Wednesday, January 13, 2016

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Jill Nussinow


Jill Nussinow
is a Registered Dietitian and a die-hard plant enthusiast as all RDs should be. A popular public speaker, culinary educator (she’s been teaching cooking for more than 25 years), consultant to help businesses and organizations offer more vegan menu items, recipe developer and award-winning author, Jill is passionate about helping people learn how to incorporate more delicious and health-promoting plant foods into their diets, transforming their diets and their lives in the process. Jill is especially renowned for her expertise in pressure cooking and she has a beautiful new cookbook out full of speedy recipes, Vegan Under Pressure: Perfect Meals Made Quick and Easy in Your Pressure Cooker. (We will be sharing a recipe from Vegan Under Pressure tomorrow.) Thanks to Jill for agreeing to be our featured Vegan Foodie this week! 

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

I began cooking as a teenager when I decided that I wanted to eat more natural foods. I had already given up meat and felt like I needed more whole foods. I got a copy of The New York Times natural food cookbook and Diet for a Small Planet and did some exploration. I learned how to make whole grain sourdough bread and many other things but then I went off to college and had nowhere to cook. Well, the universe took care of that when I got into a car accident and found myself back at my parents’ home recovering. They both worked so I “played” in the kitchen and made all kinds of food. They were appreciative of most of it.

My mother cooked “real” food but it wasn’t that exotic. Most likely because my father didn’t like mixed foods. He liked things seasoned but plain, as in meat, carbs and vegetables but not mixed together. My mother did use a pressure cooker but it only made me more afraid of it.

My grandfather had had a heart attack when he was in his 40s and he was one of the first people on the Kempner rice diet. My grandmother, who was a wonderful cook, made him special food. When they would come visit, I always wanted to have some of his food. It was amazing – baked potatoes, tomato sauce, fresh vegetables.

After my accident recovery, I moved to Florida, where my grandparents lived. I got to have more of my grandmother’s great cooking. She made incredible vegetable dishes. She was a big inspiration but not in the way of learning how to cook at your grandma’s knee. She didn’t teach me much but I learned from tasting her wonderful food.

2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

Until I was a teenager we eat meat of some sort almost every night. My mother made vegetables and salad, too. She loved pasta so we had that often. I have always enjoyed potatoes, especially baked. My grandmother made them often for my grandfather.

Also, it was my mother who introduced me to kale on a winter break from college. That changed my life – for the better.

I eat salad most days. It’s what makes me feel good.

When I was young, my favorite meal was tuna on toast. I have completely given that up.

3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!

There is no such thing, except maybe the last great vegan meal that I’ve had which could be as basic as bean and rice tacos with nut cheese, salsa and cilantro. Fancy food doesn’t necessarily impress me. I love good clean food with vibrant flavors.

4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

It would be for Thomas Jefferson because he and I share a birthday. I would research some of the more unusual vegetables that he had in his garden at Monticello and make a dish inspired by them – which would vary according to what time of year I was making this magical dish.

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

The most common mistake in vegan, or any other cooking, is not seasoning your food enough. I am not talking about using salt, because I use very little, if any, but using herbs and spices, which are Mother Nature’s answer for making plain food into fabulous tasting food. I can make a pot of millet taste wonderful, at least 15 different ways by using herbs, spices and condiments such as vinegar and mustard, along with citrus juice and zest. We have an amazing palette available to us. Learning how to use it is key.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?

Right now, it is Brussels sprout tops and all winter vegetables – the ugly step-children of the vegetable world. But give me parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, celery root and more, I am off to the kitchen, I also love heirloom (and other) beans.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.

My colleagues and my students have helped direct my life, along with Mother Nature.

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

Food security. I want to see all people fed well which I believe is possible, certainly here in the U.S. Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive but people need culinary and nutrition education.

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, veganism is…"

About love, kindness and compassion plus some of the cleanest and tastiest food around.


  1. What a wonderful idea to make a meal using vegetables from Thomas Jefferson's garden! That might be a nice theme for a cookbook, making dishes inspired by history, using foods available in that time.

  2. Hi Marla,

    I’m writing to you from the London office of global company VICE regarding a photo used for Vegan Street’s marketing. It’s an image of me that’s been partially edited (you can still clearly see it’s me) taken from an old column, Girl Eats Food on that I own.

    While I support your right to express yourself and your cause, as someone who’s edited on major publications I know it would’ve been easy enough to find a photo authorised for public/ free use.

    I would like the image taken down. It’s since been re-posted on a few instagram accounts with abuse, which obviously is out of your control once the image is out there, but nonetheless upsetting to me and I hope you can understand that.



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