It's the day before May ends and the day before entries for Cook the Books (the best virtual foodie book club) are due. Even being this round's host, I am still cruising in right under the wire with my entry for Hippie Food: How Back-to-the Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat by Jonathan Kauffman.
If you read my announcement post (here) you'll know the reason I picked this book is because after being skeptical of so-called hippie food and vegetarian food growing up (due to scary vegan neighbors and baby-sitting clients), I began going through meat-free phases at various points in my life and eventually pretty much stopped eating meat and poultry several years ago. I found that so-called hippie food appeals to me, I feel better when I eat it and ingredients that were once foreign--tofu, seitan, brown rice, nutritional yeast, etc. appeal to me now. I also get very geeky about learning where food and trends originate so the aspect and the history appealed to me.
I geeked out over this book and enjoyed it immensely finding it engaging, interesting, and entertaining. It's a pretty deep dive into the natural foods movement and I can see where that could become wearying for some, but I took my time with the book, reading it over almost the full two months and was happy the time I spent with it. I loved learning the back stories of some of the classic food books and cookbooks I have collected over the years--the Tassajara Bread Baking Book, the More-With-Less Cookbook, Diet For a Small Planet, Natural Foods Cookbook, The Time Life Foods of the World, The Vegetarian Epicure and more. Being a retail and restaurant operator at heart, his stories about the natural foods store and cafes were interesting to me and I was happy to hear from some of the natural foods icons he interviewed. Overall, I liked the balance of food, history and politics and would happily read more from Jonathan Kauffman.
For my book-inspired dish, I was torn between pulling out The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Love (her Love Soup cookbook is my soup "bible) or my copy of The New Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen (I own almost all of the Moosewood cookbooks). Both of these classics were covered well in Chapter 6: Vegetarian on the Curry Trail and I wanted find a recipe that captured the spirit and nostalgia of the book. I finally decided on The New Moosewood Cookbook and started looking a casseroles, inspired by a quote about the Riverside Cafe: "Like so many counterculture cooks, especially in the early 1970s, most of the main dishes the Riv cooks invented were casseroles: grains and pulses layered with vegetables and almost always topped with cheese ... not fancy but always wholesome." That to me says hippie food, a big brown rice casserole with veggies and cheese. When I saw the Spinach-Rice Casserole and saw it contained sunflower seeds in addition to the brown rice spinach and cheese, I knew it was hippie enough, ;-)
Molly Katzen says, "The original version contained 4 eggs. This one has only 2 and they're optional. Also you can experiment by replacing some or all of the spinach with other greens: mustard, kale, collard, etc."
Spinach-Brown Rice Casserole
Slightly Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen
(Yield About 6 Servings)
2 cups uncooked brown rice (long or short grain)
1 Tbsp butter or margarine--or olive oil
2 cups minced onions
2 lbs fresh spinach, stemmed and finely chopped (I used frozen spinach)
1 tsp salt or to taste
4 to 5 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp nutmeg (I omitted)
1/4 tsp cayenne
black pepper to taste
optional 1 to 2 tsp prepared mustard (I omitted)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 beaten eggs (optional) (I used)
1 cup lowfat milk (optional) (I used almond milk)
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated cheddar (optional) (I used cheddar and mozzarella)
Place the rice in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower to the slowest possible simmer. Cook, covered and undisturbed, for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium-sized bowl, and fluff with a fork.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Heat the butter, margarine or oil in a deep skillet. Add onion and saute 5 to 8 minutes--until soft. Add spinach, salt, and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes more over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add this to the rice, along with the seasonings and half the sunflower seeds. Mix well.
Purely Optional: Beat together eggs and milk and stir this into the spinach-rice mixture, along with the grated cheese.
Spread into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the remaining sunflower seeds and dust with paprika. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes--until heated through and lightly browned on top.
Notes/Results: This was better than I thought it would be and took me back to rich and spinach casseroles of my youth--although I grew up on white rice. It has a very retro vibe. I would heartily recommend using the egg, milk and cheese (or vegan equivalents if you don't do eggs and dairy) because it adds moisture and of course... cheese. ;-) I scaled down the recipe a bit to fit in my smaller casserole and toaster oven and it took about 25 minutes to cook. I also used frozen spinach, well-drained and the liquid pressed out, to save time as well as cooked my brown rice in my rice cooker ahead of time. Tasty, nostalgic and I think it fits the book well. I'd happily make it again.
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event that was held at Beth Fish Reads, but is now being hosted with Marg at The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader. It's a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. You can see this week's post here.
I'm also linking up this post to this month's Foodies Read. You can check out May's Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.
Entries are due by tomorrow and I'll be doing the roundup on the Cook the Books site soon after. If you missed this round and you like food and books and foodie books, join us for June/July when my fellow Hawaii-based co-host Claudia of Honey from Rock is hosting the novel Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah.