John Schlimm, Grilling Vegan Style

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8/22/2012:

Part I John Schlimm
Grilling Vegan Style

John Schlimm, a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, is the international award-winning author of several books, including The Tipsy Vegan and The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard and lives in Pennsylvania.

LISTEN to our first interview with John Schlimm on 12/7/2011 talking about THE TIPSY VEGAN.

TRANSCRIPTION PART I:

Caryn Hartglass: Hello, it’s time for It’s All About Food. It’s all about food because it is all about food, everything, I think anyway. Health, environment, animals, everything on Earth is connected to the food we make and the food we eat, and I like talking about food. I’m Caryn Hartglass and I am the founder of a non-profit called Responsible Eating and Living because I think food should be not only delicious and fun and beautiful and good for you, but I think it should be good for all life on Earth. And, I believe we can have our cake and eat it too. We can have great, delicious food, feed the entire world healthfully, and not do very much damage as a result or any at all. Unfortunately, today, there’s a lot of crazy things going on with our food production, and it’s effecting our environment in terrible ways. But, there’s a lot of things that we can do everyday, three meals a day (if we have three meals a day) with every bite. And it can be really, really fun. So today we are going to talk about how fun it can be. Especially with barbecues and summertime. Today it’s August 22, 2012 and there is still plenty of summertime left for those of you on the part of the planet where it is summer in August. I know here in New York it is very much summer, and it’s a beautiful day today. But, there is plenty of time left for enjoying outdoor barbecues and all kinds of fun eating and partying, and you can do it with food that’s kind to you and kind to the planet.

So, we are going to bring on John Schlimm. He’s been on It’s All About Food before. He’s a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States. He’s an international award-winning author of several books including The Tipsy Vegan and The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook. He holds a masters degree from Harvard, and lives in Pennsylvania. And, we are going to be talking about Grilling Vegan Style. Welcome to It’s All About Food, John.

John Schlimm: Hey Caryn. It is so exciting to be with you and your listeners again. How lucky am I to get to do this again with you?

Caryn Hartglass: Well I am all fired up to talk about your 125 fired up recipes.

John Schlimm: Me too. It’s going to be so fun getting to add a little civil to summer here with you.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’ve looked at your book and played with a few recipes. This is a winner. This is a good one. What I love about it is most of the ingredients are so simple. It’s just a lot of beautiful, fresh, summer-grade food.

John Schlimm: Well, with The Tipsy Vegan and now with Grilling Vegan Style, it was important to me to first create books that I call “parties in a book,” and parties that everyone is invited to. But I was also determined to make these two books what I call “small town friendly.” Because I live back in my small hometown, and I want my friends and neighbor, here, to be able to go to our supermarkets, and our farmer’s markets and find all the ingredients.

Caryn Hartglass: I like it. There are lots of products out there, fortunately, in the market today for vegans. But in this book, you don’t even have to get those special products. You can make your own vegan sour cream, you can make your own vegan mayonnaise, and also Worcester sauce. You have a great recipe for that too.

John Schlimm: Yeah, I think it’s so important for me to blast through these silly myths that vegan eating and the vegan lifestyle is mysterious and how blah eating food is and how these are specialty ingredients you can only get in health food stores on Mars. Maybe that’s the case in some books and in some places. That will never be the case in my books because my books are all about fun and easy eating and cooking because I really believe that the cooking should be just as fun as the eating.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. In your book you start out talking about all the different kinds of grills that you can buy and use in order to grill, and there’s a lot of choices out there.

John Schlimm: It can really be overwhelming, and that’s why I tried to really explain it for the beginners out there as easily as possible. To really say, “You do have a lot of choices. So this is a decision and investment both in money, of course, but also in time and future fun.” So take your time with this decision. Go around. See what’s out there. See what you specifically need. Is this something you are going to do in the back yard? Is this something you are going to want to take with you on the road? Or maybe you live in an apartment with just a little balcony. There are grills that fit that. There are grills that go on boats. So, lots of choices, talk to fellow grillers. Find out what they like or don’t like about certain types of grills, and then, you can make decision based on that. Whether you want a charcoal grill, an electric grill, a gas grill, or there are these big fancy ones out there that are hybrid grills. They combine both charcoal and gas. Those are a little pricey right now, but I think in the years to come we are going to see those come down to a range that the rest of us can afford.

Caryn Hartglass: Can I ask you what kind you use?

John Schlimm: Well I actually like either a charcoal or a gas. And I’ll tell you what. I’m currently looking for a new grill. Mine has gone caput after experimenting with all of these recipes. So, I am going out and looking. But all of my friends, I go to their houses, they have a variety, whether its charcoal or gas, electric. My mom has a little Foreman grill that you can fit maybe two veggie burger patties on. She loves it. She plugs it in, uses it in the kitchen. She makes stuff for herself and my dad all the time. So, again, look for what you need and go out and make your choice.

Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s important to note in this book that it’s a party book, and it’s certainly great to go out and enjoy yourself at a barbecue. And there are all kinds of options in this book for that. But, you can use these recipes indoors, as well, and just for yourself.

John Schlimm: Absolutely. There is this amazing invention, and I would love to know who actually invented it. It’s the grill pan. You probably have one, and a lot of people might already. If not, run out now and get one. It is just a pan. It has all the little ridges. You use it on the stovetop. You might not get that smoky flavor, but guess what? That’s where our imagination comes into play. But especially during the winter months, if you don’t have a grill or it’s not easily accessible during the winter, grill pans are amazing. I use my grill pan all the time.

Caryn Hartglass: I’ve got a cast-iron, its rectangular, it goes on my gas oven burner top, and I turn two burners on underneath it. One side’s for pancakes, the other side’s for grilling. It costs nothing, and it’s fabulous.

John Schlimm: Yeah, it’s just absolutely brilliant. Kudos to whomever out there invented that.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good, so now we have our tools all taken care of. Now we’re going to jump in and make some food. As I was telling some people earlier, you should not be looking at this book when you are hungry. Very, very dangerous because everything is so good and tempting looking. So, I just want to talk about a few things that popped out. Oh, it’s just everything. I was recently at a pizza party. We were making all of these different pizzas and one of the things that we had there were these roasted or grilled peppers. And you’ve got this great Shishito Heat-Wave.

John Schlimm: Shishito peppers are really coming into their own. I’m really excited that I’m getting to introduce them to the few people out there that haven’t heard of them yet, but they are in most supermarkets now. They’re really this great marriage of jalapeño and green pepper because they’re not really hot, maybe every eighth or ninth one will be hot, but they are so good. You pop them on a grill and you get that brown, sort of blistery effect on them. Oh, yum.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they are really simple. This recipe that you have just uses a little bit of oil and salt and pepper. There’s really nothing to it. And yet, they’re beautiful and they’re really, really yummy.

John Schlimm: Yeah. They’re really a showstopper at a party.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely a showstopper. And they are just peppers. That’s the amazing thing about vegetables, and I think they are finally getting some of the attention that they deserve. I just wanted to mention before we go further that the pictures in this book by Amy Beadle Roth are really, really lovely.

John Schlimm: She is just a brilliant artist with an impeccable eye. She shot all of the photos for The Tipsy Vegan, which was the very first book she’s worked on. So it was so wonderful. It was my first vegan cookbook, and we could sort of travel down that road together. But, yes, her photos really make the food jump right off the page and make you feel like you can just reach right in and grab them. If only we could.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you want to like the pages here, there’s now question about it. So what I like is you have so many different things. You’ve got popcorn that you can make on the grill. Why not?

John Schlimm: I really wanted to push the limits with this book. I couldn’t believe that there hadn’t been a vegan grilling cookbook done before. There certainly have been a few vegetarian ones done, but those leave out a chunk of us that can’t enjoy all of those dishes. I really wanted to put a book out there that was going to break some new ground and contribute something to this whole wonderful discussion we are having and move it forward. So I put recipes like the popcorn in there. Another one that’s getting a lot of buzz from people on twitter and facebook is the tattooed watermelon salad.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I was going to bring that up.

John Schlimm: People are like, “What? You can put watermelon on a grill?”

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we were just talking about that before the show started. Crazy.

John Schlimm: It’s another really, totally simple recipe. My thought process is you can put everything on a grill at least once and try it. Maybe not everything works, but we found a lot of things that do work like the watermelon, like the popcorn. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for all of those finicky little eaters. And especially now with back-to-school, maybe not everyone’s so excited about back-to-school, but have a back-to-school party for all of your little ones and grill up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t made it, but I was just thinking about having that gooey peanut butter melting in your mouth. It just sounds so good.

John Schlimm: Yeah, another show stopper. And guess what? The adults will like it just as much as the kids. Because isn’t that one of the ultimate comfort foods, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at the romaine holiday. All of these (most of these) are really simple. This is just romaine leaves that you haven’t prepped really very much. It’s just a long…almost like you cut a head of it in half, and then you sprinkle it with some really great flavorings. I like this for a lot of reasons. One is sometimes when I go to a restaurant I order a salad like this because, as a vegan, that way I know, I can see all of the ingredients they have put it in that might be suspect. But I imagine for a picnic or an outdoor party this is terrific because if you don’t cut up the lettuce ahead of time it really holds its own, it stays muscly, the presentations great. People don’t think about this, but this is a good one.

John Schlimm: And I am all about easy entertaining. I love to entertain as much as the next person. I think that you realize this, because I’m sure that you entertain a lot. The host and hostess so often are stuck in the kitchen having to do all the work while everyone else is in the other room or in the backyard having all the fun. So to have dishes that are easy, especially like the romaine holiday, what a great luncheon dish if you are having people over for lunch. You can easily prepare it, and really spend time with you guests and not in the kitchen or at the grill.

Caryn Hartglass: You have a string bean and arugula salad, and you say that you can use yellow or green beans, but the yellow beans really pop in this recipe with the arugula. I was really surprised to see that. It’s gorgeous. Go yellow string beans.

John Schlimm: One of a million different things that I love about working with vegetables, and of course there’s a lot of fruit that we’ll talk about that you can grill as well. They really are works of art. No artist on the face of the planet comes close to Mother Nature when she is creating these beautiful fruits and vegetables for us to work with. The work’s already taken care of for us as far as making these plates look beautiful. We are just the middle person preparing them and putting them on the plate. That dish really is a great example of just how beautiful and, again, simple that a dish can be.

Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know why anybody would choose a beef burger, a turkey burger, a crappy frankfurter over some of these gorgeous recipes that you have in here. But, some people will. What is a cedar plank?

John Schlimm: Well it is what it says. It is a piece of cedar that has been prepared. You can certainly get it in a specialty store.

Caryn Hartglass: Like a specialty food store? Or what kind of specialty store?

John Schlimm: Well I’ve seen them in specialty food and kitchen stores. That’s one of those things that you might have to look around a little bit for. But, it’s really worth it because that comes with the cedar smoked mushroom recipe in the book. And certainly after you use it on that recipe, I’m sure you’ll find other things that you can also use that cedar plank for.

Caryn Hartglass: So it’s just a piece of cedar wood?

John Schlimm: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Like the kind that I would use in my closet to keep the moths out.

John Schlimm: Yes, more or less, but for a different purpose.

Caryn Hartglass: Good. I like multipurpose things. And the other really interesting ingredient, which is brilliant, in this recipe is the mushroom crust. Did you come up with that or did you see it? I’ve never seen that before.

John Schlimm: Over the course of, I think this is cookbook number nine or ten for me, I’ve really developed a great team that I work with, and every cookbook author does this, and a really good test kitchen because, naturally, these recipes need to be tested and sampled. People have the luxury of walking into the book store and, “Oh, there’s this great cookbook, I’m gonna buy it.” A lot goes into it so I really worked closely with my team, and we developed this recipe. Again, pushing the limits to give people not only simple, delicious food but a few things in there that they might not have heard of before, and the mushroom crust is certainly one of those. And, it is something you can use with other things once you try it once with this recipe, and that’s some fun.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea, well all it is is dried mushrooms that you pulse and make a coarse-ground of in a food processor. Mushrooms have so much flavor, I’m just so excited to try this.

John Schlimm: Mushrooms are so underrated among vegetables, and they are some of my favorites, and there are so many different kinds, and you can have so much fun experimenting with them. And certainly those people out there that have trained themselves to go out there to pick wild mushrooms, which you do need to be trained to some degree because there are some out there. And that is one of my goals to learn exactly how to do that. Think about using some of those delicious wild mushrooms. Or maybe find someone who does that and ask them if maybe you can have some.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just take a moment here and talk about the mighty mushroom. I remember people thinking that there wasn’t anything of nutritional value in a mushroom, and mushrooms are amazing. I like to call them natural chemotherapy sometimes because there are so many immune system boosting things in mushrooms and anti-cancer fighting things that people are now starting to take, concentrated mushroom supplements. Not the ones that we eat, other mushrooms, but all mushrooms are really packed with really good stuff so eat up.

John Schlimm: Absolutely. We as a society feel like we need to load down our foods, specifically vegetables, with all these different sauces and butters and seasonings. Of course some of that can be really good, but I love to just take a raw or lightly cooked vegetable and just have a mindful moment where I plop it in my mouth, I chew it, and I really concentrate on the flavor. I think if you do that with a mushroom. Corn on the cob does not need all this butter and salt and all that fat. I have two grilled corn on the cob recipes in the book that have really great sauces, but I often love just eating it as is. When you really focus on the flavors just as it is without anything on it, you’re going to be surprised. You know this, I know this, I’m sure a lot of your listeners do. You’re going to be so surprised at how flavorful all of these vegetables are.

Caryn Hartglass: Corn can vary depending on where you get it and what farm and what time of the season it’s from. I picked up some corn recently from our brand new farmers market in my neighborhood, and I thought, “Did they add sugar to the soil?” This corn was the sweetest thing I had ever tasted. It was crazy.

John Schlimm: We are at the pinnacle of our farmers market here, of course. We have a very short growing season in [Pennsylvania]. We just had corn from our farmers market on Sunday at a picnic, and I thought the same thing. I’m like, “This is like candy.” And again, all on its own. What was great is that, of course I don’t use butter anyway, but the others around the table, my cousins and aunts and even my parents, who always have to slather up their cobs, they forgot to bring the butter out. And I said, “Just try it without anything on it.” They couldn’t believe it, they couldn’t believe it. They ate it without any butter or anything else. But you’re right, corn is one of those things that you can get corn that is really, really bad. So if you get a bad cob, don’t judge corn based on one cob.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but definitely eat it when it’s fresh and in season. Speaking of fresh and in season, let’s just talk a moment about tomatoes, which should only be eaten fresh and in season. Unfortunately, I talk a bit, probably too much, about tomatoes from time to time, but they grow tomatoes all year round in Florida, and they don’t have any flavor and they’re grown really horrifically. The thing is, catch them when they’re in season and ear as many as you can and then move onto something else.

John Schlimm: Absolutely, which of course this brings me, and I’m sure you, to my grilled tomato suns recipe on page 78 of the book. Super, super easy. Cut the tomato into halves crosswise, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp. And then, with just a little salt, a little pepper, a little olive oil put it cut-side down on the grill for a few minutes and you have an amazing, amazing, simple dish. A side dish, a luncheon dish, whatever you want. Yes, the tomatoes right now are really in season, and we are just enjoying them by the mouthful from the farmers market and from all different relatives, whose gardens are overflowing with them. And if people don’t understand the difference in taste, I challenge them to have one in season and then, in January, find one, and you’re going to notice the difference big time.

Caryn Hartglass: I used to live in the south of France, and this was a dish that you found in many restaurants, and I would make it at home a lot, but it’s just so simple and amazing. Grilled tomatoes.

John Schlimm: And talk about health benefits of tomatoes. Oh my goodness, we just keep learning about those, don’t we? Amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we just have a few minutes left so let’s go to the sweeter side. I think most people don’t realize that they can grill fruit and how spectacular it is.

John Schlimm: It really is. We talked about the watermelon, which is fantastic. But strawberries and peaches, there’s a party on south peach salsa. It’s just so yummy. Just peaches grilled on their own and combined with a great sauce. Even different berries, other than strawberries, you can grill. Coconut, the grilled coconut recipe. Pineapple rings. It just goes on and on. Again, if you find some fruit that is strange and mysterious to you, pick it up and toss it on the grill. Put a little oil and just throw it on the grill and go with it. I think a lot of this is about experimenting and having fun. Especially with grilling, every grill is different so you have to stick close by, but you can have so much fun transforming dishes. I like to think with Grilling Vegan Style and the vegetable and fruit dishes in there, it’s just a starting point.

Caryn Hartglass: Have you heard of this? I heard that the first bite of anything you eat is the one that’s most flavorful, and then, as you continue to eat it, you don’t get all of the flavor of that first impression. I’ve read it many times, and I don’t believe it because when I’m eating delicious fruits and vegetables, every mouthful is spectacular. I’m wondering is it just because I have a clean palate, and maybe this is only true of the people that are eating all the wrong things, that the first bite is only interesting. But, every bite of a good, grilled vegetable or any of these things is spectacular.

John Schlimm: I have to say and admit that I am a great observer of the way people eat, which I can say because not everyone at a dinner party with me is going to be very self-conscious. Now, if you’ve ever noticed most people, it’s no wonder the first bite is the only bite they taste because five minutes later they’re done. I don’t think they even chew anymore, they just gulp it and swallow it whole. I’m always the last one done. I always chew, chew, chew my food, which really is the healthy way to do it because our stomachs don’t have teeth. So I think you and I are, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners are very mindful eaters and really appreciative of what their eating and the flavor and where it came from. Eating, to me, is almost an exercise in meditation sometimes. I think people need to slow down and make every bite count and really be grateful for that bite of the delicious food that they’re having. The flavor will then follow.

Caryn Hartglass: John, thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food. I really love what you’ve done with fruits and vegetables. Spectacular. Grilling Vegan Style, these recipes really are fired up and worth celebrating.

John Schlimm: Thank you so much. I can’t wait to do it again with you.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you. I’m going to take a break now, and we’ll be right back with Jenny Brown from the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. She’s got a really beautiful story to tell in her book, The Lucky Ones. We’ll be right back.

Transcribed by Steven Lee-Kramer, 2/13/2013

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