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The Cafe Brenda Cookbook 

The Cafe Brenda Cookbook 
Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine 
by Brenda Langton and Margaret Stuart
University of Minnesota Press, 2004

"We believe strongly in eating seafood and vegetarian foods," explains Brenda Langton, founder of her namesake Cafe Brenda natural foods restaurant in Minneapolis.

Nutritionists generally agree that a diet of whole grains, beans, fruit, vegetables and seafood is healthier than one high in fat, salt and sugar. Yet, adopting a healthier diet can be difficult in a culture dominated by meals focused on fried meats and sweets.

This cookbook, filled with the most requested dishes at Cafe Brenda over a decade of dining, is aimed at easing the transition to a healthier diet by expanding one's repertoire of home-cooked meals. It includes appetizers like miso and herb pate, savory soups, vegetarian croquettes, stews, and entrees like poached rainbow trout served with fresh berry vinaigrette.

"The Cafe Brenda Cookbook tempts you with 'sinfully healthy' desserts, sweetened with only natural sugars and containing reduced amounts of dairy products," Langton points out.

"We hope you come to believe, as we do, that our kitchens are  the hearts of our homes. Be happy and relaxed in them, and enjoy preparing your food as well as eating it."

Originally published as The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Redefining Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine in 1992, this new trade paperback edition of The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine from the University of Minnesota Press is dubbed the "Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition" in recognition of Langton's 25-year career as a natural foods restaurateur in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Arranged in chapters according to the type of dish, here's a small representative sampling of the recipes included in the text:

Appetizers & Salads

  • Japanese Soba Noodle Salad With Spicy Tahini-Ginger Dressing
  • Corn Chowder
  • Roasted Potato & Garlic
  • Blueberry-Lemon Bread
Seafood and Fish Entrees
  • Poached Rainbow Trout with Berry Vinaigrette
Vegetable Entrees
  • Basmati Rice, Red Bean & Vegetable with Salsa
  • Sliced Almond Tart

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The Cafe Brenda Cookbook 

Snapper Fillets with Cranberry-Ginger Sauce

Cranberries can usually be found during fall and winter. Get them when they are available, and freeze a bag for the summer months.

Cranberry-Ginger Sauce is good all year long. Ginger adds a spicy touch to the fruit glaze. New potatoes or a potato-parsnip purée and steamed snow peas go well with this dish.

Cranberry-Ginger Sauce

1 cup cleaned, whole cranberries
1 1/3 cups black cherry or other fruit juice
1 tablespoon orange rind
3 tablespoons mirin or sake sweetened with 2 to 3 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon ginger juice (see below)

Combine cranberries, fruit juice, orange rind, and mirin or sake in a saucepan. Bring to a hard boil for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Remove from the heat and add ginger juice. Cool slightly, and purée in blender until very smooth. Set aside, keeping the sauce warm.

Snapper Fillets

2 to 2 1/2 pounds snapper fillets
flour for dredging fillets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter

Cut snapper fillets into six 5- to 7-ounce portions.

Dredge the fillets in flour, and sauté in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of hot vegetable oil or clarified butter.

Serve with warm Cranberry-Ginger Sauce. Serves 6.

Fresh Ginger Juice

2 inch piece of ginger

Grate peeled fresh ginger very finely. Place the grated ginger in your hand and squeeze it over a bowl to extract the juice. Approximately 1 tablespoon of juice will come from a 2-inch piece of ginger.

You can freeze fresh ginger: Leave its peel on and wrap it well in plastic. The quality is not that of fresh ginger, but it is better than powdered ginger, which is not a good substitute for fresh ginger.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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