Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a punk rock Brooklynite turned Portlander, has been cranking out vegan cookbooks over the past few years like nobody’s business. Isa just put out Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For-From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes in May and another with a focus on baking vegan cookies will be released in November. Aside from writing some of the best vegan cookbooks on the market, Isa is the creator of The Post Punk Kitchen, a website and public access cooking show that is currently on hiatus, although there is a plan in the works to re-air the show online. I spoke to Isa about her new book and the beauty of black salt.
Flavorpill: You’ve put out several cookbooks and have a public access cooking show. How did you get into this line of work?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I was actually just doing the cooking show and the website for the pure love of it. I didn’t intend for it to become my line of work, although I’m so incredibly happy that it did. I lucked out when a wonderful literary agent contacted me, and it just kind of flowered from there.
FP: Where does your epicurean interest come from?
ICM: Well you’d be hard pressed to find a cook who doesn’t like to eat too. I’ve just been obsessed with cooking since I was a teenager. When I went vegetarian there weren’t many options for eating out at the time, so I had to learn how to cook for myself; otherwise I would be living on Chinese takeout. I loved the time I spent in the kitchen and everything that went along with it: shopping for food, cooking for people, reading about food.
FP: I know you address this in the Intro of the book, but why did you choose to focus on brunch instead of breakfast? What’s the difference?
ICM: Breakfast isn’t an event the same way brunch is. Brunch is about getting together with friends. It’s warm and fun and exciting. Breakfast is granola or a bagel to go. Who needs a book for that?
FP: Though recipes for these are included, you diverge from a well-worn path of tofu scramble and banana pancakes in Vegan Brunch — like tacos, dosa, and risotto! How did you decide which recipes to include?
ICM: A lot of it was just stuff that I’ve had for brunch in NYC. Pierogis and dosas aren’t necessarily brunch fare to everyone, but they’re things my friends and I love for brunch, so they’re included. I didn’t really stress over if something were a traditional brunch item or not. I just followed my instincts and did what made sense to me.
FP: You also divide the book into “savory” and “sweet”. How did you make that choice?
ICM: That’s always the big questions at brunch! It seemed a natural way to categorize things.
FP: Why did you include a bit about brunch etiquette at the beginning of the book?
ICM: I’ve been hosting brunches for a long time, so I just wanted to share some of the things that I learned. It’s never fun to run out of coffee or have people scrambling for seats or silverware — unless you like to watch people scrambling. I just thought that since brunch is an event, not just a meal, let’s make it the best event it can be.
FP: I found some of your tips to be super helpful, like the idea of freezing extra waffles for tomorrow’s breakfast and or revamping leftovers for a completely different meal. Can you share a few basic vegan cooking tips now?
ICM: Sure! Well, firstly, those aren’t necessarily vegan cooking tips, they’re just cooking tips! If you’re like me and like to have as few dishes to wash as possible (who doesn’t?!), the next time you’re using your food processor, place a piece of plastic wrap over the work bowl before snapping on the top. This will protect the top from getting dirty.
FP: The pictures in the book are fantastic. How did you convince the publisher to include so many photos?
ICM: Well, thank you for the compliment: I took them! No cost to the publisher is pretty convincing.
FP: I love that you use non-traditional ingredients, like black salt, which I eat all the time in India. Do you have any particular method for experimenting with new ingredients when you’re coming up with recipes?
ICM: Ooh, it’s cool to know that you know about and love black salt! I don’t have a method for experimenting. It’s usually just tasting the dish and seeing what it needs, or tasting an ingredient and figuring out what it will be good in. That’s part of what I love about cooking: unexpected things happen all the time.
FP: One thing that I was happy to see is the way you leave it up to the reader to experiment on her or his own, whether it is including recipes for multiple omelet fillings, several variations on roasted potatoes, or the amount one should use of a particular spice.
ICM: That’s how I cook, and I know that’s how a lot of other people cook too. Whether you’re cooking seasonally, or just using what you’ve got in the cupboard, it makes sense to have options.
FP: Your television show The Post Punk Kitchen has been on hiatus for a while. What’s the status of its return?
ICM: I plan on doing some short online videos. They won’t be anything like the original show because people have a shorter attention span on the Internet.