Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Interview with "Everyday Happy Herbivore" Cookbook Author, Lindsay S. Nixon

Today it’s my pleasure to interview Lindsay S. Nixon of Happy Herbivore. 

Lindsay is vegan cookbook author who makes easy work of healthy cooking with plant-based, whole foods.  She’s exactly the kind of tutor that a newbie cook like CSA Virgin needs! 

Lindsay has great advice on sticking to the basics and enjoying local produce, which she shared with me in our conversation, below.  I already feel more confident in my vegan cooking abilities and look forward to putting them to good use!

Lindsay, what’s your least favorite vegetable?  What would you make if you were forced to cook with it anyway?  I ask because I recently signed up for a CSA, and I’m worried about what I’ll do with the vegetables I like the least.

I don't like Brussels sprouts or eggplant. For the Brussels sprouts, I'd probably just make a stock with them.  And the eggplant?  Give it to my husband.  He likes eggplant.

I love the idea of making a stock!  I’m learning that can also be a great way to use an assortment of leftover veggies kicking around in the bottom of the ‘fridge drawer before they go bad.  You’re lucky; my husband is pickier about vegetables than I am -- I doubt he would take my eggplants!

Until recently, I thought that the universe of the vegetables I like and don’t like was well known to me.  But then I started this local-eating adventure and discovered a whole world of plant foods that I’d never tried before (kohlrabi, sunchoke, etc.).  Are there vegetables or fruits out there that you haven’t tried yet, but would like to?  What’s your strategy for learning to cook with a new plant food?

I'm not really a fan of exotic ingredients; I tend to stick with the basics when cooking and writing recipes, but when I travel I do try different fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains.  Except for French mustard (we all have weaknesses) I won't buy food that's been flown in from Europe, Asia or even far away within the United States, so I make a point to try and enjoy foods I can't get at home when traveling.  I've never heard of kohlrabi or sunchoke!

I love to try different foods when travelling!  I’ve had amazing, fresh mango juice in Haiti, delicious dishes made with cassava in West Africa, and fermented cabbage (kimchi) in Korea.  Each of these foods was amazing in its local context, but I haven’t enjoyed them as much when I’ve had them at home.  I think you’re on to something.     

With your focus on basics, it’s obvious why you’re a great meal planner and grocery-list maker.  Do you sometimes shop at farmers’ markets?  How do you incorporate unusual and unexpected ingredients you might find there (“I just have to have those blue potatoes!”) into an otherwise regimented weekly meal plan?

I just spent the last year living abroad where I didn't have access to a Farmer's Market. The town I live in now might have one in the summer, but they don't now in winter.  I do buy local when I can, but all the "local" foods at the grocery store are familiar and common ingredients like lettuce or carrots.  I generally avoid buying unusual or exotic ingredients.  I want my recipes to be accessible to everyone, no matter where they live, so exotic or uncommon ingredients are out.

Lindsay, you are so much more disciplined than I am!  I cannot back away from the blue potatoes!  Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m often stressed out.  You used to be a lawyer, so you understand what it’s like to work long hours in a stressful job.  Any tips for cooking from scratch with whole plants, but not spending a ton of time chopping?  What tasks have gotten easier for you as you’ve become more expert in vegetarian cooking?

The more you chop, the faster and better you will get at it.  I chop an onion in seconds now -- such a change from when I first started out.  It just takes practice.  You can also buy pre-chopped or even get an electric chopper or use a food processor/blender -- all those are good time-saving options.

It’s reassuring to know that it will come with time.  For the moment, my fingers are still in more danger of being cut than the onion!  Another problem that I have as a novice cook is figuring out how to incorporate seasonal produce.  Even more so than a happy omnivore, a happy herbivore must be attuned to the seasonality of her food (beef and pork are available year-round, but good, fresh asparagus is only available in the spring).  Now that it’s winter, how do you cope?  Lots of winter squash?  Lots of canned tomatoes?

I'm not really a seasonal eater.  I mean, yes, I do try to buy local and what's in season, because I find foods grown out of their season don't taste as good [Watermelon in March? Yuck!] but I have no objection to organic frozen vegetables and fruits.  This time of year we eat a lot of greens (many thrive in the cooler months), squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples -- there are a good bit of foods growing this time of year.

You’re so right about the organic frozen produce.  As Barbara Kingsolver said in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “Eating locally in winter is easy.  But the time to think about that would be August.”  I don’t have a good stash of frozen veggies and fruits this year, so I’m trying to make do mostly with what’s still growing.  You’re right that there’s a lot out there, but it’s still difficult.  Your recipes do make it easier, though!

Thanks for all you do to make cooking with plants easy, accessible, and fun.  Could you share a favorite winter recipe from your new cookbook?

This soup is Dal-icious! It’s so flavorful you’ll want seconds.  And thirds!

Sweet Potato Dal | serves 2

1 small sweet potato, skinned
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala, plus extra
1 cup vegetable broth, plus extra
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups spinach, or more
salt

Dice sweet potato into small ½-inch cubes, and set aside.

Line a medium pot with a thin layer of water and saute onions and garlic for a minute.

Add a pinch or two red pepper flakes and continue to cook until all the water has cooked off.

Add turmeric, ¼ tsp garam masala and stir to coat.

Add 1 cup broth, uncooked lentils, and bring to a boil.

Once boiling reduce to low, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, about 5.

Add sweet potatoes, bring to a boil again and reduce to low and simmer, until lentils are fully cooked (they expand and the sauce thickens), about 5 minutes more.

Check periodically to see if you need additional broth (I tend to add an extra ½ cup but it can vary).

Once lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are fork tender, taste, adding more garam masala as desired (I like to add another ¼ tsp but some blends are stronger than others).

Add spinach, continuing to stir until spinach cooks down and softens. Add salt to taste and serve.


Per Serving:
232 Calories
0.9g Fat
42.2g Carbohydrates
17.7g Fiber
4.7g Sugar
15.4g Protein

Thanks so much for stopping by the CSA Virgin blog, Lindsay!  I wish you all the best and look forward to trying all your fantastic, plant-based recipes! 

Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay's recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women's Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post.  Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies.

Lindsay’s new cookbook, “Everyday Happy Herbivore,” includes more than 175 quick and easy recipes that feature wholesome, easy-to-find, fresh ingredients and no added fats.

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