Vegetarian restaurant has 18 cooks, diversity

December 19, 1990|By Sujata Banerjee | Sujata Banerjee,Evening Sun Staff

TOO MANY COOKS do not spoil the broth at the Moosewood Restaurant.

There are 18 women and men sharing ownership of the cozy vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, N.Y., that is named after distinctive trees in the area. The group got together in the early 1970s to form the Moosewood Collective and share in the labor and profits of their restaurant.

Almost 20 years later, some members have left and others have joined the family. Along with cooking, three cookbooks have been produced, beginning with the well-known "Moosewood Cookbook" in 1977 written by Mollie Katzen, who has since left the collective to pursue food writing and illustrating on her own.

The Moosewood Collective produced two more books: "New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant" in 1987 and in 1990, and "Sundays at The Moosewood Restaurant" (Simon & Schuster, $29.95 hardback; $16.95 paperback).

"We are not a one-minded collective, we are very diverse," says collective member Wynelle Stein, who came to Towson Town Center recently to promote the book at Kitchen Bazaar.

"In some ways it's difficult to work with such a large group, when you have an idea and 15 people comment on it. You can imagine the organizational nightmare of 18 authors for one book. We just divide up the work and go from there. On the whole, we really trust each other."

Stein says that Sunday evenings are a popular time at the restaurant because the set menu for the evening showcases the foods of one country or region. And for the members of the Moosewood group with diverse national origins, travels and interests, that could mean Chile or Finland, North Africa or the Middle East.

Two sisters from Maryland, Susan Harville and Nancy Lazarus, have written chapters on Finland and Africa south of the Sahara.

The collective loosely interprets foreign dishes to its own tastes and the availability of ingredients in American groceries.

Crema de Elote (Creamy Corn Soup from Mexico)

Serves 6 generously

1 cup chopped onions

1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed

3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 tablespoon minced chiles (or to taste)

1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 cups diced potatoes

1 green or red bell pepper, chopped (a combination of the two is nice)

2 cups vegetable stock or water

2 1/2 cups cut corn (fresh or frozen)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Salt and ground pepper to taste

In a soup pot, saute the onions and garlic in the butter or oil on low heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft. Add the coriander, cumin and chiles. Saute for 2 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they are juicy. Add the potatoes, bell peppers, and stock or water. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and heat thoroughly.

In a blender, puree about half of the soup with the milk and cheese. Stir the puree back into the soup pot. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Heat slowly until the soup is hot, but not boiling.

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