Vegetarian Chili (sort of) and Cornbread from The Moosewood

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I went to school in Ithaca during the late 1970s , visited the Moosewood Restaurant frequently, and remember seeing the cookbook on display.  So when I saw a deluxe 2014 hardbound edition of the the Moosewood Cookbook at the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis a couple of weeks back, I thought, “Hah! I’ve got the original, from the source!”

After almost 40 years confabulation and real memory collide, as I found when this class assignment was assigned.  In small, neat, red cursive, I wrote “Target, Roseville, Mn, February 15th, 1982.”   OK, at least I bought it at Target #0001 of the 1807 that exist today.

My Moosewood saw many battles in the 1980s, mostly making vegetarian chili with bulghar wheat, but we don’t keep as much wheat in the house as we used to due to my wife’s gluten intolerance.  The assignment was to use on hand ingredients, so I chose brown rice as the grain.

With apologies to Ms. Katzen, here’s the recipe, from page 110 of the 1st[?] edition:



Based on what was on hand, I  made the following substitutions:

2 cups cooked brown rice instead of 1 cup dry bulghar.
Instead of 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes and 1 cup tomato juice, 1 cup halved grape tomatoes and 2 cups canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes.
For green peppers, orange and yellow sweet peppers.
For 3 tbsp. tomato paste, 3 tbsp. ketchup.
For the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon, 3/4 oz. bottled Realemon juice.
For crushed garlic, minced garlic instead because our garlic press broke a couple of weeks ago.
For 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, 1/2 cup dried minced onions with enough water to reconstitute to 1 1/2 cups.
And, instead of 1 tsp. each of ground cumin and chili powder, 1/2 package of Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Chili Seasoning.
I omitted the red wine since we didn’t have any.

Making It

I soaked pinto beans for about 6 hours in the pot I would later use to boil them.  Toward the end of that time I did my mise en place:


The reconstituting onions are in the measuring cup to the left.

I used a rice cooker for the brown rice as the thing really does what it says, and I can’t cook rice well any other way.

The pinto beans were ready after about an hour of boiling and I poured off the bean stock, knowing that the cooked rice wouldn’t absorb much liquid.  I kept the stock just in case I need to pour some back in.

Aside from the substitutions mentioned above, I followed the Moosewood recipe as closely as possible.

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And I was pleased with the result.

What Didn’t Work Well

Real chopped onions are much, much better than reconstituted minced onions, especially when sauteing — the tiny reconstituted mincees stick.  My saute pan was too small; I have a larger one that I’d use next time with a little more oil.

The lemon juice is unnecessary as the result is pretty tart.

And, finally, the rice itself tastes fine, but it just doesn’t have a “chili” appearance or texture to it.  So in the end it’s a bean-vegetable-rice hot dish, not really chili.  But definitely tasty.


The Cornbread

This was from page 178 of the Moosewood Cookbook.  Again, with apologies to Ms. Katzen:


Fake Buttermilk

This time I had everything except for the buttermilk.   A quick consult with my classmate [and spouse] Miriam revealed that I can fake a cup of buttermilk by putting 1 tbsp. lemon juice.  I didn’t see anything obvious happen, like curdling milk, so I’ll just trust that it tastes like buttermilk.


I used a small covered bowl and a microwave oven to melt the 3 tbsp butter for 1 minute.   This was probably too long as there was some splash on the cover.

Instead of real butter I used PAM cooking spray to grease the pan.  Here’s before and after:

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I fumbled with the [new] oven’s timer, overestimated my fumbling time, and set it to 16 minutes instead of the 20 minutes specified in the recipe.

The baked cornbread showed “done” using the Fork Method.  It would have been criticized as under-baked by a professional — a little too moist and dense — but I thought it was great.



At the end of it all:


I was happy with this.  I would normally call this a “small” portion.  I should start making this normal.


Enthusiastic Cleanup:


The pot is old and I use HOT soapy water…