Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant and the Epiphany

I'll always remember my first taste of African Groundnut Stew made from the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. It was in the Fall of 1991. I had purchased the cookbook on a whim from a health food store in Sonora, Ca. that summer. It had been published the previous year. I was a vegetarian at the time and in college. I lived in a 5 bedroom house in McKinleyville, Ca. with 5 or 6 others. My repertoire of vegetarian main dishes was small at that point and slowly expanding. I remember cooking black bean chili and homemade vegetarian spaghetti sauce and lots of veggie stir fries. 

One of my roommates and I chose the groundnut stew recipe out of the first section of the book to try. We gathered the ingredients from the Arcata co-op and made the stew minus the okra and with almond butter instead of peanut butter if I recall correctly. I remember sitting on the floor near our beast of an old wood stove waiting for the concoction in my bowl to cool. Then the first thick, rich, sweet and spicy mouthful! The complexity of the flavor! Its sheer deliciousness! And it was created in our funky communal kitchen. It was a cooking epiphany. I was exhilarated to think that something this hearty, satisfying, healthy, and flavorful; almost exotic, was not only possible, but even easy to achieve. It was a landmark moment in my cooking life and set me on the path to greater curiosity, experimentation, and courage in the kitchen.

Moosewood Restaurant of Ithica, New York was begun in 1973 and still thrives today. It began as, and remains, a collectively owned restaurant run by 18 or 19 cooks. Here is a link to the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook on the restaurants webpage. I just discovered they also have a blog where they post recipes, etc. The collective has now published something like 12 cookbooks. Sundays is a treasure-trove of diverse food possibilities. The book is organized by different regions worldwide. Each segment was tackled by a different cook. There is a section on Armenia, the Caribbean, Chile, China, Finland, Italy, and Southern United States to name a few. Over the years I've tried many recipes and never have been disappointed. But guess which one I have turned to time and time again? Yep, the groundnut stew.

African Groundnut Stew
From book: Always serve groundnut stew on one of the West African starches--rice, millet, or stiff porridge (ugali). And alongside serve any of the following: hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, cubed papaya, sliced bananas, mangos, pineapples, or oranges, grated coconut, whole or crushed peanuts.

2 cups chopped onions
2 T. peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 t. cayenne or other ground dried chiles
1 t. pressed garlic cloves
2 cups chopped red or green cabbage
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup apple or apricot juice
1 t. salt
1 t. grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 chopped tomatoes
1.5 to 2 cups chopped okra (I've never used the okra)
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter

Saute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and saute, covered, for a few minutes. Mix in the juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the okra and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the nut butter and simmer for a few more minutes. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick. Serves 6.


Last night I made the Eggplant Marrakech out of the section on North Africa and Northeast African Highlands. I am a huge fan of eggplant and was glad I tried this dish even if I might not return to it again and again like the stew...

Yum, I think I'll go eat the leftovers now!


  1. In a coincidence, I just made the Indonesian Squash and Spinach Soup from that same cookbook yesterday. One of the best.

  2. I remember eating groundnut stew in McKinleyville at you graduation. A good memory.

  3. I have enjoyed many a meal from my Moosewood cookbooks.

    I love your blog and have it bookmarked.

  4. Hi Karen: Got your email yesterday which you didn't need to send but I'm glad you did because you bump started me into searching out your blog again. I was just telling Brian about this recipe last night. I think this is going to be Super Bowl fair. I remember the first time you gave me this recipe, it was much newer to you then! YUM! The pictures have my mouth watering.