Isa Chandra Moskowitz is likely best known for her cookbook Veganomicon, but her newest collection, Appetite for Reduction, won’t appeal only to people who don’t eat animal products. There’s a lot on offer in these 125 vegan, low-calorie recipes, including plenty of protein and fibre.
My favourite thing about this book is that Moskowitz avoids processed products, showing readers that meatless meals don’t have to be built around Tofurkey. Her ingredients are fresh, but they’re also accessible: veggies, common spices, beans and rice are frequently used here. As an added bonus, the lack of meat and processed meat and dairy alternatives makes most of this book great for chefs on a budget.
And most importantly, this food is tasty. The everyday chickpea-quinoa salad was easy and filling, and the accompanying balsamic dressing was delicious. I love that it uses crushed cashews in the place of oil. The vegetarian chili was plenty hearty without meat, thanks to black beans and a ton of healthy vegetables.
I talked to Isa about her books, the rising popularity of vegan diets, and what’s coming up next for her.
Q: Did you have any hesitations about writing a “diet” book?
A: Well, it’s a low-fat book, it’s not exactly a diet book. It’s not like “Hey fatty you better eat some kale!” I wrote the book for me, because I needed to incorporate more low-fat whole foods into my life. I know that if I felt the need for this book, others probably did, too.
Q: What did you do to ensure that the recipes would fit into the requirements of being fat- and calorie-conscious, but remain nutritionally balanced?
A: Hired a professional! I didn’t want to rely solely on software to spit out nutritional info, people can go online and do that themselves. Instead, a registered dietitian examined and evaluated each recipe and made sure it was nutritionally sound.
Q: Veganism seems to be increasingly mainstream, even trendy — do you agree? Have you noticed any shift in the types of people who buy your books or read your website?
A: Of course I agree, veganism is really on fire right now! I think everything has changed since I began my website. I’ve changed and my food has changed and so I think that’s meant that my audience has changed, too. That said, there’s still a coziness about my website and a lot of the people who supported me from the beginning are still around.
Q: If you do think that veganism is better known now, are there any downsides to that?
A: No, I don’t see a downside. The more vegan cooking gets out there, the more accessible it will be and the more vegans there will be and that will be great for animals. The only thing I worry about is that if it’s solely a trend, then there will be backlash and it won’t last. I don’t want veganism to go the way of the shoulder-pad.
Q: I noticed that the recipes focus on using foods like beans and legumes — even making your own dressings — instead of cheese or meat substitutes. Why was that important to you?
A: It’s important to me as a chef that people cook with real food, it’s all about the ingredients. I want vegan cuisine to be taken seriously. If it has to be made in a lab it just isn’t appealing to me, it isn’t fun. Besides, if you are depending on a particular product, will your cookbook be irrelevant if that company goes out of business? I know that people will still be cooking with lentils and broccoli and quinoa and thyme 50 years from now and so hopefully my cookbook will be relevant 50 years from now. And again, it goes back to accessibility — if you can buy all of the ingredients in any old supermarket then you are much more likely to use the book every day. As for the dressings, well, homemade is just so much tastier than dressings from a bottle. I love smothering my salads and veggies in dressing and so low-fat, all-natural dressings are essential.
Q: Which recipe is your favourite?
A: This is always a tough question! I’ve been making the edamame pesto a lot, and with spring in the air I am excited to eat big bowlfuls of roasted veggies covered with it.
Q: With Appetite for Reduction, are you aiming for an audience beyond people who are currently vegan or vegetarian?
A: It’s difficult to say that I’m aiming for an audience. I’m not a marketing guru or anything, I just do what I love and hope that it appeals to as many people as possible. I feel like if you are setting out to appeal to particular people, you might lose your voice and fail at appealing to anyone.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Pie! Terry [Romero] and I are finishing our dessert trilogy.
Check out Isa’s recipe for edamame pesto on the Chatelaine.com health blog.