WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

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Mollie Katzen: "The Heart Of The Plate"

Mollie Katzen put vegetarian cooking on the map in 1977 with her best-selling "Moosewood Cookbook." Three decades and 11 books later, her ideas about making vegetables the centerpiece of the plate still resonate in kitchens around the globe. Katzen joins Kojo to talk about healthful cooking, her new cookbook and why the term "vegetarian" should refer to food, not people.

Recipes From 'The Heart Of The Plate’

Fruit-Studded Madeleine Cake

Fruit-Studded Madeleine Cake

Makes 8 to 10 servings

This highly buttery vanilla cake is the sunny circle on which you get to design a dreamy skyscape of berry stars and plum-slice half-moons. Fruit baked onto a cake: What could be better? Using a tart pan with a removable rim will add to its quiet splendor (and birthday celebration worthiness).

Unwrap the butter ahead of time and place it in the mixing bowl to soften. In the heart of the summer season, consider using a combination of variously colored plums: red, deep purple, yellow. Slice them lengthwise and place them all over the top in a random pattern of scattered half-moons.

You can use fresh berries or frozen unsweetened ones, which can go directly onto the cake still frozen.

If you have more fruit than will fit, make it into a fresh compote to serve on top or on the side.


Nonstick cooking spray
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk (low fat is OK)
4–5 firm, ripe plums, pitted and sliced
1 cup (or more) raspberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen


Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center position. Lightly spray with nonstick spray the bottom of a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with a removable rim.

Beat the butter for about 3 minutes in a medium-large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until completely incorporated and the mixture is very light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

In a second bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 2 installments, alternating with the milk. After each addition, mix from the bottom of the bowl with a spoon or a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.

Transfer the batter to the pan, spreading it evenly. Arrange the fruit on top of the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden on the edges, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and springy to the touch. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Optional Enhancements:
Mango slices (fresh or frozen) or fresh peach or nectarine slices can substitute for some of the plums.

Indian Summer Lasagna Stacks

Makes 4 large or 8 smaller servings. Vegan (if made as directed in the variation).

Swelter-free, this no-bake treatment, which is like a lasagna salad or a double-decker lasagna tostada, will be a happy addition to your summer dinner repertoire. First, you grill and marinate zucchini and/or summer squash with herbs and fresh corn. Then you layer the vegetables generously with a basil-laced cheese filling, cooked noodles, and a tomato “sauce,” which is simply a bowlful of diced, fresh tomatoes that have been given the opportunity to (literally) express themselves. Prepare all the components well in advance and assemble the stacks on a platter or on individual plates just before serving. After a brief heat-up in the microwave, the lasagna is ready to serve. Added bonus: there is no pan to wash afterwards.

I’ve divided this recipe into two parts, to make it easier to follow.

Make sure the tomatoes you use for the sauce are very fresh, yet still firm. After you cut them, juices will accumulate in the bowl as they sit. Save it as a delightful sop for fresh bread. Or just drink it.

Go ahead and use a good store-bought basil pesto, unless you feel like making your own well ahead of time. You can also just add ½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic and a handful of minced fresh basil to the ricotta, if you don’t have any pesto on hand.

With your good, sharp knife, you’ll find your own preference for the thickness of the squash—neither too thick nor too thin.



2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Dried thyme
Dried rosemary, crumbled
1 pound small (4- to 6-inch) zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, cut into circles about 1/4 inch thick
Black pepper
Kernels from 1 ear fresh, sweet corn
3 tablespoons grated or shredded Parmesan


Combine the 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large, shallow bowl. Whisk to blend and place the bowl near the stove.

Set a ridged grill pan or a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, brush it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little thyme and rosemary. Place the zucchini slices on the hot, herbed surface in a single layer and cook on medium-high on both sides until browned and just tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper as it cooks. When it is tender and golden, transfer the cooked squash directly to the marinade, spreading it out so all surfaces can get flavor exposure. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan while it is still warm. (You will likely need to cook the zucchini in several shifts.)

Without cleaning it, heat the pan again, brushing with a touch more oil, if necessary. Toss in the corn and a little more thyme and rosemary and cook for just a minute or two. Scrape the corn and all the flavor from the pan into the marinating squash and toss to coat. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan, season with more salt and pepper, if desired, and set aside to marinate for up to an hour— and ideally, for several. (If it’s going to be much longer and your kitchen is hot, cover the bowl and refrigerate until it’s time to assemble the lasagna.)



1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ripe but firm, sweet in-season tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
8 2 1/4-inch-wide lasagna noodles (about 1/2 pound)
1 pound whole-milk ricotta
Up to 6 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
Black pepper
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan
10 or more fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (optional)


Fill a large pot with water, add the oil, and bring to a boil.

Core the tomatoes and cut them into small (1/4-inch) dice. Transfer them to a bowl, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, cover, and set aside.

Lay out a towel on a counter near the sink, or spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Add the noodles to the boiling water, using a dinner knife or something similar to swish in a gentle slicing motion between and among them, to prevent their sticking together. Boil for exactly 7 minutes, then carefully drain the noodles in a colander. Immediately use tongs or a pasta gripper to gently lift them out, laying them flat in a single layer on the waiting towel or baking sheet.

Combine the ricotta and pesto to taste in a medium-large bowl. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.

To assemble the lasagna, have ready four or eight broiler proof plates. Place a noodle— long, or cut shorter (or in half, if going for 8 servings) with scissors—on each, then spread it with about a tablespoon of the ricotta. Add spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture and the tomatoes, then repeat with a second tier. (Don’t worry if things tumble down—that’s part of the charm.) You’ll end up with beautiful stacks, topped with a preponderance of vegetables.

Sprinkle with the Parmesan and then microwave each stack on high power for 1 minute, or broil to heat through and possibly brown the top. Serve hot or warm, topped with strips of fresh basil leaves.

Pear Tart with Olive Oil–Cornmeal–Pine Nut Crust

Pear Tart With Olive Oil, Cornmeal & Pine Nut Crust

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Baking lemon-laced pears in a sturdy, slightly crunchy cornmeal–pine nut crust, crowned with a beautiful lattice top, might well become your new tradition. The loving care you invest in this preparation will reward you with a tart that will feed many and can freeze and defrost seamlessly— so you can feed many at a later time.

This freezes well for up to 3 weeks, if wrapped very tightly. Defrost completely before serving.

Pastry Ingredients:

3/4 cup fine cornmeal
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
Up to 1⁄3 cup water
1⁄3 cup pine nuts


Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Pour in the olive oil and run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the beaten egg and pulse a few more times, just until incorporated, then buzz in enough water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to bring the dough together.

Remove the dough from the food processor and gather it together, kneading it briefly into a ball and folding/poking in the pine nuts as you go. Break the dough into 2 uneven pieces, one about twice as big as the other. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten each into a thick disk.

Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle about 1⁄8 inch thick. Carefully lift the circle, and ease it into an ungreased 10- to 11-inch tart pan with a removable rim, gently guiding it into the corners and letting it climb the sides. Patch any breaks or holes by pressing the dough back together (with a touch of water if needed) and trim the edges flush with the top of the rim.

Scrape clean and lightly reflour the work surface, then roll out the smaller piece of dough into a smaller circle 1⁄8 inch thick. Cut it into strips about 1/2 inch wide.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third position, while you make the filling.

Filling Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds ripe pears, such as Bartlett, Comice, or Anjou (not Bosc or Asian, which are too grainy)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1⁄8 teaspoon salt


Peel and core the pears and cut them into thin slices. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and maple syrup.

Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle this onto the pears and toss to coat.

Place the fruit in the crust, spreading it out as evenly as possible. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a crisscross pattern, then push the ends of the strips onto the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (Use dabs of water, as needed, to make them stick.)

Place the filled tart on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional Enhancements:
Vanilla and/or salted caramel ice cream. Vanilla or fruit-infused frozen yogurt. If you want to make this with walnuts instead of pine nuts, add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts to the cornmeal and flour in the food processor in step 1.


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