Jill Nussinow, Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment
Jill Nussinow, a.k.a. The Veggie Queen TM, is a Registered Dietitian who has been teaching vegetarian cooking at Santa Rosa Junior College, in Sonoma County and throughout the country since 1985. Her award-winning cookbook, The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, was published in 2005. Her first DVD Creative Lowfat Vegan Cuisine came on the market in December 2004. She has just released a new pressure cooking DVD (October 2007), Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes. Jill is a vegetarian, vegetable and plant-food expert. You can find out more about Jill at her website www.theveggiequeen.com, www.pressurecookingonline.com or read her blog at www.theveggiequeen.blogspot.com.
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Hello and thanks for joining me today and it’s June 22nd and we are now officially in summer. One of the things that I have been enjoying just the last couple of days–I have a wonderful new patio set on my terrace in my apartment in New York City and we love to eat outdoors when the weather is nice and even sometimes when it’s not so nice because it’s protected. Sometimes in the summer here in New York you get some thunderstorms but it really can be lovely to be out on the terrace and see the weather outside and be protected from it. But it’s really beautiful right now and one of the things that I love right about now is the Linden tree, which is in bloom. It blooms here in my neighborhood in June and it just started blooming a couple days ago and the fragrance from the little yellow flowers only lasts about a week but I really every summer look forward to this and there’s one right underneath my terrace and so sitting out there and having a meal and smelling the fragrance is, it is just perfection. Not sure if you’re familiar with the Linden tree but if you’re smelling some sort of lovely perfume in the air right now it could be coming from that. Okay well I wanted to let you know about my new nonprofit organization and it hasn’t officially launched yet I’m still fine tuning some things on the website but I’ve been telling people about it and leaking out little bits of information so please go to the website, responsibleeatingandliving.com. There’s lots of great information up there and I’m adding recipes all the time. For example, this morning I made up a pancake recipe then I put it online this morning. It was really great, buckwheat pancakes, gluten free and we enjoyed them on the terrace, breathing in that Linden tree fragrance. It was really really lovely. You can see the recipe, the pictures, all that information on the website, responsibleeatingandliving.com. If you have any comments or questions, feedback on the site, feedback on the show, please drop me an email at email@example.com. Love to hear from you. This is the time when people are getting outdoors, especially in this area on the East Coast when the weather is really lovely. It’s a time when we’re appreciating our fruits and vegetables more, our gardens more. This is really a great opportunity to get to know your food and one of the things I like to do is inspire people, encourage people, to make a difference. It’s so easy to find things that are wrong but how about participating in making things right. I was just recently invited to join a committee in my neighborhood to get a farmer’s market going. There’s so many little things that we can do to help support local organic farmers, getting healthy nutritious foods in our neighborhoods and it really doesn’t take much. It just takes a little initiative and each one of us is responsible for that. So if there’s something out there that you’re interested in, that you want more of, think about how you might make it happen. And I have a guest that I’m going to bring on now. Jill Nussinow who is also known as The Veggie Queen. She’s a registered dietitian who has been teaching vegetarian cooking at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County and throughout the country since 1985. She’s written the award-winning cookbook The Veggie Queen, Vegetables Get The Royal Treatment and she has a DVD called Creative Low-Fat Vegan Cuisine as well as a new pressure cooking DVD on Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes. Jill is a vegetarian, vegetable and plant food expert and she has several great websites; theveggiequeen.com, pressurecookingonline.com
and a blog at theveggiequeen.blogspot.com. Welcome Jill.
JILL NUSSINOW: Thank you for having me, Caryn.
CARYN HARTGLASS: How are you doing today?
JILL NUSSINOW: I’m great. It is such a beautiful day here today.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Well you live in paradise.
JILL NUSSINOW: Well yesterday paradise was pretty hot.
CARYN HARTGLASS: The weather has kind of been weird. I’ve been hearing all kinds of interesting things about Northern California these days. Most of the time it’s pretty good there, isn’t it?
JILL NUSSINOW: I have no complaints. I’m grateful for every day I live here.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I was just reading a little bit about you and I discovered you’re from my neighborhood, from Long Island.
JILL NUSSINOW: Where are you from Caryn?
CARYN HARTGLASS: I grew up in Dix Hills on Long Island.
JILL NUSSINOW: Oh you did? You’re very close.
CARYN HARTGLASS: You’re from Woodbury. And you went to Syosset High School. I went to Half Hollow Hills High School.
JILL NUSSINOW: There you go. I went to school with Michael Pollan.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Oh my goodness. What was he like?
JILL NUSSINOW: He was like he is now except geekier. Not only did I go to school with him I shared a lot of classes with him. I rode the bus with him from the first grade on because that’s when I arrived there.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Oh my goodness. That’s pretty interesting. You probably have some good insights on him. Anyway you haven’t taken the same path but you both got passionate about fruits and vegetables. I don’t quite understand why he hasn’t gone all the way.
JILL NUSSINOW: I heard him say on a radio interview that he thinks vegetarians are enlightened eaters and I guess he’s not yet been enlightened.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Well, whatever. I don’t agree with everything he said but he is doing some really good things about getting people more interested in fruits and vegetables. The thing that I like about some of your tag lines is about creating enthusiasm for vegetables.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think it’s really important…people have kind of…not in my life but in other lives…people have kind of dismissed vegetables, like they’re not important. I guess I consider myself like the consummate mother…like I’m always saying “eat your vegetables”…in a really nice way. People are kind of afraid of vegetables…especially ones they don’t know.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I am really sensitive about all the marketing that’s been crammed down our throats the last few decades. We’ve been socialized in so many ways to think, we’re programmed, brainwashed to think so many different things and a lot of it is really subliminal, maybe not intentional but we’re brought up thinking that vegetables don’t taste good.
JILL NUSSINOW: Well a lot of people have probably had not very good tasting vegetables and it’s amazing when I see people at the farmer’s market which I’m lucky enough to go to in the summer time almost every day except Monday…if I wanted to…and when I see people taste something that they’ve been reluctant to try and then they say “oh that’s good” as if it was a big surprise.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Right. There’s nothing like a very fresh fruit or vegetable right from the farm that’s been grown organically versus something that’s over-cooked and over-salted in a can.
JILL NUSSINOW: Canned vegetables other than like tomatoes and maybe corn are the worst. They don’t taste good at all. And even frozen vegetables, while they’re an ok substitute, they really lack the vitality of fresh vegetables.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Yeah. I’ve heard mixed things about both so I will mention them here. Now certainly if we have access to fresh picked vegetables from the farm that is the absolute number one best in terms of nutrition and taste.
JILL NUSSINOW: Or grow your own.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Or grown your own, exactly. The next best after that, fortunately or unfortunately, might be frozen vegetables because a lot of the fresh produce that some of us have access to that’s in a supermarket is not exactly fresh. We don’t know when it’s been harvested. It’s been kept cold in a warehouse, in a truck and then it’s delivered to the supermarket, you don’t know how long it’s been there and it finally makes it to our home and then how long does it take for someone to actually use it. So it’s not as fresh and it can lose a lot of nutrition and sometimes frozen vegetables, which are harvested and then frozen pretty quickly after that, might actually have some more nutrition. But ideally we should have more local farms and have access to as fresh picked food as possible.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think so. I think the food system, as most people know, is a little bit broken. I think we really need more regional food systems. Where there are more farmers in areas that people can access. So that food isn’t being trucked all over and it might mean that we have much more limited supplies at certain times of year but I teach in the winter time and it really helped me to have that because it forces me to become creative with celery root and winter squash and rutabagas—the things that really are around.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Right. I haven’t thought about this in a long time but I spent two months in the southern part of Munich in the early 90’s. I had an opportunity to stay in someone’s apartment who was out of town and I was traveling around auditioning for different opera theaters trying to get a singing contract somewhere…long story. At that time, I think it’s changed now, but I didn’t have a car of course and I would go to a very small market for most of my produce. I think in some of the bigger markets and the farmer’s markets there was a lot more variety but it was the winter time and that market, the only vegetables that they had were yellow potatoes, onions and cabbage.
And I lived on that for two months and loved it. I did so many different things with potatoes, onions and cabbage. It was all locally grown and it was good. Those yellow potatoes, I love yellow fin potatoes. When they’re fresh and when they’re organic of course they just have such a great flavor.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think that what you say is the whole thing. You don’t need an entire breadth of vegetables to have good food all the time. If you had a carrot too that would have really upped the ante.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I think I might have found some carrots.
JILL NUSSINOW: It’s just a funny thing, we don’t have to have a million different things. If they’re available you have them, if not, get creative, find ways.
CARYN HARTGLASS: OK. So you grew up and you went to school with Michael Pollan. When did you really get interested in vegetables and a vegetarian diet? Were you raised that way?
JILL NUSSINOW: No. I was a teenager though. I had a friend in high school who decided to become a vegetarian and I hated meat, absolutely hated meat. So I decided that I didn’t want to eat it. It was a really big meat-eating time in the world. Meat was on the table every day. I also had a grandfather who had had a major heart attack in his forties. He had gone to Duke and he was on the Duke Rice Diet so whenever he would come to visit my grandmother would always bring his food. And his food was like…she made this special tomato sauce and she made this rice, rice was the basis, baked potatoes, different vegetables and I’d always want to sit next to him and eat his food. It was kind of interesting. It didn’t really dawn on me, because you’re like a kid and you just don’t like really pay attention but I was like “I like that stuff better.”
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’m kind of impressed that your grandfather got that information back then.
JILL NUSSINOW: It was basically the way to save his life. My grandmother was a very good cook and she made all kinds of vegetables and was really meticulous about making sure his food was really good for him.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’m just thinking how far off track we’ve gotten. And that friend of yours, are you in touch with them and are they still vegetarian?
JILL NUSSINOW: It’s funny because I actually hadn’t seen him for many years and I saw him a couple of years ago. He’s living in Boulder now and I told him, you’re the reason I became a vegetarian. And he said I’m not a vegetarian any more. He told me this story about what happened and how he went this particular way. I said it didn’t matter to me, I was incredibly grateful that he had shared that with me.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I have a very similar story and I’m sort of laughing to myself. I was in high school too and a friend of mine was talking about being a vegetarian. It was just something I had never…it was that ah ha moment you talk about…somewhere I read. The veil was lifted for me. I never really thought about it and then all of a sudden rushing in, all these things started to have meaning for me. I decided right then and there to be vegetarian and I saw him several decades later at a high school reunion and told him he was responsible for so much of my life work and he said he’d been a vegetarian for like a week.
JILL NUSSINOW: That’s very funny. You know I think that’s the whole thing. You really don’t know what’s going to be the spark, what’s going to happen. I have to say when I was a teenager moving to be a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian household was much harder. It was an evolution. It didn’t just happen right away. If it weren’t for that I probably wouldn’t have done it. So it was great I got that opportunity. I also was really into…something shifted for me and I realized about the health of food and how food affects your body. I never learned any nutrition up to that point in high school.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Right.
JILL NUSSINOW: None. And I thought, you know this is kind of weird. We eat at least three times a day why has nobody ever really told me? So I kind of went off on a path studying some nutrition on my own. Reading what books were out there and at the times it was like the New York Times Natural Food Cookbook and started cooking with ingredients and seeing what they were. I have to say some of those initial experiments were barely edible.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’ve been there.
JILL NUSSINOW: My family was kind of…they were ok with it. After while I did perfect some things…really good sourdough bread with whole-grains which was good. But a lot of things were just so-so.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I think we all kind of evolved together this vegetarian/vegan consciousness and cuisine. Many of us were experimenting and evolving and now the food is just phenomenal.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think things have changed a lot. When you see people touting vegan restaurants and talking about it on TV. It’s just a whole different thing. One of the things I like to do, I like to talk about just food and if you make most of this food the majority of your diet and what you eat, you’re just going to be so much further ahead because it’s real food and that makes the biggest difference.
CARYN HARTGLASS: That’s certainly a big piece of it—using real food because so much of what eat today is so highly processed, so over-salted, so over-sugared, so full of fat and artificial ingredients.
JILL NUSSINOW: And your comment about the vegetables not tasting good—if you’re someone who’s been eating fast food and then you just eat a piece of broccoli—you may not be all that thrilled. It’s just going to be such a huge shift but if you gave yourself a month to not eat that food and really adjust to the taste of real food it could be a mind-boggling experience.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Yes, about broccoli. The thing that’s so amusing to me is how passionate so many of us are about our fruits and vegetables because we’ve had this experience and this joy that we experience on a daily basis. We just want everybody else to have the same great time.
JILL NUSSINOW: That’s pretty much what I live for. I go to the farmer’s market when I’m there. This morning I went to the farmer’s market and there’s somebody who’s growing kohlrabi which is usually my stump-the-audience vegetable.
CARYN HARTGLASS: We were just talking about it on Sunday, purple kohlrabi.
JILL NUSSINOW: I love purple kohlrabi. This was green. It’s really beautiful and it’s really fresh. And this woman came along and she said “I want all of those”. There were three big kohlrabi there. She said, “I love them”. It’s funny because the farmer who I’ve know for two-three years now told me that just like two weeks ago he finally tasted kohlrabi. He’d never eaten it.
CARYN HARTGLASS: He’d been growing it and never ate it?
JILL NUSSINOW: Yes. He’s like “this stuff is good”. I was thinking, ok, it’s funny because a lot of what I do when I’m at the farmer’s market is people ask me questions, I tell them what I think but a lot of time I’m educating farmers about their vegetables. Sometimes they don’t know exactly when to pick them or what to do with them. It’s kind of interesting. I do a lot of informal education there and I also learn a lot.
JILL NUSSINOW: Can you describe what kohlrabi looks like and what you do with it?
JILL NUSSINOW: Kohlrabi is a really fascinating vegetable, kind of a root vegetable but it grows above ground, it’s a bulb and when you see it with its leaves on, you see these big tall leaves that look like collards. Those I find almost completely inedible.
CARYN HARTGLASS: The leaves?
JILL NUSSINOW: Yes, and I have tried. What I say is they make it into my husband’s green smoothie when I’ve run out of everything else. What I really love to do with kohlrabi is I just peel the outside part off because it’s tough and then I like to just cut it up and put it on my salads or grate it and put it into something I’m going to ferment, like sauerkraut. Occasionally I’ll cut it into pieces and put it in a soup or stew or mixed vegetable dish. My absolute favorite way is raw.
CARYN HARTGLASS: And what does it taste like?
JILL NUSSINOW: It tastes like a very mild turnip. It’s a cruciferous vegetable. I think it has almost the same crunchy quality but not exactly, of jicama or anything that has a texture like that.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Which is great. It’s kind of crunchy, kind of juicy. It’s a fun vegetable.
JILL NUSSINOW: Yes and if it’s just picked at the right time it doesn’t have that really intense, and this is the same thing for turnips, when they are just right, they don’t have that really stinky cruciferous vegetable quality that you get when you cook broccoli or cauliflower or Brussels sprouts…
CARYN HARTGLASS: Skunky.
JILL NUSSINOW: Yes, sulfur.
CARYN HARTGLASS: That’s an important point: Picking food when it’s ripe. It applies especially to cruciferous vegetables. I know that so many people complain about kale and kale being bitter. It doesn’t have to be and so many people are used to eating food that isn’t ripe or has ripened artificially.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think that’s really important. That’s why I encourage people to either grow their own if they can or hook up with a local farmer or CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, whatever you can do to get food that’s the freshest possible. I see a lot of real innovative things happening in terms of that. Where there’s these mobile food trucks going to neighborhoods where people don’t have access.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I heard about that.
JILL NUSSINOW: Things like that I find absolutely incredible, in a beautiful way.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I was just talking about individuals making a difference and why not get a truck and load it up with vegetables and sell it to people that don’t have access? That’s a beautiful thing.
JILL NUSSINOW: Absolutely. Freshness really matters with vegetables and fruit because most fruits don’t ripen once they’ve been picked. If you get strawberries that are ripe, they’re ripe. But if they’re under-ripe they’re not going to ripen while you’re waiting to eat them.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I didn’t realize that. I get pears a lot and they’re kind of hard when I get them and I leave them out and it takes about a week for them to soften up.
JILL NUSSINOW: Pears are an exception. I always tell people, don’t wait to get a ripe pear the day you need it, you won’t. But there is a trick to that actually. Pears, most of them, ripen from the inside out. I have a neighbor with a pear tree. If you think the pear is ripe on the tree, it’s actually mushy on the inside because it’s over-ripe. Usually a pear will need between three days and a week to get ripe and you get them when they’re on the greener side and then you kind of wait but if you’re looking for ripe pears at the market, the ones that are underneath have usually been there longer and they will be more golden. They will be closer to ripe than the ones that are on top.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Look at that. That’s good to know. All these helpful little tips, really important.
JILL NUSSINOW: The other one is avocado. You usually can’t get a ripe avocado the day you want it.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Right. I just buy a pile of them and leave them on the counter. And they all seem to ripen up at the same time but that’s ok.
JILL NUSSINOW: I know.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Other than kohlrabi are there other fun vegetables that you’ve found at the farmer’s market?
JILL NUSSINOW: Today? It’s funny you think the west coast is further ahead, but my sister lives in Maryland and she has a place up-state New York, and the east coast is usually much further ahead in terms of vegetable production. So right now we kind of have a lull in our vegetables. We have still the beginning of summer squash and we have lettuce but we’re done with asparagus. We have no more peas. We’re kind of in-between so there’s nothing all that exciting right now.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Right. Well I talk about my terrace. I have this small little terrace, living in an apartment in New York City. I’ve been getting into sprouting lately. I know that sprouting has all that nervousness around it especially with what went on in Germany but I’m not going there. I’ve sprouted some sweet pea sprouts a few weeks ago. The roots were so amazing that I didn’t want to toss them. There were a few I just decided to grow so now I’ve got six little pea plants growing on my terrace. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of them. It’s so exciting to watch things grow.
JILL NUSSINOW: Absolutely. You must have grown them in soil then?
CARYN HARTGLASS: The sprouts I grow in water and then once they’re big enough I move them to the soil.
JILL NUSSINOW: Right. I do sprouting—water sprouting. I love sprouting. Especially in the winter it’s a way to get fresh vegetables all the time.
CARYN HARTGLASS: So how do you feel about this recent hysteria that occurred in Germany?
JILL NUSSINOW: It’s controversial. If you talk to the USDA they will say there’s something wrong with the seed and that’s why there’s an issue. I get my sprouts from a place called the Sprout House that’s actually in New York and I trust her. And I trust the sources of the seed. And I trust what I do. So I do not have an issue with sprouts.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I agree with you.
JILL NUSSINOW: But I think everybody needs to choose. I don’t buy commercial sprouts. I find that if I ever do they usually get slimy in a couple of days. My sprouts I grow in a special little sprout box. My sprouts will last in the refrigerator at least a week.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I agree. I’ve kind of gone back and forth with sprouting over the years and I’ve just invested in this auto-watering sprouter unit and am kind of having fun with it. I recently grew sunflower sprouts in water which I was never able to do. They are like my favorite.
JILL NUSSINOW: That sounds really good.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’m pretty happy sprouting.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think growing anything just kind of changes your life. I tell people even if you can just grow one little pot of herbs, it’s so good.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Absolutely.
JILL NUSSINOW: I think people don’t realize that herbs are such an incredible source of antioxidants.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Any dark leafy green is super powerful. I’ve been growing parsley and basil on my terrace. Just to have those there fresh just perks up anything, put them in salad. They grow like weeds because they are like weeds. Really weeds are just plants that we haven’t decided to cultivate.
JILL NUSSINOW: Or embrace.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Or embrace.
JILL NUSSINOW: I gave a talk a few years ago at Vegetarian Summerfest which I’m going to be at in two weeks and it was about superfoods. I actually didn’t know what I was going to talk about and I ended up talking about my beautiful dandelion garden. Weeds are some of the superfoods. A dandelion, which we consider a weed, it will do its best to grow out of concrete—so what is the will of that plant? To think about what might be the nutrition in that plant and if it has that kind of will.
CARYN HARTGLASS: That’s right. I want that in my body.
JILL NUSSINOW: Me too.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Jill we’re going to take a very quick break and when we come back I want to talk about what you’re doing specifically with encouraging enthusiasm in vegetables.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 2/4/2014
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, and you’re listening to It’s All About Food! And if you’re wondering about the music that plays at the intro and at the end of the show and during the break, and the music that I use in my food shows which you can find at responsibleeatingandliving.com, they have all been composed by my brother! He is in a jazz group called BATIK and they happen to be playing tonight at The Iguana in Manhattan downstairs 240 W 54th Street and I’m going to be there! It’s at 8 o’clock. So if you’re in Manhattan and you like jazz, join me! And we can chat about music and about vegetables! And they have great guacamole. That’s The Iguana 240 W 54th Street.
So let’s continue and talk more about enthusiasm with vegetables. Jill, you’re like a Jill of all traits!
Jill Nussinow: That’s what I say!
Caryn Hartglass: It just came to me!
Jill Nussinow: I do a lot of things – I write, I speak, I teach. I do a lot of different things, it’s not like I just do one thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just talk about teaching, cooking, at Santa Rosa Junior College. You had mentioned in public school that you didn’t learn anything about nutrition. I remember being involved in a Home Ec class in Junior High School which I don’t even think they offer any more. But there are people who are lost in the kitchen and people are lost when it comes to cooking. Who are the kinds of people who take your class?
Jill Nussinow: My class is actually offered through… we have a culinary department at our school. And my classes have been offered to the general public forever. And so everybody from 15-year-olds to 8-year-olds can take the class and I would say about 10 years ago, I noticed that we had more people that really didn’t know how to do anything in the kitchen and I said to my department chair, I think we need a class like How to Boil Water! And he said, we actually have one of those classes. It wasn’t called that. It was called Cooking Basics or something and it’s an 8-week class. People who get out of that class really feel so much more confident in the kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a crazy thing, I think. When I was young, my mother cooked a lot, and I paid attention. On the other hand, my sister’s never really been interested in cooking and I guess didn’t pay attention. So part of it is some self-initiative and interest but nowadays I don’t even think a lot of kids have that opportunity because so many people, working parents, mothers, fathers – they buy prepared food in supermarkets. I just like went nuts the other day in Whole Foods. Now, I love this store and they offer a lot of great organic food, but the amount of prepared food that was there in the freezer and also in the salad bars available to go. It was crazy!
Jill Nussinow: I think Whole Foods makes a lot of money in those departments.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely!
Jill Nussinow: But it’s also important for people to have that food available at a much higher level than they would if they just went to Safeway or Albertsons or whatever the store is. So there’s kind of a trade off but I really think people just need a kind of basic skills to make very basic food. There seems to be a dichotomy. A lot of the younger students have not learned how to cook from their parents. And a lot of the older people, maybe like there’s a man whose wife died or the woman whose husband always cooked and now he’s gone, who just never cooked. There are a lot of women who are older who are like – I’m done cooking, I’ve cooked for 50 years. I don’t want to do it anymore.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s the whole senior set. The low cost, early bird options for them to eat out and I know so many of them don’t cook any more.
Jill Nussinow: I think though, people always think – oh, you must make these gourmet meals! I’m like – well, I cook a pot of brown rice, a pot of quinoa, and make a few different kinds of beans, and cook fresh vegetables. Make salad every day and that’s pretty much it.
Caryn Hartglass: I eat pretty simply but there’s a number of things that I and my partner Gary that we do with the foods that we eat. We usually do an interesting job with presentation no matter what it is that we eat. So a simple plate of sliced tomatoes and basil looks gourmet, just in the presentation. And then there are so many simple things with sauces, just pureed, could be just one thing really. But it’s all in how you prepare it and it’s not hard. It’s not time consuming. It just requires maybe a little skill, but just paying attention really.
Jill Nussinow: I think that’s the key, is that a lot of people haven’t paid attention to what they’re putting in their mouth. And suddenly they wake up and they go, oh I want to pay attention. And then they don’t really know what to do and they don’t know where to start. And then I’d pretty much say it starts with being able to boil water. Because if you can boil water, you can cook grains, you can cook beans, you could cook vegetables. I wouldn’t recommend boiling vegetables, you could steam vegetables with boiling water. Of course, I teach pressure cooking, which is taking boiling water to the next level.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about pressure cooking. I have to admit that it is something that I don’t do and maybe one day when I take that leap, I will go nuts over it.
Jill Nussinow: I’ve had a lot of people write to me and say, you know, it changed my life when I got the pressure cooker! And it changed my life too. My son was 3 when I got the pressure cooker. And I got it because I knew that I needed it. He loved lentil soup and I wanted to be able to make him lentil soup really quickly any time and it really takes 20 minutes from start to finish. When you first cut the onion until you open the lid.
Caryn Hartglass: That fast.
Jill Nussinow: Yeah, I did it because it was fast and I was a vegetarian and I wanted to be able to cook beans and grains really fast. And so, if you have presoaked beans, like black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, they all take about 6-8 minutes at pressure compared to like an hour on the stove.
Caryn Hartglass: How did you first get introduced to pressure cooking?
Jill Nussinow: My mother had a pressure cooker so I knew what it was but it terrified me. It was like the old kind and went ‘ch ch ch ch’ and it actually had one of those accidents where there was food all over the place. So I was like, I don’t want one of those! But then I was actually in a writing group and I heard the woman who was the leader of the group talk about her friend who happened to be more (not clear) who re-introduced the pressure cooker. And when I heard about that I thought I had to get one of those, and it took me a few years and I did get a pressure cooker. And so I considered it more to my mentor and once I got a pressure cooker in my hands, I started to play with it. And then my students said, could you teach us how to use it? And so I’ve been teaching pressure cooking for about 15 years now. I just came out with a new pressure cooking e-cookbook which you download. And it has about 140 recipes for everything from soup to dessert, that I pressure cook.
Caryn Hartglass: And your website, that’s pressurecookingonline.com?
Jill Nussinow: Actually that is not there yet. It is in need of a big redo. It’s actually at theveggiequeen.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. When you’re teaching, is there one particular thing where people really go nuts or like a particular tip that you give where the veil is lifted or anything in particular?
Jill Nussinow: I’d have to say it depends on the day, because it’s different every time. I just participated in a big fermentation festival, and I had 20 minutes, and I can barely open my mouth in 20 minutes. And once you get me going, it’s hard to get me to stop. And I was like, what am I going to talk about? And my talk was – How to use fermented foods in your daily cooking. And so I showed a variety of fermented foods but what I really showed people to do was how to make this really simple miso, tahini, garlic sauce that you add lemon juice to and a little water. And people were pretty amazed at how it tasted. Just everything, things that didn’t know that day, like eating soy is okay if it’s fermented. Or maybe it’s how to throw together a really simple sauce, or maybe it’s like broccoli never tasted this good when I cooked it.
Caryn Hartglass: What is a fermentation festival?
Jill Nussinow: It was an amazing event that happened 20 minutes from where I live. This was the 3rd year, and it was all about fermented foods. Many of them are vegan, there are some that aren’t. Things like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, all kinds of other fermented vegetables, natto, miso, and teper – all manner of fermented things. And so people who are into fermenting, all kinds of people actually, came to learn. Last year I did a talk on how to make real pickles. It’s basically cucumbers, water, and salt, and garlic, and dill.
Caryn Hartglass: Why do people want to eat fermented foods?
Jill Nussinow: Your gut bacteria really needs them. And we do eat a bunch of foods that are called prebiotic foods. The other ones are called probiotics, they are the ones that are actually fermented. The prebiotic foods spur your gut to make its own important things like let them ferment in a natural way. And so those are things like onions and garlic and Jerusalem artichokes, apples, oats, beans, real food. A lot of people don’t get those prebiotics that make your gut work better. And so if you don’t get them, then you go to the next step, which is the yogurt, or kombucha. I actually prefer the vegetables like sauerkraut or other cultured vegetables because I’m going to push the vegetables every time I can.
Caryn Hartglass: I love sauerkraut and I love pickles. But I’m really concerned about the sodium. I’m really getting away from salting my food so is there a way to have them where they’re not that salty?
Jill Nussinow: They do tend to be a little salty because in order to make them you need some salt to help the fermentation action go. But I don’t add salt to my food so I might bake a dish of brown rice and vegetables and then just take maybe like a quarter cup of sauerkraut and put it on top. The reason that I love fermented vegetables is that you get a variety, breadth of flavor that you don’t get other ways, and so it adds this incredible umami if I had to call it something. So just putting that little bit of sauerkraut on foods make them taste great. So it is a little bit saltier. Studies that I’ve seen, because somebody asked me about high blood pressure, show that the fermented vegetables and even fermented soy, the amount of sodium you get doesn’t have the same effect as just adding salt to food. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that’s what I’ve read.
Caryn Hartglass: I think part of the salting problem is that so many of our processed foods are salted and food in restaurants is salted and then people might salt on top of that. And I find that when you cook with salt, you don’t taste it as much and then some people might want to add salt to that.
Jill Nussinow: What I recommend that people do is don’t add salt when you cook. I don’t care what most chefs say, don’t add salt when you cook, but get yourself a salt grinder, salt cellar, and then when you’re done, if you want it to taste a little salty, you put a little salt on and I mean a little salt. And then you taste that salt, and you would use far less salt than you ever would any other way.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree!
Jill Nussinow: And there are other things you could too like using lemon zest or lemon juice or a little bit of vinegar that really boost the flavor without the salt.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. You know, it’s funny, I was thinking about the boiling water before and in some ways it’s hard to believe that people don’t know how to boil water but then I was thinking, a lot of people make their tea or coffee in the microwave or in the coffee machine, and so they don’t even have to boil water!
Jill Nussinow: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: And so it is probably true that some people don’t know how to boil water.
Jill Nussinow: I kind of joke about that but it can be true. Because I’ve had students who say – how do I know when it’s boiling? And it’s like, when there’s those big bubbles, then it’s boiling. And what’s the difference with simmering, how do I tell that it’s simmering? And so sometimes, it teaches me to have students, because then I find out what people really don’t know. And there’s a lot that people don’t know. Not everybody but… a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: So what are the basics for someone that’s transitioning to a healthy diet with plant foods? What are some of the really basics that they should start with?
Jill Nussinow: Learn how to cook grains and beans.
Caryn Hartglass: And the great thing about grains and beans is that they’re really inexpensive and you can get them organic and they’re still very inexpensive.
Jill Nussinow: It’s amazing how little it costs to cook grains and beans and I use those as the basis of what I eat. And then, I can afford to buy a little bit more expensive organic vegetables and then combine them with my beans and grains.
Caryn Hartglass: What are your favorite beans? Do you have any?
Jill Nussinow: What day is this?
Caryn Hartglass: There’s probably a bean for every day of the year, there are so many!
Jill Nussinow: I bet there is and I’m really lucky because I have two heirloom bean suppliers where I live. So it really depends but I would say my favorite beans are, I love garbanzo beans, I love cannellini beans, black beans. I think the better question is which beans don’t I like?
Caryn Hartglass: Okay.
Jill Nussinow: I’m not a huge fan of fava beans…
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I love fava beans!
Jill Nussinow: …but I’ll eat them. Didn’t use to really like lima beans all that much but when I was doing recipes for my book, I did use limas a number of times and I was like, those are really good! Kidney beans don’t really wow me usually but in some recipes they’re wonderful, so I don’t think that I have one that I don’t like.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, so here’s to the message I think for people who are kind of scared of beans. There are so many of them that there’s got to be at least one if not twenty that you’re going to like. So there’s some that you may not like that have really particular flavors and the fava bean, I really love, but it’s got this kind of really musty, I don’t know how to describe it flavor, kind of funky but I like it. And some people naturally don’t like it. In fact, I think some people in some countries can’t even eat it, that it can be really…
Jill Nussinow: It’s toxic.
Caryn Hartglass: …toxic, yeah. And then there are some beans that have really light friendly flavors and some that have a lot more character. The thing is to keep trying them. They’re inexpensive, they’re easy to prepare and the thing is, they’re so satisfying. So when people say, you’ve probably heard this so many times but… ‘I want to be vegetarian, and I’m eating and I’m always hungry.’…
Jill Nussinow: Eat more often.
Caryn Hartglass: …’I have a salad and I’m not full.’
Jill Nussinow: When I eat a salad I’m not full either.
Caryn Hartglass: I usually say, eat more, eat a bigger salad.
Jill Nussinow: Right. Exactly. I think a lot of it is what you do with your salad. If people think just throwing lettuce in a bowl is going to be enough, I don’t really think so. My salads can be pretty exotic. Only in terms of what I’m willing to put in, which is almost anything. So it just came to mind, I have this one salad which I make which is called, sweet summer super salad and this is the time of the year to do it. It has summer fruit, and the dressing is either raspberries or strawberries. I put in avocado, and sunflower seeds, sometimes black olives. Something I’ve never put in but it just occurred to me that might be really delicious in there might be some just plain cooked white beans. So I think if you think nothing’s off limits, and I think the other thing is adding some kind of natural fat to it makes a big difference because most vegetables are very low in calories and so if you don’t have that little bit of fat to make it so that it’s a little bit more rib-sticking, you’re going to be hungry fairly quickly.
Caryn Hartglass: Also a lot of those nutrients in the green vegetables are fat soluble and so they don’t digest well unless you have some fat with them.
Jill Nussinow: Right, so it might be making a dressing with tahini or avocado or nuts or seeds or olives, which I almost always do.
Caryn Hartglass: On your website, you call yourself an alternative registered dietician.
Jill Nussinow: And that’s how people realize that I’m not going to have the standard dietician line. I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time, I’ve taught vegetarian. I think a little bit outside the box. I joke when I say where is the box? But you know, I’m willing to really look at alternatives and what is a little bit different than what other people might say – ‘Oh no, that won’t work’ or ‘That isn’t the way’. And I believe in science but I don’t believe in only studies. I don’t think a study really tells you how you feel.
Caryn Hartglass: I think that’s a really good point, that people need to be paying attention to how they feel.
Jill Nussinow: Absolutely. And I would challenge most people to eat differently and see how they feel and a perfect example is my husband who’s been drinking green smoothies now for about 18 months.
Caryn Hartglass: Can you tell me what a green smoothie is?
Jill Nussinow: Yes, it goes into my high speed blender. It’s kale, a green powder – hemp protein powder, a few soaked almonds, and usually frozen fruit, it can be fruit I froze myself, and a banana or not. And it all gets blended up. And he drinks about 24 oz of this every morning and after a few months, and he was only doing it 5 days a week, he said to me – can you do that for me every day? And I said sure, and asked why? And he said – because I feel so much better when I drink it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, green smoothies are really great.
Jill Nussinow: And he’s a guy who would skip breakfast. So for him to drink this in the morning has made a huge difference.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you know, I tell people, especially those that think they don’t have time – this is something that you can whip up and if you’re driving to work, you can sip all along the way. It’s a great meal.
Jill Nussinow: On the other hand, I don’t care for green smoothies, because I like to eat my food. So for me, I’d rather take those same greens and put them into something and eat them or make a raw kale salad or something.
Caryn Hartglass: The thing is when you’re eating plant foods and a healthy diet, there is so much variety and I like to tell people, if you don’t like broccoli, you don’t have to eat it. There are plenty of other great foods out there. If you don’t want to have a green smoothie, you don’t have to have it.
Jill Nussinow: Caryn, I am completely with you on that. And my model was, don’t use what you don’t have and don’t eat what you don’t like.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, you got to love what you eat.
Jill Nussinow: Food should be a joy and a pleasure and a source of nourishment in more ways than just nutrition.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to get back to being a dietician, we only have a couple of minutes left. I’ve met so many dieticians, especially unfortunately in hospitals, that really don’t know anything about nutrition. How does that happen?
Jill Nussinow: I think they do know about nutrition. They just know about nutrition from a very different perspective than you would expect. So they are probably people who know so much more about tube feedings, I mean I don’t know anything about tube feedings, they probably know about how many calories you need if you’ve just been burned. I don’t really know that. I kind of specialize in well people or people who want to get well whereas some dieticians specialize in people who are on dialysis. I don’t know anything about that. And so a lot of times, it’s like, the same with the doctor, you go into the hospital, you have this stomach ache which they think is your heart, because they’re a cardiologist. Or the office said you have a heart problem, but the GI doctor’s looking at you, it must be your stomach. And so I think that they know about nutrition, but maybe not globally. And I kind of look at it in a more global food oriented way.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I would still like them to know about what’s healthy to eat, because especially if you’re in a hospital, it’s really hard to find healthy food and that’s the one place where you should be getting it.
Jill Nussinow: It’s changing. It’s really changing. There’s a group called healthcare without harm. And they are working on getting more good food into hospitals where it really belongs.
Caryn Hartglass: I like to hear that and I like to end on a happy note, so Jill, thank you so much for talking with me this hour and for everything that you do. Visit information on Jill at theveggiequeen.com and thank you!
Jill Nussinow: Thank you Caryn!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Join me next week, we’ll be talking about Wildly Affordable Organic with Linda Watson and we’ll talk about how you can afford to eat organic. Thanks for listening!
Transcribed by Jyothi Parimi 3/9/2014