It’s Moosewood’s world. We’re just eating in it.
Consider granola: The word used to be a derogatory term. Now it’s a supermarket category worth nearly $2 billion a year. Kombucha was something your art teacher might have made in her basement. The company GT’s Kombucha brews more than 1 million bottles annually and sells many of them at Wal-Mart and Safeway. And almond milk? You can add it to your drink at 15,000 Starbucks locations for 60 cents.
Just as yoga and meditation have gone mainstream (and let’s not get started on designer Birkenstocks), so have ideas and products surrounding health, wellness and eating that play like a flashback to the early 1970s.
Co-op staples of that time – the miso, tahini, dates, seeds, turmeric and ginger that were absorbed from other cultures and populated the Moosewood restaurant cookbooks – now make appearances at some of the most innovative restaurants in the country, where menus are built around vegetables and heritage grains. Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise; and kale, the bacon of the clean-eating moment, is now routinely heaped on salad plates across the land.
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The hippies may not have won the election, but they are winning the plate. (Or rather, the bowl.)
“The counterculture is always ahead of what’s happening in mainstream culture,” said Peter Meehan, the editorial director of Lucky Peach magazine. “It’s as true in any creative field as it is in food.”
Deborah Madison, the author and chef who made vegetarian cooking sophisticated with her 1987 cookbook, “Greens,” has seen this food before: She cooked it in the 1960s and ‘70s, as one of “a growing number of people who were trying to cook differently from our parents,” she said.
“Our intentions were good,” Madison continued. “We were using wholesome foods in contrast to our mothers’ new reliance on cake mixes, white flour, TV dinners and that sort of thing.”
The problem, she said, was that her generation did not know much about cooking.
“What we cooked was very much on the stodgy side,” she said. “Today the same foods are now seen as interesting and delicious and worth eating. We can appreciate their flavors, textures and general possibilities because we – that is, the big collective we – know so much more about cooking foods of all kinds.”
The current food mood may also be a reaction to the more exhausting aspects of life in the digital era.
“It’s a weird mixture of technology and palo santo” – iPhones and incense – said the chef Gerardo Gonzalez, suggesting that people who live online may be moved to seek out the restorative properties of natural foods. “You’re constantly in this thing that’s not reality, and eating food can be the most real act you can partake in.”
At Lalito, his restaurant in Manhattan, Gonzalez serves food he describes as “hippie Chicano,” like vegan chicharrones and the brown goddess cucumber salad, with brown mole vinaigrette, mint and candied pepitas, as well as dishes like eggplant topped with tahini, lemon juice and Japanese gomasio seasoning. (The restaurant opened in late 2016 as Lalo; it was recently renamed to avoid conflict with a similarly named restaurant.)
Growing up with chain restaurants and living with the “mental fog” that comes from regularly eating meat, dairy and starch, said Gonzalez, 34, has led him and his peers to seek an alternative.
“I think people are now more likely to turn to açai bowls than a bacon cheeseburger for their hangover,” he said. “For a lot of people who gravitate toward this lifestyle, it’s not hypocritical.”
As one of the owners of Dimes, a restaurant that opened three years ago in Manhattan, Alissa Wagner is partly responsible for bringing those açai bowls to the Instagram set. Wagner believes that diners are a lot more knowledgeable about where and how to eat better than they were when she graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute, a mostly vegetarian cooking school in Manhattan, in 2010.
“There was a huge awakening that happened in the last couple of years with the way that New Yorkers approach food,” she said. “The meat-heavy, super-masculine-style restaurants that were ever-present became outdated and were overtaken by a much more vibrant and produce-driven menu.”
Some of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the past year have had a crunchy vibe. Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco is never without a line for its rustic sourdough bread, whole-grain pastries and turmeric kefir.
At Destroyer in Culver City, the chef Jordan Kahn incorporates elements like puffed rice and pickled mushrooms into his precise and visually arresting cooking. For his avocado toast – a dish that is the spiritual descendant of the ‘70s avocado sandwich, smashed on health bread and topped with a handful of alfalfa sprouts – the avocado is confited.
Brunch at the “veg-forward” Bad Hunter in Chicago includes miso-apple sticky buns and sourdough porridge with walnut butter.
In New York, Jean-Georges Vongerichten recently opened abcV, an organic, all-vegetable restaurant that serves dishes like “stems and sprouts” with sunflower seeds, and traffics in ayurvedic tonics, which have captivated millennials hunting for the next thing after juice. At L'estudio, the rough-hewed pottery is fired in the cafe’s adjoining ceramics studio.
And while the landmark vegan restaurant Angelica Kitchen in Manhattan is closing this week, its legacy is vast – veggie burgers and grain bowls, once a menu rarity, can be had at chains like Hillstone and Sweetgreen. (The chef Camille Becerra, who just opened De Maria, which is heavy on bowls, cooked at Angelica Kitchen – a formative experience.) Even the elegant French restaurant Le Coucou serves avocado toast at breakfast and brunch, charging $18 for the winkingly named “Le Californien.”
Despite the often extragravant price tag attached to many haute-hippie staples and the Vitamix required to prepare them, this is food that is easy to make at home, with plenty of cookbooks for guidance.
The last several months have seen the release of many vegetable-rich and raw-food cookbooks, including ones from Lucky Peach; Martha Stewart; Wolfgang Puck; the vegan website Thug Kitchen; Sarah Britton, of the website My New Roots, whose Instagram feed of bowls and sprouts has more than 330,000 followers; and Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice, a small chain of juice shops that started in Venice, in Los Angeles.
In her book and at her shops, Bacon, a former line cook at Lucques in Los Angeles – and the subject of a Twitter storm last summer, after a crystal was stolen from her Silver Lake location – spreads the gospel of coconut yogurt, reishi mushroom powder and meditation, while selling $10 Moon Dusted Milks made with brown rice protein, chia seeds and blue spirulina. Her plans for Moon Dust expansion are global.
Madison recently released “In My Kitchen: A Collection of New Vegetarian Recipes.” Her elegant earth-motherhood has given rise to a generation of chefs, cookbook authors and bloggers focused on vegetables and whole foods, like Anna Jones, who wrote the vegetarian cookbook “A Modern Way to Cook.” (Madison, like a baby boomer who is both tickled and horrified to see bell-bottoms come back in style, said she always found it “amusing that foods like the once-abhorrent brown rice have come around to being seen as good to eat, and preferable even to white rice.”)
For amateur picklers and kimchi-makers, there is a new edition of “Wild Fermentation,” the 2003 manual that helped its author, Sandor Katz, become a heroic figure among cooks who ferment their own foods.
Like the back-to-the landers and Whole Earth Catalog readers before them, a new generation is once again becoming interested in fermentation, especially do-it-yourself projects, a shift that Katz attributes to people becoming more critical of the industrial food system and seeking alternatives. “Once you start asking questions about how this food was produced, then fermentation is just part of the answer,” he said.
He also cited recent scientific findings on the microbiome and the notion that health may be affected by bacteria and other microbes living in your intestinal tract, which are in turn influenced by what you eat. “People are recognizing that this important biodiversity inside of us has been diminished and are seeking strategies to restore it for immune function, digestion, mental health and everything else,” he said. “So people are seeking out bacteria-rich foods.”
In fact, a kombucha- and tempeh-making business just opened near Katz’s home in Cannon County, Tennessee, population 16,000. “It’s not just happening in New York, San Francisco and Portland,” he said.
(For the record, Katz bristles at the association of fermentation with hippiedom. “In terms of countercultural movements, I feel like punk is much more resonant,” he said. “The punk movement was all about DIY and publishing your own zine, and figuring out how to make things yourself and improvise.”)
Gonzalez has noticed a change in diners’ palates toward flavors that are brighter and more acidic, like those produced by fermentation, as well as earthier and umami-rich flavors, like nutritional yeast. “People are starting to realize that these ingredients are a whole new color palette,” he said.
This group of Americans has also developed a less-sweet tooth and an appreciation of the textures imparted by grains like buckwheat and rye. “I was in a meeting last night where one person suggested making a chocolate cake recipe with fermented cabbage in it,” Madison said.
As with anything counterculture edging toward the mainstream, the threat of co-optation looms.
Alice Waters, the Berkeley queen of local and seasonal cooking, applauds the movement away from fast and processed food, but said she was wary of how its language had been appropriated by mainstream brands. “There’s a lot of hijacking going on right now that is very disturbing,” Waters said. “I mean, they can’t quite take ‘organic,' but they’re taking everything else.”
At the restaurant level, though, hippie fare has long been “a lifestyle and a brand,” Gonzalez conceded.
“You’re not just selling food,” he said. “You’re giving the promise of a healthier life, or a more enlightened meal.”
A home cook in the early ’70s might have been hard-pressed to identify these ingredients, which are now part of mainstream cooking and dining:
Açai: The inch-long, reddish-purpleSouth American berry is prized for its antioxidant properties.
Kombucha: Fermented, sweetened black or green tea drink.
Mirin: A Japanese sweet rice wine.
Miso: A staple in Asian cooking, miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, sea salt and koji, often mixed with rice, barley or other grains. Usually white, red or mixed. An ingredient in soups, sauces and spreads.
Tahini: A paste made from sesame seeds, it’s common in Mediterranean and Mideast cooking. Often used as a condiment.
Turmeric: The bright gold spice is a key ingredient in many South Asian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Compiled by Bee staff
Pan-griddled sweet potatoes with miso-ginger sauce
Total time: About 1 hour
Serves 4 to 6
4 sweet potatoes (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
1 clove garlic, chopped
One 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
A few pinches of sugar or 2 teaspoons mirin
1 heaping tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light sesame oil or other neutral oil, plus more for the pan
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted black sesame seeds, for garnish
Add about 1 inch of water to a stovetop steamer or a pot fitted with a steaming basket. Add sweet potatoes and steam until tender, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size.
While sweet potatoes are cooking, make the sauce: Pound garlic and ginger in a mortar until very smooth and then stir in the sugar, miso, vinegar, sesame oils and 1 tablespoon water.
Halve steamed sweet potatoes lengthwise and score the cut sides in a crisscross pattern with a small knife. Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add a swirl of light sesame oil (about 1 tablespoon), then add sweet potatoes in a single layer, cut side down, and cook for 3 minutes, or until their natural sugars caramelize and turn an appetizing golden brown. (Depending on the shape of your potatoes, you may have to work in batches.)
Arrange sweet potatoes on plates or a platter and spoon sauce over them. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve alone or with any accompaniment you like.
Time: 45 minutes
Recipe from The New York Times.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup white miso
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (do not use seasoned rice vinegar)
Black pepper, to taste
8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine butter, miso, honey, rice vinegar and black pepper in a large bowl and mix with a spatula or spoon until it is well combined.
Add chicken to the bowl and massage the miso-butter mixture all over it.
Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan and slide it into the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over once or twice, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, and the internal temperature of the meat is 160 to 165 degrees.
Roasted cauliflower with almond-herb sauce
Serves 2 for a main course or 4 to 6 as a side dish
To make this recipe vegetarian, eliminate the anchovies. Or try the cauliflower with garlic tahini sauce (see recipe).
For the cauliflower:
1 large cauliflower
For the sauce:
1/3 cup blanched almonds
6 to 10 anchovy fillets (optional)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for basting
2 teaspoons wine vinegar (white or red), more to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro or a combination
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven while you prepare the cauliflower: Place a heavy ovenproof skillet (a cast-iron skillet looks very nice) or a baking sheet in the oven and turn the heat to 375 degrees. Place a small pan of hot water on the floor of the oven, to create steam.
Break off and discard the outer leaves from the cauliflower. Cut off the bottom of the stem, and then use the tip of a small, sharp knife to cut off the leaves close to the stem. Carefully cut out the hard core of the cauliflower, near the bottom. Leave the main stem intact and make sure not to cut through any of the florets.
Rinse the cauliflower (leave the water clinging to the outside) and place on a work surface, core side up. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to rub over the cauliflower until evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
Place the cauliflower on the hot pan in the oven, core side down, and cook until very tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. During the cooking, baste 2 or 3 times with more olive oil. It should brown nicely. If you have a convection feature, use it toward the end of baking to brown the crust.
Make the sauce: In a small frying pan, toast nuts over low heat, shaking often, just until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Soak anchovies, if using, for 5 minutes in cool water. Rinse and set aside on paper towels.
In a food processor, combine almonds, anchovies, garlic and butter and pulse until smooth. Mix in oil, then vinegar. Mix in herbs and red pepper flakes, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
When cauliflower is tender, remove from the oven. (If desired, run it briefly under the broiler first to brown the surface; there is no need to do this if you used convection.)
Serve cauliflower in the skillet or from a serving plate. Cut into wedges and spoon sauce around each wedge.
Garlic tahini sauce
Makes 1 scant cup
Tip: The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a few days but is best made just ahead, because the taste of garlic grows stronger over time. Recipe via The New York Times.
1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
Salt to taste
1/3 cup sesame tahini
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes for sprinkling
In a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic clove to a puree with a generous pinch of salt.
Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the sesame tahini. Whisk in the lemon juice, beginning with the smaller amount. The mixture will stiffen up.
Gradually whisk in up to 1/3 cup water, until the sauce has the consistency of thick cream or runny yogurt. Taste and adjust salt. Sprinkle in pepper.
Serves 4 to 6
For this savory gratin, the parsnips are parboiled and splashed with cream seasoned with turmeric, cumin and cayenne, then topped with feta and baked.
3 pounds parsnips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, for greasing dish
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel parsnips and quarter lengthwise. With a paring knife, remove and discard hard central core. Cut parsnips into 3-inch batons. Parboil for 2 minutes, then drain and spread out on a baking sheet to cool briefly.
Butter a 9-by-12-inch shallow earthenware baking dish. Arrange parsnips in dish in one layer. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together cream, turmeric and cumin. Season with salt and pepper and add a small pinch of cayenne.
Pour cream mixture over parsnips and sprinkle with feta. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and nicely browned.
Weeknight mushroom and kale pasta
Serves 3 to 4
From “100 Days of Real Food Fast & Fabulous,” by Lisa Leake (William Morrow).
1 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini or shiitake
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups loosely packed kale (thick ribs removed, leaves cut into strips)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat pasta, cooked according to the package directions
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the dried mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the mushrooms have softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reserving the cooking liquid, drain the mushrooms in a fine-mesh sieve. Measure the cooking liquid and if it’s less than 1 cup, add some water. Dice the mushrooms and set aside.
Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour in the wine, increase the heat, and bring mixture to a boil. Cook until the wine almost completely boils off and is reduced down to a couple tablespoons, 3 to 4 minutes (if you are doubling this recipe, it will take longer.)
Pour in the reserved mushroom cooking liquid and cook for several minutes until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cream, kale, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
Fold in the pasta and serve garnished with the Parmesan.
West African peanut soup
This was one of the most popular recipes in the “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” cookbook, published more than 20 years ago. This version was simplified for the updated “Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.”
Make ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small celery rib, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon peeled, grated fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce, plus more to taste
12 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups tomato juice, preferably low-sodium
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus a few leaves for garnish
1 scallion, white and green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices, for garnish
Pour oil into a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in ginger and Tabasco.
Add the sweet potatoes and water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomato juice and peanut butter.
Use an immersion (stick) blender to create a creamy, puréed soup. (If you use a blender instead, work in batches and remove the center knob in the lid, placing a paper towel over the opening to avoid splash-ups. Pour back into the soup pot.)
Stir in the chopped cilantro and warm through. Taste, and add salt and/or hot sauce as needed. Divide among bowls and top with the scallions and cilantro leaves. Serve hot.