vegetarian emphasis.

Each Sunday at Moosewood Restaurant, diners experience a new ethnic or regional cuisine, sometimes exotic, sometimes familiar. From the highlands and grasslands of Africa to the lush forests of Eastern Europe, from the sun-drenched hills of Provence to the mountains of South America, the inventive cooks have drawn inspiration for these delicious adaptations of traditional recipes.

Including a section on cross-cultural menu planning as well as an extensive guide to ingredients, techniques, and equipment, Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant offers a taste for every palate.

Moosewood Restaurant is run by a group of eighteen people who rotate through the jobs necessary to make a restaurant work. They plan menus, set long-term goals, and wash pots.

Moosewood Restaurant contributes 1% of its profits from the sale of this book to the Eritrean Relief Fund, which provides food and humanitarian assistance to the Eritrean people.

Moosewood Restaurant supports 1% For Peace, an organization working to persuade the government to redirect 1% of the Defense Department budget towards programs that create and maintain peace in positive ways.


Africa South of the Sahara

By Nancy Lazarus


West African Peanut Soup

If you're a person who loves peanuts, but thinks they were made to eat at baseball games or on bread with jelly, think again and get ready for a culinary adventure.

This peanut soup is rich and spicy. The chopped scallions or chives are an integral element, not just a garnish.

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups chopped onions

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried chiles (or to taste)

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root

1 cup chopped carrots

2 cups chopped sweet potatoes (up to 1 cup white potatoes can be substituted)

4 cups vegetable stock or water

2 cups tomato juice

1 cup smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 cup chopped scallions or chives

Sauté the onions in the oil until just translucent. Stir in the cayenne and fresh ginger. Add the carrots and sauté a couple more minutes. Mix in the potatoes and stock or water, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

In a blender or food processor, purée the vegetables with the cooking liquid and the tomato juice. Return the purée to a soup pot. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Taste the soup. Its sweetness will depend upon the sweetness of the carrots and sweet potatoes. If it's not there naturally, add just a little sugar to enhance the other flavors.

Reheat the soup-gently, using a heat diffuser if needed to prevent scorching. Add more water, stock, or tomato juice for a thinner soup.

Serve topped with plenty of chopped scallions or chives.

Cape Verde Vegetable Soup

Coastal West Africa is a land of green mountains, white sands, turquoise skies with immense thunderclouds, spectacular sunsets, and dark, starry nights. Cape Verde is the westernmost point on the continent. It was created by volcanic activity and southwesterly winds keep it warm and lush. This soup tastes fresh and uncomplicated and makes a good beginning for any African meal. Served with crisp French bread and fresh fruit, it is a satisfying lunch or supper.

Serves 6

1 cup chopped onions

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons peanut oil

pinch of summer savory or thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground dried red chiles (or to taste)

2 cups diced potatoes

2 cups sliced cabbage (cut into 1-inch lengths)

1 cup sliced okra

3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (or 2 cups canned tomatoes with juice)

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

juice of 1 lemon

chopped fresh parsley

chopped fresh cilantro

Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil for 10 minutes. Add the summer savory or thyme and the ground chiles and sauté gently, stirring often, for another 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice.

Serve topped with chopped fresh parsley or more fresh cilantro or both.

East African Sweet Pea Soup

This rich, spicy soup is typical of Indian fare in East and Southern Africa. There is a large Indian population in Nairobi, the cosmopolitan capital of Kenya. Nairobi is called "the city of flowers" because many of its streets are lined with the rainbow colors of bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleanders, and jacaranda. "Nairobi" is Masai for "place of cool waters." Cool water and poppadums seem the best accompaniment for this tasty, satisfying soup.

Serves 6

2 cups chopped onions

1 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh peeled ginger root

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried chiles

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 sweet potato, diced (about 2 cups)

3 1/2 cups water

3 cups fresh green peas (or 1 pound frozen)

Sauté the onions and garlic gently in oil in a covered pot, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions are just translucent. Mix in the ginger, salt, and all the spices and sauté for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and sweet potato. Stir well. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and stir to dissolve the spices and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the peas and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes, or until the peas and sweet potato are tender.

Remove the soup from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups of water. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the pot, add the remaining cup of peas, and gently reheat.


Groundnut Stew

All over West Africa, today and every day, thousands of groundnut stews will be cooked and eaten. A few of them might be indistinguishable from others, but the rest will all be different. Very thick here, almost a soup there. Fiery hot or mildly piquant with lots of fresh ginger root, a hint of ground dried ginger, or no ginger at all. Garlic or not. Maybe one of those stews was made with only okra, others with many different vegetables, including some that most of us in the United States have never tasted or dreamed of. The liquid used may be coconut milk, water, stock, or fruit or vegetable juices.

West African groundnut stew was the first African dish served at Moosewood, and it's a great favorite. This recipe is for my own favorite version, made with cabbage, sweet potatoes, and okra, as in the maffes of Senegal and Mali. Make it with eggplant and plenty of ginger, and it will be hkatenkwan as in Ghana. Served with tender steamed greens, it is dovi in Zimbabwe. Experiment to find your favorite version. Just be sure to remember the groundnuts and cayenne.

Always serve groundnut stew on one of the West African starches -- rice, millet, or stiff porridge (ugali). And alongside serve any of the following: hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, cubed papaya, sliced bananas, mangos, pineapples, or oranges, grated coconut, whole or crushed peanuts.

Serves 6

2 cups chopped onions

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried chiles

1 teaspoon pressed garlic cloves

2 cups chopped cabbage

3 cups cubed sweet potatoes (1-inch cubes)

3 cups tomato juice

1 cup apple or apricot juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

2 chopped tomatoes

1 1/2-2 cups chopped okra

1/2 cup peanut butter

Sauté the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and sauté, covered, for a few minutes. Mix in the juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the okra and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the peanut butter, place the pan on a heat diffuser, and simmer gently until ready to serve. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick.

Senegalese Seafood Stew

The main attraction in the many fishing villages along the coast of West Africa is the arrival of the fishing boats after a long day at sea. Most of the fishing is traditional -- done with man-powered boats and hand-controlled nets. In Senegal (the Wolof first called this land Su nu Gal, "our canoes"), much of the fishing is done in fleets of long, wooden pirogues. All along the coast, when the fishermen return, they're eagerly greeted by women and children who help unload the boats and nets.

This seafood stew is peppery and exotic. The bananas taste like some strange and unusual vegetable, not recognizable as our familiar and most popular fruit in the United States.

Serves 6 to 8

1 teaspoon salt

2 green (unripe) bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

4 cups chopped onions 3 cups vegetable stock or

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried chiles (or to taste)

1/4 teaspoon summer savory or thyme

2 potatoes, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/4 small head of cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (or 3 cups chopped canned tomatoes with juice)

3 cups vegegable stock or water

1 pound fresh shrimp, rinsed, shelled, and deveined

1 pound fresh fish fillets, cut into chunks

salt to taste

Dissolve the salt in enough water to cover the sliced bananas. Soak the banana rounds in the salt water for about 15 minutes and then drain them and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are just translucent. Stir in the cayenne and summer savory or thyme and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, parsley, tomatoes, and stock or water. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the bananas, shrimp, and fish. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes or until the fish is opaque and the shrimp are pink. Add more stock, water, or tomato juice if the stew is too thick. Add salt to taste.

Serve Senegalese Seafood Stew on rice or Steamed Millet or with Ugali. Garnish with wedges of lemon or lime.

Variation To make a soup, add more stock or water. Serve with plenty of crisp French bread and fresh fruit.

Casamance Stew

The sea and rivers of West Africa are abundantly blessed with fish, an important food source. This stew is inspired by Yassa, a popular specialty of Casamance, the southernmost coastal region of Senegal. Yassa is a spicy marinated dish prepared with poultry or fish. I've added sweet potatoes, because I think it's even more delicious with that soft sweetness providing a counterpoint to the lemony tang of the onions and fish.

The fish caught in West Africa's warm, shallow waters tend to be firmer and more substantial than our usual cod or flounder, so look for a firm, even chewy, fish that won't be lost in this tasty stew.

Serves 6


1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice

1/2 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 or more seeded chiles, minced

1 1/2 pounds firm fish steaks or fillets, such as monkfish

4 cups sliced onions

2 cups 1-inch cubed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
salt to taste

Combine the marinade ingredients. Rinse the fish well. If you're using a large fillet, cut it into serving-sized pieces. In a large glass bowl, layer about half of the onion slices. Pour some marinade over them. Then add the fish and the rest of the onions and marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight or all day.

When you're ready to cook, lift the fillets out of the marinade and set them aside. Pour the marinade off the onions and set the marinade aside. Cover the cubed sweet potatoes with cool, salted water, bring them to a boil, and then simmer for a few minutes until they are just barely tender. Drain any excess liquid. Meanwhile, in a heavy, nonreactive skillet, gently saute the onions in the peanut oil for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the red bell pepper, if used, for the last 5 minutes of sauteing. Combine the sautéed onions and bell pepper with drained sweet potatoes and marinade and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the vegetables simmer, briefly grill, broil, or sauté the fish until lightly browned on both sides. Add the fish to the simmering vegetables and continue to simmer for 15 minutes more or until the fish is just cooked through. Salt to taste.

Serve Casamance Stew in wide, shallow bowls on plenty of rice or Steamed Millet. If you like, garnish with chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or scallions. Extra tamari at the table might be appreciated. Gombo and Maize Pudding or Banana Chutney would make this meal a feast.

Capetown Fruit and Vegetable Curry

The culinary traditions of Southern Africa not only include the dishes of the African continent, but also the influences of the colonial powers and the immigrants from Malaysia and the Indies. This sweet and savory curry incorporates all of those influences.

Serves 6

4 cups coarsely chopped onions

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root

Curry Spices

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried red chiles

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup cut green beans

2 firm tart green pears or apples, cored and cubed

1/2 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 cup chopped dried apricots (unsulfured)

1/2 cup currants or raisins

1/2 cup apricot conserve

fresh lemon juice (optional)

6 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup raw or roasted peanuts

2 bananas

Sauté the onions in the peanut oil for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger root, and curry spices and continue to sauté, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.

Add the zucchini and water and stir well so that the spices won't stick to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in the green beans, pears, red bell peppers, and dried apricots. Simmer gently, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add a little more water if needed to prevent sticking. When the fruit and vegetables are quite tender, stir in the currants and the apricot conserve. Taste the curry and adjust the flavor to your liking. Add cayenne or Garam Masala if it's not spicy enough, lemon juice if you'd like more tartness, or more apricot conserve to intensify the sweetness. Keep the curry warm on a heat diffuser, to prevent scorching, until ready to serve.

Serve on a bed of rice, topped with peanuts and sliced bananas, with Minted Cucumber-Yogurt Refresher alongside.

Tofu Bobotie

Bobotie is one of the dishes described as most typically South African. In much of Africa today, meat is a luxury. That was also true for the Malay cooks of South Africa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who developed bobotie as a delicious way to "stretch" meat with bread. Now bobotie is a widespread supper dish regularly enjoyed by all the racial groups of South Africa at home and in restaurants.

I first heard of bobotie from Russell Groener and Beverly Oskowitz, South Africans who visited Ithaca. They had been out of their country for several months and were feeling a little homesick. So I jumped at the chance (and had the audacity) to cook an experimental tofu bobotie for them. How satisfying it was when they declared it authentic, ate it all up, and asked for the recipe. Now it's a regular favorite at my house and at Moosewood.

Serves 6

2 cakes tofu, frozen

3 cups chopped onions

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

0 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

5 whole cloves, ground

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons white vinegar

3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1/3 cup homemade or commercial chutney (peach, apricot, or mango)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread chunks

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1/2 cup raisins or currants

1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

3 bay leaves

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

Remove the frozen tofu from the freezer and allow it to thaw; then crumble it and set aside.

In a covered saucepan, cook the onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, until quite soft. Add the curry spices (cumin through black pepper in the ingredient list) and sauté for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the vinegar, soy sauce, and chutney and remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, soak the bread in 1/2 cup of milk for a few minutes and then mash it with a fork or your fingers. Stir in the crumbled tofu. Drizzle on the sesame oil and mix well. Add the raisins, almonds, and onion-spice mixture. Stir well.

Oil a baking dish, about 12x8 inches, or a large pie pan. Spread the bobotie evenly into the baking dish. Tuck the bay leaves in here and there, leaving the stems sticking out. Whisk the egg and 3/4 cup of milk together to make a custard. Pour the custard over the top of the bobotie. Bake, covered, at 350°, for 15 minutes. Then uncover and bake until the custard is set, about 15 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves after baking.

Serve bobotie on brown rice and with more chutney on the side. Minted Cucumber-Yogurt Refresher and steamed vegetables are a good accompaniment.


Steamed Millet

There are many types of millet native to Africa, producing grains in a range of sizes and a variety of colors, including pink and green. To further confuse things, other seed-like grains, such as sorghum, are often referred to as millet. The cooking time and water-to-grain ratio given in this recipe are suitable for the millet available in the United States, which is a small, pale yellow, round grain. Be sure to get hulled millet, not bird seed!

Steamed millet is light and fluffy, something like couscous, yet firm. It has a pleasant, rather earthy flavor. Millet has had an undeserved reputation in this country as a heavy, mushy grain, but I think that this must be because so many cookbooks instruct us to use four parts water to one part millet, more than twice as much water as needed! Try this recipe and I think you'll be delighted with the results.

Serves 6 to 8

3 1/2 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups millet

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the water, salt, and millet. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir, cover, and simmer gently. After about 20 minutes, stir to fluff the millet and taste it. If it's dry yet still a little crunchy, add about ? cup of boiling water and continue to steam, covered, for about 10 minutes more.

Serve millet with any West African stew or as a side dish with any African meal. For a richer flavor, add a little butter or margarine just before serving. Millet, like rice, is also good in fillings for stuffed vegetables or as pilaf.


Stiff Porridge

Maize or American Indian corn was introduced to Africa from North America. It has become a staple starch in Africa, particularly Southern Africa, where it is called "mealie." It is drier and starchier than the sweet corn we know. Ground, it is called "mealie meal." Mealie meal is most commonly made into porridge, which is a major part of the African diet. Stiff mealie meal mush or porridge is called putu by the Bantus, fufu in West Africa, pap by the Dutch, nsima in Malawi and Zambia, bidia in Zaire, oshifima in Namibia, and ugali in Kenya and Tanzania.

African slaves brought this method of cooking maize back to the Americas. Ugali is similar to the corn pones and cornmeal mush of Southern United States and the coocoos of the Caribbean.

To eat ugali in a traditional African manner, pull off a bite-sized chunk from the communal bowl of ugali placed in the middle of the table. Form the chunk into a small ball, flatten it, make an indentation in it with your thumb, and use it to scoop up your stew -- an edible spoon! In much of West Africa, it's the Muslim-influenced custom to use only your right hand to touch food.

Ugali can also be spread on a plate or in a bowl and then topped with stew. Or, roll the ugali into small balls and drop them into individual servings of soup or stew just before serving.

Serves 4

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup white cornmeal (see note)

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan. In a bowl, stir the milk into the cornmeal until smooth. Slowly pour the cornmeal paste into the boiling water, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes, until it thickens. Place the pan on a heat diffuser and continue to cook the ugali for 10 to 15 minutes. Once a minute, stir it briskly and then smooth it over the bottom of the pan again. After a while, the ugali will be "stiff" and pull away from the sides of the pan. The length of time this takes varies with different cornmeals.

When the porridge is done, turn it into a cool, damp bowl. With dampened hands, shape it into a smooth ball and serve immediately.

Note: White cornmeal is best for stiff porridge, but if it's unavailable, substitute yellow cornmeal for a less authentic, but still delicious, ugali.

Abidjan Cabbage Salad

This cool, crunchy salad is welcome with any West African stew. Serve it with avocados, deviled eggs, and baguettes for a delightful luncheon.

Serves 6

4 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 cup shredded carrot

1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 orange

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3-1/2 cup vegetable oil

Pile the cabbage, carrots, and pineapple into a large bowl. Mix the dressing either by whisking all the ingredients until creamy or by slowly drizzling the oil into the juices while whirling in a blender or food processor. Thoroughly mix the salad and dressing.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.


Okra Side Dish

Gombo means okra in Swahili. This okra dish is served as a relish or side vegetable with any African meal. Gombo is delicious with eggs for breakfast or supper.

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup finely chopped onions

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon peanut oil

2 cups finely chopped okra (10-ounce package frozen) (see note)

2 chiles, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

In a nonreactive saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil for 10 minutes. Add the okra and chiles and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Note: When using frozen okra, it is easier to chop it while it is still frozen.

Maize Pudding

This maize pudding is a sumptuous steamed fresh sweet corn pudding that is quickly and easily prepared for the oven. It's especially good with spicy-hot West African dishes and with Hoppin' John -- called Thiebou Nop Niébé in Senegal -- or West Indian Rice and Peas with Tempeh.

Maize pudding is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.

Serves 6 to 8

4 cups cut corn, fresh or thawed frozen (20-ounce package)

3 eggs

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or mace

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 cup flour

Generously oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or similarly sized casserole dish. Maize pudding bakes in a boiling water bath, so have ready a larger baking pan that the maize pudding pan fits into comfortably.

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a blender or food processor, purée 2 cups of the corn with the eggs, oil, salt, molasses, and sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl or cup, stir the baking powder, nutmeg or mace, and allspice into the flour. With the blender whirling, gradually sprinkle the flour mixture into the corn mixture. When that is well blended, add the rest of the corn and whirl just long enough to break up the corn a little. The texture of the batter should be coarse.

Pour the batter into the oiled baking pan and cover it with aluminum foil, sealing the edges tightly. Place the baking pan into a larger baking pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the maize pudding pan. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

To serve, either spoon the maize pudding directly from the baking pan or, about 5 minutes after taking it from the oven, loosen the edges by sliding a knife around the inside rim of the baking pan. Invert it onto a serving platter. Serve warm.

Peanut Sauce

So many African meals and snacks are spiced up with peanut sauces that I've included one here for you to use in any number of ways. Peanut sauce is used as a base for stews or soups, as an accompaniment to starches, and as a dip for fritters and grilled or deep-fried vegetables. In Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, roasted poultry is rarely served without peanut sauce. Peanut sauce makes a quick and nutritious meal served on rice or millet and steamed vegetables (try cabbage, broccoli, and carrots).

Yields 4 cups

2 cups chopped onions

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or other ground dried chiles (or to taste)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 very ripe banana, mashed

1 cup tomato juice

1/2 cup apple or apricot juice

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Sauté the onions in the oil until translucent. Mix in the cayenne, ginger, and mashed banana and sauté, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the juices and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter and salt to taste. Keep the peanut sauce warm on a heat diffuser until ready to serve.

Make a double batch of peanut sauce and refrigerate the leftovers. Peanut sauce will keep refrigerated for two to three weeks. Reheat gently before serving.

Note: Deep-frying is an art, but one that once learned produces delicious, light, not greasy, foods. What you're aiming for is a high enough temperature to seal the outside of the food, without overcooking it before the inside is done. If the temperature is too low, the food will cook, but will be sodden with oil. If you have a thermometer, maintain a temperature of between 350° and 375° for most foods. If you don't have a thermometer, one way to test the temperature is to drop in a 1-inch cube of bread. It should turn golden brown in 45 to 60 seconds. Because it is important to maintain the temperature, either use deep oil (several inches) or fry only a few items at a time.

Peanut, soybean, and safflower oils are all good for deep-frying because they have a high smoking temperature, so you can fry at a higher temperature without scorching the oil and less oil penetrates the food. After frying, the oil should be cooled, strained, and stored in the refrigerator. It can be reused until it darkens or smokes at too Iow a temperature, which will eventually happen because of impurities from frying.

Fried Sweet Potatoes or Plantains

Fried sweet potatoes, plantains, and yams are found throughout Africa. Vendors tend bubbling black cauldrons in the noisy, colorful marketplaces frying fritters or these tasty snacks. People eat these treats on the spot or wrap them in cloth and hurry them home to family and friends.

Usually fried sweet potatoes or plantains are just sprinkled with salt or with hot sauce (Tabasco is perfect) and salt. Sometimes they are coated with cayenne and/or powdered ginger before frying and then salted. For sweet snacks they're sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or topped with chocolate sauce.

peanut, soybean, or safflower oil for deep-frying (see note)

sweet potatoes or ripe plantains

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan until it's very hot, but not smoking, about 350°. Slice the sweet potatoes or peeled plantains into 1/4-inch rounds. Fry the slices, a few at a time, until they are golden and crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside. Turn them if necessary to brown on both sides. If fried too long, the golden color won't darken much, but the inside will toughen, so try a couple of test pieces first to determine the optimum timing. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Minted Cucumber-Yogurt Refresher

This simple raita is delicious, refreshing, easy to prepare, and just the thing for curries or other spicy dishes. It's also good with anything else for summer suppers or picnics.

Serves 4 to 6

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and shredded, diced, or sliced

1 cup plain yogurt

1 scallion (white and green parts), minced or thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (1/2 teaspoon dried)

Combine all the ingredients. For the best flavor refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Serve chilled.

Banana Chutney

This simple banana condiment is simply delicious. Its fullness of flavor is dependent upon very ripe bananas that are soft and sweet with dark brown or black skins. If you must use slightly green or just ripe bananas, add a little sugar. A hint of cinnamon or allspice is also nice in this chutney.

Serve banana chutney with curries or Tofu Bobotie. Enjoy it also as a welcome complement to fiery West African dishes. My family likes it best spread on toast for breakfast.

Yields 1 1/2 cups

2 or 3 very ripe bananas (1 1/2 cups mashed)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon rind

2 pinches ground doves

Mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher, but not too thoroughly. Leave a few lumps. Place the mashed bananas in a small, nonreactive saucepan. Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and cloves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Use a heat diffuser if needed to prevent sticking. While simmering, the bananas will slowly heave up into mounds and then spout little puffs of steam, like simmering oatmeal.

Pour the chutney into a clean jar, cover, and refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.



Rusks are hard, very dry biscuits, originally prepared in South Africa by the Dutch for traveling long distances in a hot climate. Rusks were a bread that wouldn't spoil. Now, all over South Africa, rusks are eaten as snacks, dipped in coffee, tea, or milk. In the cities, many different varieties of commercially baked rusks are available. There are raisin, chocolate chip, almond, peanut, and probably soon, oat-bran rusks.

Rusks can become habit-forming. My family now wants a steady supply to have for breakfast and to take along on outings for snacks. My favorite rusks are the basic version below. If you like them as much as we do, maybe soon you'll be trying some variations of your own.

Yields about 2 dozen

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups whole wheat bread flour (see note)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients. Combine all the wet ingredients, pour them into the dry ingredients, and stir until you have a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll or pat it to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into rectangles about 2 x 4 inches.

Bake the rusks about 2 inches apart on buttered baking sheets for about 25 minutes until the tops are crisping and browning a little. Now, eat a few "soft" rusks warm from the oven.

Loosely pile the rusks on a baking sheet and keep them in a 200° oven all day or all night (about twelve hours) to dry. The finished rusks should be very dry and hard. Cool and store in an airtight container. Rusks will keep for weeks.


Oatmeal-raisin rusks:
reduce the white flour to 1 1/2 cups and add 2 cups rolled oats and 1/2 cup currants or chopped raisins.

Almond rusks: Add 1 cup chopped almonds and omit the cinnamon.

Peanut rusks: Add 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts.

Anise rusks: Omit the cinnamon and almond extract and add 2 teaspoons pure anise extract or 1 tablespoon anisette.

Note: Coarsely ground whole wheat flour provides the best texture. If you're using whole wheat pastry flour, add a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ or bran.

South African Milk Tart


Melkterts are the quintessential Afrikaans dessert. The melktert is to South Africa as apple pie is to America.

The crust given here is light and puffy. I suggest rolling it out to fit a baking sheet or pizza pan, but if you use a smaller or larger pan, it will still be fine -- thicker, thinner, larger, smaller, oddly shaped, or crudely made are all okay. In South Africa, melktert is sometimes made with puff pastry.

Serves 12


2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, plus extra for rolling

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1 cup sour cream


2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unbleached white flour

5 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°.

For the crust, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or knife until the flour resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the sour cream to form a soft dough. Dust the dough with flour and form it into a ball.

On a generously floured surface, roll out the dough to fit an 11x13-inch baking sheet or a 14-inch round pizza pan. It will be thicker than a usual pie crust. Carefully lift the dough and lay it out fiat on the unoiled pan. Crimp the edges by pinching them to form a rim. Pierce the dough with a fork in several places. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, make the custard by heating the milk to boiling. Combine the sugar, flour, eggs, and salt in a blender. When the milk begins to foam, pour it slowly into the whirling blender. Pour the custard back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Set aside.

When the crust has baked, spread the custard filling evenly over it. Generously sprinkle the top with cinnamon and brown sugar. Return the tart to the oven for about 15 minutes, until the brown sugar melts and the top of the custard is firm.

Serve the milk tart warm or cold.

Ginger Soft Drink

Many variations of homemade ginger beers (soft drinks) are brewed all over sub-Saharan Africa. Fresh ginger makes a spicy drink, cooling in summer, warming in winter, and always refreshing and energizing. Fruit juices other than the citrus called for below, such as pineapple, apricot, or guava, make interesting variations in its flavor. When using other fruits, I always add the juice of a couple of limes or lemons.

This recipe makes a concentrate that can be diluted with plain or sparkling water. Make a batch and try it -- if you like it, you'll love it.

Yields 3 quarts of concentrate

6 cups boiling water

1 cup grated peeled fresh ginger root

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons whole cloves

4 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup fresh lime or lemon juice

1 cup orange juice

8 cups cool water

Pour the boiling water over the grated ginger root, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon in a large nonreactive pot or bowl (enamel, glass, or stainless steel). Cover and set aside in a warm place, in the sun if possible, for at least an hour.

Strain the liquid through a fine sieve or a cloth. Add the juices and water. Set aside in a warm place for another hour or so. Gently strain the liquid again, taking care not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. Store in the refrigerator in a large nonreactive container. A glass gallon jar or jug works well.

Serve warm, chilled, or on ice, either as is or diluted with water or sparkling water. A squeeze of fresh lime juice in each glass of ginger drink is the cat's meow.

Copyright © 1990 by Vegetable Kingdom, Inc.

Illustrations Copyright © 1990 by Martin Berman

About The Author

The Moosewood Collective has nineteen members who share responsibilities and participate in the various jobs necessary to run what has grown from a very small natural foods restaurant to a larger and more diversified company. Most members of the Collective have worked together for at least 15 years, and some have worked for the restaurant since it was founded in 1973. The Moosewood Collective is the recipient of three James Beard Awards and numerous nominations. Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health is its twelfth book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 29, 2013)
  • Length: 736 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439147955

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