Let’s have a bowl of nacho cheese

Ahh, the venerable Moosewood Cookbook. This treasure, by Mollie Katzen, was published back in 1977 and has been revered ever since. It is a vegetarian flower-child dreamboat of a book. From its hand-drawn illustrations to the hand-lettered recipes these recipes put me on a yellow submarine and I don’t EVER want to surface.

Before the cookbook came the restaurant in Ithaca, New York. What strikes me most about the Moosewood restaurant and cookbook is that they are utterly devoid of any of the smarmy pretension one encounters in many well-revered restaurants, whether they cater to the vegan gods or not. Not that Moosewood couldn’t brag about itself. Long before it was trendy, Moosewood sourced its ingredients locally, carried organic juices, and even ground its coffee in-house.

Maybe what helped Moosewood serve without highfaluting airs was that there was no one chef. This is the day and age of “chef-driven” restaurants. Moosewood, however, was a collective of sorts. As the introduction puts it, choosing what should be on the menu was “open to anyone experienced, inspired and willing enough to handle it”.

It is refreshing to read a book that is not dwelling on GMOs and gluten. It instead proclaims that it is based on “wholesomeness”. Not exactly scientific but refreshing. Recipes are chock full of vegetables, fruits, grains, and yes, tofu too.

Fortunately for you, I always want cheese. And not just because Super Bowl Sunday is happening and nachos are necessary. I think this bowl of cheesy goodness is meant to be more like a sauce or a dip. After all it is in the “Sauces, Sandwiches and Spreads” chapter. But it became more of a thick cheese soup for me that I spooned directly into my mouth. Of course I am also the girl who eats bowls of spicy salsa with a spoon. But what is salsa if not a spicier gazpacho? I don’t let food categories limit me!

Delight however you like in this Nachos Sauce! Dip chips or tortillas into it. Pile it on rice. Stir it into pasta. Or, do as the Book Cook does and get in there with a spoon. It is a thick, healthy concoction of vegetables and cheese. Cheese is actually quite decent for the bod. Protein and fiber in one fell swoop! Why not gobble this down?

Nachos Sauce adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook By Mollie Katzen

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed (I just minced it and that did the trick)
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil (I used slightly less)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper (grind fresh!)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander (I used a bit less as I am not terribly fond of coriander)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 large chopped bell pepper (I used a red one)
  • 2 medium chopped tomatoes (I used Roma–they were on sale!)
  • 12 oz. beer or ale (I used Blue Moon)
  • 2 cups grated mild white cheese (I used cheddar which is the opposite of what they called for but I really like cheddar)
  • 2 tsp. sugar

In a saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil with salt, black pepper, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Onions will start to turn clear and at this point add the bell peppers and tomatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring some, then sprinkle in the flour. Stir it in and and cook 5-8 minutes more then add the beer. Cook over medium heat, stirring often for 15 minutes. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cover the pan. Let it simmer for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. The cookbook says if possible you should let it simmer several hours but it seemed to me that it would dry out if I did that so I did not. Actually, if it looks like it is getting too dry at any point (as it did to me), add a wee bit of water. When you do take it off the heat add the sugar and let it stand 45 minutes. When ready to eat, heat it gently, sprinkling in the cheese and stirring until it is melted.