Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s latest cookbook is Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes. Her previous titles include Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Brunch, and Vegan with a Vengeance. She lives in Omaha, NE. Visit her recently re-launched website, The Post Punk Kitchen, at www.theppk.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me.
I am actually in San Francisco for the week, and what is it about March? It goes in like a lion and it’s very lion-like all month long. I don’t know whoever mentioned a lamb, but it has been cloudy and rainy here. I understand it was snowing in New York and I’m actually seeing just a little spec of sun right now. I’m enjoying that. Crazy.
So on the show for the last—excuse me—few segments, I’ve been talking about some very serious issues. We had Dave Kirby on last week; we talked about his book Animal Factory that talked about so many terrible things about factory farming of animals. His focus was on how it affected people. We didn’t even get into what goes on with the animals that are exploited in order to make food for people. It’s an industry that affects all life on Earth, and it’s something that definitely has to change. It’s not sustainable, it’s cruel, and the “foods” that’s produced certainly isn’t healthy for us.
Before that, there were a lot of serious shows because there are a lot of serious issues to talk about when it comes to food. When we bite into those burgers, bite into anything, any meal we sit down to—I think it’s a really good exercise to think, “Where did this food come from and how many people were involved in getting it to my plate?” When you really connect the dots and go backwards, it’s amazing how many people were involved, how much energy, where that food has traveled before it got to your plate. We live in a really complicated world.
But when it all comes down to it, I think the solution (making things simpler, making things healthy, making things more environmentally sustainable, all the good things that we can do) actually turn out to be, foodwise, the most delicious, the most satisfying. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today: all the wonderful, yummy things about a plant-based diet, all the reasons to do all the right, good things. We’re going to be talking to somebody who’s really made it so much easier, simpler, joyful, and delicious.
We’re going to be talking with Isa Chandra Moskowitz who is the award-winning vegan chef and author of several best-selling cookbooks including Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Brunch, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. She’s Brooklyn native who began her cooking journey more than twenty years ago. She’s inspired by New York’s diverse cuisine and has been featured in many print and online publications including Saveur, The New York Times, The Washington Post, VegNews, Herbivore, Bust, and more. And who was on NPR and Portland AM Northwest. You can find her cooking and writing at The Post Punk Kitchen (theppk.com). Welcome, Isa.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Hi, thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Did I pronounce your name correctly?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: You did.
Caryn Hartglass: ‘Cause I’ve only seen it in print many, many, many times, never had the opportunity to say it.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: It’s Lisa with no “l”.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I like it! Like Liza with a “z”, Lisa with no “l”. We should write a song about that. [chuckles] Well, welcome. You really are a superstar in my world.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Thanks.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at this beautiful, beautiful book: your new cookbook Appetite for Reduction. I love the front cover.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Who did that? Great artwork. It looks really gorgeous.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: It’s a friend of mine and also one of the best tattoo artists in the country named Seth Wood. He works at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. So, yeah, he’s an actual tattoo artist. That’s why the cover looks so great.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I didn’t realize that, but now that you say tattoo, I guess I can see the connection. All of the items are outlined so that they all pop out, they’re all distinct.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Right. So it feels like tattoo flash art.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, yes. Really gorgeous, and everything inside is gorgeous.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. Thanks.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just get to know you a little bit better. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, I went through a couple different phases. When I was just a kid, I wanted to be an artist.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you certainly are an artist.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: [chuckles] Sort of.
Caryn Hartglass: I definitely think that preparing food is an art, and it should be considered an art. I think more people should approach like an art. There are some people who are so lost in the kitchen they have no idea what to do, and others find it so simple. I think that’s partly because it is an art, and some people are drawn to it and other people aren’t. In some ways, it’s a lost art.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to tell because, being in the vegan community, people really like cooking. There’s so much centered around food and cooking. You know, I know the statistics say that people are cooking less than our parents did and their grandparents did. But it really seems like it’s on the upswing—just from where I’m standing—that people are cooking more. But the numbers don’t tell that story.
Caryn Hartglass: You just said something and I never thought of it this way, and it’s chewing up all kinds of thoughts. “Vegans like cooking.” I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. I think those that have been successful with being a vegan like to cook because it’s a really important part of it. Maybe those that don’t quite make it are those that don’t do so well in the kitchen. I’m not sure; I’m going to have to chew on this one for a while.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I’ve always been involved with the vegan community that does like cooking. Occasionally, I get that person that’s just living on frozen veggie burgers and stuff like that. Of course, in New York City, it’s really easy to just eat out three times a day. But, for the most part, I’m hanging around vegans who love cooking.
Caryn Hartglass: If we go through the history of the recent vegetarian movement (because vegetarianism has been around ever since this country was created as the United States)—
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: And even before that.
Caryn Hartglass: And even before that. People have been eating plant foods in this area forever. The most recent history that we’re familiar with, vegetarian food maybe in the ‘60s when the hippies came around, it was considered brown rice and steamed vegetables. Most people consider that boring. By the way, brown rice and steamed vegetables can be fabulous.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Oh, I love it. Especially whenever I eat dressing.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs] I don’t want to knock brown rice and steamed vegetables! But it was considered “that was is it.” Over time, we’ve really grown in terms of the culinary experience of plant foods, and you’ve definitely been an important part of it. I think you’ve had an arc too. I mean from your early cookbooks were all about the treats, the cupcakes and the cookies. I think it was important for a lot of us to know that we can have our cake and eat it too, in a way.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I think recently veganism has been taken seriously in the culinary world. You have lots of famous chefs doing vegan menus. You have even Good Housekeeping coming out with a vegan cookbook. So now it’s looked at as this culinary adventure and taken seriously, and not looked at as “Oh, an oat burger!” or something like that.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m kicking myself, but one famous chef recently—can’t remember his name off the top of my head—recently said that vegetables were the next thing.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah, that seems to be a common thread lately. I think there was some magazine named Veganism—I can’t remember—like, restaurant magazine, as veganism as the next big culinary trend this year. Vegan dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really exciting. It really is. You’re a part of being the foundation of that whole culinary explosion.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, I’m glad you think so.
Caryn Hartglass: I definitely think so. This most recent book is interesting because it’s about healthy food, food without a lot of calories, food that’s easy and good for us.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I just wanted to do a good weeknight cookbook that had lots of whole-foods based recipes and tried to do each recipe as a little cooking class. So hopefully you’re gleaming something from every single recipe. Just how to cook flavor out of vegetables and plant-based foods without adding a ton of oil and fatty foods. Which I think—
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s something America really needs. The weekday cookbook, how to put a meal together fast for a family.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: It definitely fills a big gap.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. It’s not supposed to be super fancy, restaurant food. Just great causal. If it doesn’t take thirty minutes, then the recipe will have a lot of downtime. So when something’s roasting in the oven, you can do whatever you need to do. Maybe the recipe takes an hour, but all of that isn’t going to be hands-on time.
Caryn Hartglass: I think a lot of these recipes are on a variation of a theme. Perhaps when people go through some of these, they will feel empowered to kind of go off on their own at some point. But there are a lot of basic staples that makes it easy to make a lot of these recipes. Just things that you always have so that when you’re inspired, you grab this and that and whatever.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Right. I try to use—
Caryn Hartglass: What does your kitchen look like?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: For the book, I tried to make a lot of pantry staples and everything is supposed to be supermarket friendly. So as long as you have these staples around and you’re getting your fresh produce every week, you should be able to make them in and out the week without having to make a special trip. Lots of grains (quinoa, barley, brown rice) and lots of different beans. I think I’ve used every single bean under the sun.
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Lots of different sauces and dressings kind of make the meal. So even if it is a night of brown rice and steamed vegetables, you can also have some baked tofu with it and a really awesome dressing with it. So you can have green goddess dressing, a barbeque sauce, or a mole sauce. There’s a lot of variation, even though there is common themes throughout. As far as your palate goes, there’s going to be different tastes for every night of the week.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, sometimes you’re in the mood for—especially in the United States and in the major cities where we have access to so much. We’re really so fortunate. I think it may not apply to all of America, but I think our palate has expanded ethnically. One night you can have Mexican, one night you can have an Asian flavor, one night you can have an Italian flavor; and it all applies really nicely to vegan food. You see all those different flavors in your book.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I think all of my food really comes from my experience growing up in Brooklyn and having a lot of diversity in my life, and a lot of different kinds of cuisines, and friends from different cultures. So I always got to try really great authentic food. It didn’t have to be matzo ball soup every night just because my last name is Moskowitz.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Although I could live on matzo ball soup every night. But, you know, just eating at my friends’ houses every night, and that’s just how it was in Brooklyn. We’re always out doing stuff and then going to somebody’s house for dinner, pretty much. So, yeah, I got to go on a lot of culinary adventures as a teenager, as a kid.
Caryn Hartglass: We’ll get back to that matzo ball theme in a little while.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: ‘Cause I have some questions about that. But the thing that interests me whenever I look at a new cookbook ‘cause I do a lot of cooking is “What am I going to learn from this?” I’m always tickled whenever I actually do discover something. One of the things that you talk about is how to manage ginger, and I really like the tip that you gave with preparing it and freezing it so it’s ready to go.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Right. I’ve seen people struggle with ginger so much, just trying to get around all those nooks and crevices. And there are all sorts of gadgets to do things like that. But the only utensils that you really, really need in the kitchen are things like forks, knives, and spoons. For the ginger, you just scrape the skin right off with a spoon. It goes effortlessly around all the crevices and all the knobs, gets all the skin off. And then I just pop in the freezer. There’s my fresh ginger for whenever I need it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, it’s brilliant. I do use a lot of ginger and I love it fresh. It’s just one of those, “Oh, yeah… Let’s just deal with the ginger.” [chuckles] I encourage everyone to plan ahead, think ahead, and it just makes life so much easier. You can even thank yourself for taking care of yourself where you prep things and then you just have them. So you reach in the refrigerator, something’s ready to go, and you can say, “Oh, thank you, Caryn. Thank you for doing that for me.” [chuckles]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Makes me feel good just to have cooked quinoa and cooked beans already. And just a number of dressings in the fridge. Even if you just spend an hour on Sunday preparing some of these things, you can have food for the whole week and a pretty diverse range of food. It doesn’t take that much effort.
Caryn Hartglass: So I think a lot of success in life has to do—I mean, there are people that aren’t very organized and do well, but I think life is a lot easier when there’s planning and organization. It’s definitely true in the kitchen.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Although I will say that that is the only place where I am organized. You don’t want to see my sock drawer.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs] But that’s probably the best place to be organized.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. The kitchen, to me, is like—it’s just a very sacred place.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I think the easier it is to cook, the more you’ll cook, obviously. If your pans are stuffed underneath in a cabinet underneath a bunch of stuff or hung up really high—you know, the more accessible everything is, the easier it’ll be for you to just grab things and start cooking. It’s definitely important to have an organized kitchen, no matter how small the kitchen might be.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re in Nebraska now?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I am, yeah. In Omaha.
Caryn Hartglass: Can I ask what brought you there?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yes, my boyfriend.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. What’s it like? I have never been to Nebraska and, being one of these snobby urban people that spend most of my time in New York, San Francisco, and occasionally Chicago, I don’t know much about Nebraska.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I guess it has a small town feel, but it’s not—I don’t know. Have you ever been to any? It’s a pretty typical Midwestern city in that there’s lots of cool Farmers Markets. But then there are also things like strip malls.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s America.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. [chuckles] But there are a lot of cool things there too. It’s getting more and more vegan friendly. Just like the rest of the county is kind of developing into—everything’s a little bit urban, no matter where you are. There’s a downtown area there that’s just a bunch of warehouses that are converting into lofts, shops, and things like that. There’s a Whole Foods.
Caryn Hartglass: God bless Whole Foods. So you can find everything.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah, pretty much. I don’t know if I would be able to survive there without Whole Foods, which is strange since I was very more into shopping at local markets and things like that. If you live in places like New York or Portland, there’s not ever really a reason to go to Whole Foods. But, seriously, in the middle of the country, Whole Foods is pretty revolutionary.
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So you can go and get basically anything you’d ever need. I’m pretty set there.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s the local cuisine like in Nebraska? I’m not sure if—
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, I can’t eat most of it. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Sure.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: But as far as the stuff that’s—It’s kind of interesting because I haven’t ever lived in the middle of the country and I don’t have much experience with the food, but I’m always willing to learn and love learning what people like to eat in different areas. Nebraska seems to eat things I’ve never heard of like runzas, which is like a meat-stuffed, bread pocket type thing.
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I made vegan versions, and they’re really awesome with seitan and sauerkraut. Also, people eat chili with cinnamon buns. That’s like a thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So it’s kind of fascinating. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: There’s a vegan restaurant called Daily Grub and that’s a lifesaver too. So I can go get like—
Caryn Hartglass: So there’s a little community there.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah, for sure. I can go get a tofu bun, medium-rare tempeh, lettuce and tomato. There’s another vegetarian friendly restaurant that has tempeh and tofu, vegan cheesecake, and things like that. Then my boyfriend had started this group called Vegan Omaha, so we have meetups once a month. The restaurants will do an all vegan buffet or a family style thing for us. That’s been really fun because they keep some of those vegan items on their menu, even after the meetup.
Caryn Hartglass: Nice.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. Next month we’re having a vegan pizza party. There’s about thirty, forty people, maybe even more, that go to meetups. It’s really fun to do it in a place like Omaha, which is—
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they need you there.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: What’s that?
Caryn Hartglass: They need you there.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. It’s just more people are really appreciative. In places like Portland or New York, people are always complaining about the vegan stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles]
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Which is cool ‘cause I think we need higher standards.
Caryn Hartglass: Uh-huh.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: But it’s just fun to be someplace where it is really exciting to go to a vegan pizza party and it’s not taken for granted. And to have the chef also get excited about cooking vegan for us. The chef I spoke to do this pizza party—it’s called Dante’s—he was just totally into it. He was all, “Oh yeah! We’ll do these family style. We’ll do these roasted veggies, we’ll do vegan pesto, we’ll do vegan cheese.”
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: You know, just to get people excited about it is really fun.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s nice. Well, I believe chefs, once they get over some sort of rigidity, really can get excited about vegan cuisine. It just opens the world where you’re shifting focus to what the main event is on the plate. There are just so many more vegetables and grains and things to work with. They all have vibrant colors and fabulous flavors and textures; it’s a whole new paint box.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah, it sure is.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, you didn’t have any formal culinary training.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: No.
Caryn Hartglass: In some ways, that’s a good thing. I think it’s encouraging to other people who don’t have training to know that they can go into the kitchen and make fabulous meals.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I had training in that I cooked a lot and I worked in kitchens.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So my training was pretty much life. I think sometimes when you go to school for it, it comes kind of this precious thing. Like you’ll know how to carve a potato into a diamond. But you end up being so influenced by whoever your teachers are. Things like that. I think it’s great if it comes naturally to you and you can innovate, kind of learn. That’s how I learn anyway, just by more intuition, I guess. And hands-on and things like that. I dropped out of high school so I don’t really like being taught in a traditional way.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s the artist in you, obviously.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. And I went into an art high school, and I still dropped out.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs] Well, I don’t want to talk about the goods and bads of our educational system, but it certainly is not there to support everyone. You mentioned that French cuisine is something that you’re not familiar with, which I thought was really interesting to read. Because whenever we talk about cooking, French is like this apex where we all want to go.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, interestingly, I went to France for the first time—well, I went to Europe for the first time this past fall and actually did learn a lot. So now I can say I’m pretty familiar.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I was in the south of France for four years as a vegan. You do learn a lot just by paying attention and seeing the foods that they do make and how they prepare them, how they place them on the plate. That was really inspirational to me. Gave me lots of wonderful ideas. And they do use a lot of fresh vegetables there.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. I stayed at this vegan B&B called Gentle Gourmet. They were doing Paris Vegan Day.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So, yeah, I got a chance to see how things are done there and to visit a couple of the French vegan restaurants, which was exciting. There were other people from around France that had come to Paris Vegan Day and had vegan establishments in other parts of France. That was pretty cool.
Caryn Hartglass: What kind of food did they serve at this vegan bread and breakfast?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: They did all sorts. I mean, we were there for a special occasion. We had a Thanksgiving night, a Latin night. Lots of mushrooms and creamy things. They had a lot of actual vegan creams that tasted really yummy over there. I don’t think we really do here. But when I came back, I was pretty much addicted to making things with cashew creams and nut creams, those kinds of things. Making maroons. Using more French flavorings like more wine.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just one other place to go to make things more interesting and more varied. But I’m really excited to hear what’s going on there because, when I was there, I had never met another vegetarian. Nobody wanted to talk about vegetarian food. Then the funny thing happened where the Veggie Pride Parade was created in France, and all these vegetarians were coming out of the closet. It was hysterical.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Now there seems to be more activity all around Europe, which it’s just really inspiring.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we’re going to take a quick little break. Isa, if you could just stay with us because I have a lot more things to talk about with you.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we’ll be right back.
Hi I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. And I am here with best-selling author Isa Chandra Moskowitz talking about her new cookbook, Appetite for Reduction. Isa – Lisa without an ‘L’. (laughing) Isa – I’m going to be saying that all day. You wrote this cookbook, it says in the Introduction, because you were actually dealing with some food issues yourself, and health related issues. And I think it’s an interesting thing and I like to talk about it – that I’m all for plant based diets, but there are healthy plant-based diets and then, you know, we could be living on French Fries and Potato Chips all day, too, which is Vegan, but not really healthy. But the – but I believe that this is the most powerful diet and you can really focus it to make your meals healthy and also really health supporting: especially in challenging health times. This is the winning diet if you know what to do with it.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Right. Well, I didn’t get into Veganism at all, for health reasons. But I always still ate pretty healthy, even though I do definitely – I always liked baking cupcakes and making cookies and things like that, and pie. But, I always tried to have a pretty veggie-based diet. And I’ve always loved – well, not always, but since going Vegan, really loved cooking vegetables and things like that – so – but even as healthy as you eat you can still have health problems. So, I don’t – one of the problems – one of the issues that came up for me was that I had PCO abs which is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and I don’t know if we want to talk about my ovaries too much – but basically, it was recommended to me that I start eating a lower fat, whole grains based diet. So that’s why I came up with most of these recipes – was just for myself and I thought, “If I’m doing this, other people probably want these kind of recipes, too.”
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. You know, the thing is, you’ve probably heard this a lot when we talk about having a began diet, people say, “Oh. I love my meat and we are all going to die, so I want to die this way.” Which in some ways is kind of ridiculous because, well, I personally think that we all should be having the highest quality life we can have, for as long as possible. Our bodies should feel good and be energetic and we just know that an unhealthy meat-centered diet is a recipe for disaster health: heart attacks and diabetes and all that other stuff. But just because you are a vegan doesn’t – number one that you’re going to be immortal. Nobody leaves this world alive. And it doesn’t – it’s not a guarantee for ideal health. It is an opportunity to reduce risk, significantly, for all health issues. And, no, we don’t have to go into talking about your ovaries – but we don’t have to go into talking about mine, either – but I have been a vegan since 1988 and then some twenty years later I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, so the vegan diet, in itself, does not prevent diseases, but I do believe that the diet I was on at the time, is what kept me alive all of these years and then I just upped it a notch: I knew what I needed to do to boost my own immune system and now I eat a lot more carefully and I’m here.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I’m so sorry to hear about that. I didn’t know about that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah. It was my little romp with cancer a few years back. And it was certainly an eye-opener about a lot things. But it just made me so much more of a believer behind plant foods. You know, I had been – I consume dairy until I was thirty-years-old and I know that that had a negative impact. But I will never know the ultimate cause and I’m sure it was a contribution of many different factors, but – what I do know is that healthy, colorful, plant food, especially dark, green vegetables, I juice every day – it’s my religion – is really what health is all about and it’s so easy for it to be yummy and easy and delicious. I always want to bring it back to the happy side of all of this. Because that’s what life is supposed to be about: experiencing joy.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yup.
Caryn Hartglass: And we eat every day and our food should definitely be joyful.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: But people love to hear about individual stories. I don’t know if it’s something creepy about us, but – a lot of people like to hear about other people’s misfortune and grief; but also we love to hear how we got out of it: how we experienced something challenging and then what we did to rise above it.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah – I think – it’s interesting having all of this news lately, about if you’re vegan you won’t get cancer or you won’t get sick. Nothing bad will happen to you. I don’t know – I’m not sure – like I said, I didn’t get into all of this for health reasons, so I don’t know – in a way it’s almost putting too much pressure on people. “Oh, but you’re vegan. Why do you have a cold?” “Why do you have this?”
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I definitely think plants, there’s lots of science out there that supports the idea that plant based diets are a lot healthier. On the other hand, we all have to know that we aren’t immune to anything. There’re things like genetics that play a big part and other environmental things going on that can affect our health. I try and be as healthy as I can being still get joy out of like and out of my food.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. What – do you have a particular favorite in this book?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I have some – the book really is – so many of my favorites.
Caryn Hartglass: What you love to eat.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So it’s hard to chose, but I find myself making the Everyday Chickpea Quinoa Salad, in there, like I say in the book, it’s called that because I make it every day. I do – I always have like I was saying, I always have quinoa and grains and chickpeas in my fridge and some yummy dressing. I really love the Goddess Dressing and the Balsamic Vinaigrette. So with the dressings I did – instead of using oil or cream, or anything like that to get them thick and creamy and emulsified, I used cashews. I really liked that method and have been using it. I probably make a different kind of dressing every day. There’s maybe 15 dressings in the book, but I have a hard time sticking to them. I think once you start making dressings, you start doing that, too: tweaking them all of the time and making up new inventions. And then lots of the stews I have pretty often. The Chilies – I think there’s 3 different kinds of chilies; the lentil and eggplant chili I eat a lot during the winter; the potpie stew I eat a lot during the winter, too. Now that spring’s coming I’m sure I’ll be doing more of the Corn Chowder and a lot more of the salads. And the salads aren’t, “Here’s some greens and a dressing.” They are all pretty filling entrée-type salads with beans and nuts and tofu and grains, and greens. So I tried to make them good and fillings.
Caryn Hartglass: I was reading this going through every recipe and nodding my head because this is the way I like to eat. And it’s just delicious, it’s satisfying. I often say that it’s ‘clean’. I find it harder and harder to eat in a restaurant, actually. Because of all – the food just isn’t as fresh or it’s overly salted and it doesn’t have good, natural flavors.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I think it’s good to cook and know exactly what’s going into all of your food.
Caryn Hartglass: You have some really simple things that are kind of – they have a comfort food feeling to them. Like a Cream of Corn recipe and, actually, I haven’t had that in so long that I think I’ll have to try that one. It just reminds me of my childhood. And then you even have an Onion Ring recipe.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: That was actually for my boyfriend. I never liked Onion Rings and I was like, “Oh we don’t need and it’s not going to be good; people will just want fried” but I came up with dipping them in corn starch and then other stuff and then dipping them into these breadcrumbs and then baking them. And they’re amazing. I like them better than I liked fried onion rings. The onion – I used to eat onions, Walla Walla or Vidalia, and they’d get really succulent and juicy and the outside is nice and crispy. They’re lots of fun to eat.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m definitely going to be doing that. I haven’t tried it yet, but just an excellent idea. I do use the oven a lot for things that sometime I used to fry things and now I’m used to baking things.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: The falafel also – there’s lots of stuff like that that I was, “These are traditionally fried – let’s see if we can get the same delicious flavor out of them, not frying.” Another recipes that was like that was one of the – a west Indian black-eyed pea curry with steamed plantains. And that, for me, is really great comfort food.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh I love plantains!
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Instead of frying them, they’re steamed and they’re so yummy. And they get, it’s just, I’m not going to say it’s an exactly like frying because it’s actually a little bit better because when you fry them they get a little bit dried out; but steaming them, they stay nice and sweet and plumb and firm and they’re great little bursts of sweetness for on top of the spicy curry.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there’s definitely a transition when you’re used to eating standard American food that’s overwhelmed with fat and salt and sugar. But when you get passed that and all of the sudden, your tongue is working again, and you can taste things. I definitely prefer the food when it’s baked because they’re just so many advantages: 1) Your kitchen stays cleaner; because frying – that oil splatters; it gets all over the walls and does this really, nice, thin coating that gets thicker and thicker all over the kitchen.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I only fry once a year and that’s Hanukah, we do latkes.
Caryn Hartglass: Potato pancakes.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: That’s it. I never really loved frying, anyway. It does make your kitchen pretty gritty.
Caryn Hartglass: Makes the kitchen dirty and it’s time consuming – especially when you are making something like potato pancakes or something where individual things that you need to flip and then add something else and wait for that. It’s time consuming! Baking – it’s fast. Put all those things on the tray…
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: And it’s natural. That’s why I like it. You don’t need to stand over the stove. If I eat fried foods, I’ll eat them out at a restaurant. I really don’t dig the clean-up, so much. The book, for me, I’m not going to go on a tirade against unhealthy – anybody, as long as you’re not eating fried food every day, I know plenty of people that are perfectly healthy and at a healthy weight, quote unquote, that eat fried foods. I think it’s all up to our individual bodies, our individual metabolisms. For instance, my boyfriend and I can eat the same thing for a week and he’ll lose 5 pounds and I’ll gain 5 pounds. It’s just kind of how it is. I also worry about – I didn’t want to write a Diet Cookbook. First of all, because I’m not a skinny person and I don’t people to say, “Why are you telling me to diet when you’re fat” That would be stupid. But also, I think we all have our own individual weights our bodies are comfortable at; I don’t think that being overweight, quote unquote, is a death sentence; and I don’t think it means – things like yo-yo dieting and starving yourself are just as unhealthy, if not more, than having some extra poundage that you’re carrying around. I just am trying to be happy at the weight that I’m at and I think a lot of women are struggling with that kind of thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: And also trying to eat healthy and not going to extremes and not beating myself up for stuff because another thing with the vegan diet fad is that there’s this promise that once I eliminated meat and dairy from my diet, I lost this weight; and then it’s like – well, what if you don’t? I’m vegan because, really, I’m vegan because I care about animals, so I think setting stuff up like that – “Oh, when you go vegan you’ll lose weight” is setting veganism up for ex-vegans because what if somebody goes vegan just for that and they don’t lose the weight?
Caryn Hartglass: I know that we’re just looking for any angle that we can to get people over to the compassionate side.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I agree. I think still, within reason, sometimes it goes too far – like the PETA ads calling fat women whales or ….
Caryn Hartglass: They do go there –
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: They go too far and there’s a lot of anti-fat…
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t think we all need to go naked to get our message across.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: There’s a lot of – so what I’m saying – I don’t think ‘by any means necessary’ because I think everything is inter-connected. I don’t think, “Be sexist” because I think people will go vegan. Or do something racist because that will make people vegan. With those things we need to be realistic and also be – not sell it as this cure all because it’s not…..I think it’s a great diet, in terms of health, I just don’t think it should be that’s how we are going to promote it and make all of these promises because it comes across almost like an Atkins-type thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Many of us sound like we are religious fanatics.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: That could happen, too…. I think it’s good to be, “I’m vegan because I care about animals and here’s these other added benefits.”
Caryn Hartglass: I think we live – I don’t think – I know that we live in this Mad Men kind of world where we’re all so influenced by marketing and advertising so that we all – if we have something that we want people to know about and we want to get the message out, we take this advertising slant: we try and sell people on stuff and we look for the selling points, the talking points.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I think that’s cool as long as it’s honest and true and from a good, positive place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being great at advertising – as long as what you’re selling is realistic, I guess.
Caryn Hartglass: And it is true – it’s a double-edged sword: I’m really glad that there are more vegan products out in the market, but some of them – you’re not going to get thin on them. There’s the Oreo cookie version: Newman Os that are vegan; there’s all of the frozen vegan
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: There’s the vegan candy bars and I think that’s great but I don’t think that’s incompatible with what veganism is; I think it’s great to have as many vegan products out there as we can as long as they’re not – I don’t think it’s great to eat high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats and things like that. But to have these vegan alternatives and I write cookies books and I’m writing a pie book: I think it’s important to have people be able to indulge and be vegan. Because, again, it isn’t all about health.
Caryn Hartglass: So is that what’s next? You’re writing a pie book?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I actually am. That’s the third book in our trilogy of dessert books.
Caryn Hartglass: Pies are really, really a wonderful thing. They are nice and homey and huggy.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: They’re really fun to write.
Caryn Hartglass: And I just want to mention one thing I appreciate, amongst many things in this book, you make note of what items are soy free or gluten free or take 30 minutes so people can get a quick look and know what’s appropriate for them because so many of us have different food issues nowadays.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: It’s interesting with the gluten free thing, it’s so easy to do gluten free.
Caryn Hartglass: I absolutely agree.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: You can make everything easily gluten free or naturally gluten free. It’s just one of those things that I think people don’t, you know, also a vegan you can see and hear and think, “Oh I have to do all this weird stuff.” With gluten free it’s the same thing. But you don’t have to do a bunch of substitutions or weird ingredients. Lots of, many gluten free ingredients can be found in your supermarket.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. I just recently discovered that wheat gives me headaches and it was quite a process to really be sure that that was what it was. So that was kind of a drag. I know that I can have it, but that I might be in for a two-day headache when I do get it – have it. I’ve been working on a lot of gluten-free baked goods and it’s kind of been a fun process. I just made some great vegan hamentashen that were gluten free.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Oh, good. That’s fun. I really like -there’s not baked – there’s not many baked things in Appetite for Reduction, so it was mostly working with grains and veggies, and stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: You have other books on those subjects. Which is good because – well, there are so many different kind of cookbooks and some of them go from soup to nuts, have all different kinds of menu items: entrees and desserts and soups and whatever. There’s something for everybody and this particular one is mostly savory non-dessert items.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah it’s meals. It’s all about meals. I think for some reason, I think it’s easy to find out what’s to bake and finding out what to eat for dinner every night of the week is a grueling task, usually. So that’s what that book was about.
Caryn Hartglass: So we just have a few minutes left and I wanted to mention some of your earlier days when you were involved with the Post Punk Kitchen, which the PPK.com.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yes, that’s still my site.
Caryn Hartglass: Right and so you still use that site and you have a blog and recipes and it’s just a fun place to go and a forum with all different kinds of topics. That whole thing was really amazing the way you did a number of different food shows in your tiny, little apartment in Brooklyn. And it became – you had quite a following from that.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah. That was pretty cool. I actually was taking the advice of; I was working in an office in a cubicle and my boss was, “just do what you love and the rest will follow”. And I was like, “You know, I’m just going …” that’s what I really liked doing and so we just did that and it did follow. So that was very cool.
Caryn Hartglass: It was just amazing and I’m just wondering what were all the elements that made it so popular? Was it the right place at the right time, where we really had a need for that or was it – I’m sure it was a lot of different things.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Like I said, it wasn’t anything that we planned or thought too much about. I think that’s part of the appeal.
Caryn Hartglass: It was genuine.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: If you like it – you like it. Still, to this day, I don’t really try not to think too much about exactly what the right thing to do will be successful. Just, again, I’m always going to follow my heart and do what I like doing and see what happens with it.
Caryn Hartglass: So, back to Matzo Balls – have you had a good vegan Matzo Ball?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I make some great vegan Matzo Balls. I do one with tofu which I know lots of people won’t eat at Passover, so I started doing one with flax seed, but then some people don’t eat flax seed either. So…
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I don’t care about what you can and cannot eat during Passover because I’m was raised Jewish but the religion doesn’t hold much for me and it kind of seems; I don’t know who makes up those rules: if you’re Sephardic you can eat rice and if you’re not you can’t and – I’m not eating wheat anymore, anyway.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So you can’t have – I don’t know if there’s a gluten free Matzo Ball.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, so there’s wheat in both of them? Well, I might try them anyway.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: The, on my site, I think it’s still up there. I just redid my site and so some of the recipes aren’t there. The Matzo Ball is made with silken tofu are amazing and really light and fluffy.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess if it’s not a lot of; I can have like a little, teeny bit of wheat in things. So I definitely might try that, because that’s one of the – I’m really into making foods and substituting things in order to make some of things that I was fond of when I was younger. And the Matzo Ball is not – is never one that I quite – well I haven’t worked on it too much, but the few that I had were not that satisfying. So I will definitely check out yours.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I really like the one with the tofu and especially if you’re doing it only once a year – do the homemade vegetable broth and use the fresh herbs: the dill and the parsley and sautéed onions and making the vegetable broth really flavorful and golden. And using lots of fresh ingredients. I think lots of people think of Jewish cooking as kind of like, gefilte fish and Matzo ball and kind of brown. But these things can be vibrant. I like to use grated carrot and lots of fresh herbs and it’s really yummy.
Caryn Hartglass: Well – a really interesting point because I think the cuisine varies. When I spent some time in Israel and I was so overwhelmed. I worked for an Israeli company for a brief time and the food over there was so exciting because they grew a lot of it; and the vegetables were so fresh, vibrant, full of color, full of flavor. I was really
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: We are all used to the Jewish Deli and
Caryn Hartglass: All the white/grey highly fat foods.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: So I mean, I definitely love a knish but you can make a knish with spinach and broccoli, too, and make it really colorful and fun.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. You can have all of your favorites and keep them plant-based and cruelty-free and good for the environment and yummy and healthy and all of that good stuff. So we just have a minute or two left. Other than this new pie book – when can we expect that to come out? Do you know?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: That’ going to come out in fall and that’s written with my oft-writing partner, Terri.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great! I’m glad to hear that. I get to see her from time to time ’cause she’s still in New York
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Yeah she is.
Caryn Hartglass: Anything else on the horizon for you?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: That’s it for now. I’m doing the bake sale on April third for Japan. And there’s a lot of other bake sales around the country. So I would look into your area and see if there is one.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. Thank you so much for giving me an hour of your time. I learned a little bit about Nebraska and I should spin by there, sometime. Thank you so much. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Please visit Isa’s website – PPK.com – the Post Punk Kitchen. Lot’s of good stuff there. Definitely check out this wonderful book: Appetite for Reduction. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week.
Transcribed by HT and Doreen Mortan, 1/31/2017