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This was not a particularly good dinner/appetizer. I would only recommend it to others with the conditions under which I ate it, which is the same conditions under which I eat everything I cook: if the first bite is bland, or just purely bad, I immediately and unabashedly add garlic salt.

I’m sure after some repeated attempts, I could get the recipe down more exactly and learn my way around the nuances of butternut squash. But cooking it for the first time yielded a sort of soggy, dense block of food that, again, needed some sour cream and flavor blasting to be decent. As a caveat, I’m totally open to the interpretation that my negative experience stems from operator error.

Heating them up in a pan with some oil before serving is essential, even browning them just a tad can give the latkes a bit more flavor to toy around with. I imagine increasing the assorted spices the recipe calls for throughout the process a dash of sage leaves, some pepper and salt all added prior to 25 minutes in the oven would give the final product some boost. The good thing is there aren’t a lot of bold flavors in this recipe, which leaves some room for creativity. Squash isn’t exactly an overpowering vegetable, and for whatever reason it really smothered the onion taste almost entirely. That leaves some space for you to mess around with the spices and come out with something that appeals to you since it certainly won’t be a case of opposing flavors clashing together.

It’s a bit labor intensive as well, and make sure you have an effective method of draining the shredded squash and onion mixture; I suspect my latkes turned out soggy because my initial draining was insufficient. But to add another benefit, despite the fancy sounding names of some of the ingredients, rest assured this was all quite inexpensive, even for a millennial.

In closing, I would strongly suggest reading the entire recipe, not just the ingredients, before buying the requirements. Because that three pound butternut squash was cool when I bought it, but far less so when it took 90 minutes for my hands and a cheese grater to reduce it to the necessary consistency.

Matt Butler

Soup: Roasted Carrot Gazpacho

I’ve been a vegetarian (pescatarian when someone else is paying) for almost 13 years now, so when I moved to Ithaca to attend school at Ithaca College a copy of one of the numerous Moosewood cookbooks was the perfect parting gift from a good friend of mine. When my parents would come to visit it was Moosewood that they wanted to take me to. This restaurant, and their excellent vegetarian recipes, have been in my life for a very long time. So, I am a little embarrassed to say this is my first time trying a Moosewood recipe myself.

I chose the Roasted Carrot Gazpacho because I’ve had this cold soup numerous times and loved it every time. Also, it didn’t look terribly difficult. The recipe calls for four cups of carrots and I think I ended up with just a little less than four cups because I got tired of peeling and cutting them. Four cups of carrots is more carrots than you would expect, trust me. In the end I think this added to a thinner soup than I had wanted, so if you like a thicker gazpacho then I hope you have more patience than I do.

While the carrots were roasting in the oven I had plenty of time to prep for the next step: blending up the water, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice (you could also use red wine vinegar but I already had lemons and I’m a girl on a budget), mint, cilantro, black pepper and some jalapeo. First off, don’t do what I did and think that a blender and a food processor will do the same thing. The food processor was not designed to hold so many ingredients and so much water and started leaking. Duh. But once transferred to the blender (with an estimated amount of lost water added in) it all came together as it was meant to.

Make sure you keep in mind that the soup has to chill for two hours in the fridge before being served.

The recipe recommends putting cucumbers and avocado on as toppings when the soup is done chilling, so I tried both. I love avocados but this isn’t a great time of the year to get them, and I kind of hate cucumbers due to having way too many cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches when I first became a vegetarian. The avocado was great, if you’re into avocado, but the cucumber was pretty bland, as cucumbers always are. The flavor of the soup was tasty, but not very exciting. I didn’t get much kick from the jalapeo and I definitely skimped on the cilantro (again, girl on a budget), so if you’re into spicy food I would recommend upping the jalapeo and black pepper.

Overall the recipe was simple to follow, had minimal prep and was the perfect way for me to catch up on a few podcasts I’ve been neglecting. Although fall is usually when cooks break out the pumpkin soups and squash bisques to stay toasty this has been an unusually warm fall so far, cold soup still counts as soup. The gazpacho keeps with the spirit of the season while still taking into account the unique circumstances. I give it a seven out of 10 and would probably make it again.

Jamie Swinnerton

Entree: Vegan Cuban Picadillo

I’m not a master chef by any means, but I consider myself fairly competent. I can poach an egg not consistently, but I can do it I can safely cook a steak medium rare without having to slice it first to check, and I can make a pretty mean tomato sauce just by eyeballing the ingredients.

But on Sunday night, when I decided to cook a meal from this cookbook, I was thoroughly challenged.

For 45 minutes over a hot stove, I sliced and simmered my way through one of the more complicated feasts I’ve ever pulled together. That’s not to say the payoff wasn’t worth it.

Let’s start with the shopping I did to make this dish happen. Most of the ingredients the spices, cinnamon, cumin,
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salt and pepper; and the vegetables; green peppers and onions are rather commonplace and already had on hand, meaning the other, stranger ones for a mid 20s bachelor on a budget raisins, almonds, olives, soy sauce and my first ever block of tofu had to be bought. Reading the ingredients list beforehand, I knew I needed a side dish to go along with this all, so I went with the recommendations in the book and bought some yellow rice and the materials needed for my first ever batch of fried plantains.

The food prep itself wasn’t too bad. Diced up the vegetables, mashed the tofu with my hands, got the sauce simmering. Frying the plantains was a stressful addition to the agenda multiple steps and too small a pot to fry the lot of them but timed appropriately, this foray into this revered, traditional side dish went decidedly well. The rice, thankfully, was easy: just put it on and forget about it. (Looking at some of the more ambitious salads in the rest of the cookbook, I figured this would be the smartest route to go.)

Followedclosely, the recipe ended in a delicious result: robust and savory, the dish that resulted was a rich cacophony that offered up the bold (olives) in perfect symphony with the underlying smokey smell of cumin and cinnamon over rich, plump raisins. Alongside a helping of fried plantains perfectly crisp and chewy with a perfect balance of salty and sweet the recipe led me down a path of endless delight that truly made the destruction of my small, galley sized kitchenette totally worthwhile. I served it up family style, with the yellow rice as a base and the picadillo over the top, ringed in by two ample sized plantains sliced. While this was an ample amount of food to serve six people, I’ve seen the dish served in more creative ways including, in one instance, actually served up in a plantain split in two, fried and used as a vessel for the rest of the dish.

While this was one of the more complicated dishes offered in the new Moosewood cookbook, I found that if working in a team, the assembly of such a dish would have gone much more smoothly, leaving me with less time frantically prepping other stages of the dish in order to keep the timing of each step on schedule. If doing this again, I probably would have picked an easier recipe, of which this cookbook offers many. I did just that for dessert: combining mashed avocado, agave nectar, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, I pulled together one of the strangest yet most delicious desserts to ever grace a spoon in the dining room of Chateau Reynaldo, possibly for the rest of time: an avocado based chocolate pudding, extremely rich and thoroughly satisfying, which I enjoyed with a shot of Kahlua and cocoa liqueur over ice.

Now for the clean up.

Nick ReynoldsDessert have never been my thing: I’m a savory eater from beginning to end. Occasionally, I’ll indulge in cake or ice cream after dinner, but those evenings are infrequent. When I saw the recipe for Peanut ginger Cookies, I was excited to create a both savory and sweet dessert. They came out to be a robust blend of flavors, satisfying my savory cravings and my sweet curiosity.

With prep times and bake times around 20 minutes each, the cookies are simple and quick: you don’t need to make an event out of these treats, and they can feasibly be done on a lazy weeknight.

I’ve never been clean in the kitchen, despite how many times I’ve been taught by my home cooking enthusiast of a mother. But even with the messiest of cooks and the most disorderly of kitchens, Peanut ginger Cookies can still be made with little commotion. The process begins with pulsing roasted peanuts and brown sugar in a food processor: the only complication here is being careful not to accidentally make peanut butter. After a simple stir of dry ingredients and then the wet, then the peanut mixture greets the others, followed by the minced ginger. Then comes the tactile part: shaping tiny clumps into cookies. Bake until golden.

Although simple, I did have a few gripes with the recipe. With Moosewood’s friendliness toward vegans, it’s curious as to why the only non plant based food is the egg in the recipe. Sure, vegans can easily substitute the egg with silken tofu, flax or any other favorite options,
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but none of these suggestions were made. It’s especially odd considering there’s only one egg in the whole recipe.