Q&A: Post Punk Kitchen’s Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The vivacious vegan icon and former Portlander dishes on filming a cooking series in 3 days, her favorite local vegan chow, and her latest & greatest cookbook yet.

By Tuck Woodstock November 4, 2013

Post Punk Kitchen’s Isa Chandra Moskowitz makes flavorful, satisfying vegan meals from scratch in thirty minutes or less. How? It’s easy!

Moskowitz rose to stardom in the veg community with the launch of her Brooklyn-based public-access vegan cooking show in 2003. She’s been cooking up a storm ever since, crafting vegan versions of everything from chicken piccata to coconut crème pie, and writing several cookbooks including Vegan Brunch, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and the best-selling Veganomicon.

Moskowitz’s newest book, Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, includes nearly 200 weeknight recipes composed of basic pantry ingredients and boasting prep times of thirty minutes or less. Veteran chefs, budding vegans, and bacon fanatics can all appreciate Moskowitz’s hilarious prose, simple instructions, and culinary creativity—the cookbook features plant-based recipes for sloppy joes, omlets, banh mi, gumbo, queso blanco, and, yes, bacon!

Moskowitz will be signing cookbooks and serving cookies at Powell’s Books on Monday, November 18 at 7:30 pm. We couldn’t contain our excitement that long, so we called her up to talk plant protein, camera angles, and Portland’s fabulous vegan gluten-free baked donuts.

Eat Beat: How has the vegan food scene changed since you started Post Punk Kitchen a decade ago?

Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, a decade ago, vegan cuisine was not ending up on any trend forecasts! Now every year it seems restaurants are naming vegan dining as a top trend. Companies are proudly labeling their products as "vegan", and even fast food chains are getting in on the action and offering vegan items—Subway and Chipotle to name a few. 

Vegans are accustomed to scanning menus for the one or two plant-based options, which makes choosing from Isa Does It's nearly 200 recipes rather overwhelming (in the best way). Which recipes do you recommend we slightly intimidated cooks attempt first?

I think soup or stew is always a great place to begin! It's very forgiving, you can adjust as you go, and it's pretty hard to mess up. The first recipe in the book is alphabet soup, so why not start there? 

Which Isa Does It recipe(s) are you particularly proud of or excited about?

I am in loooove with the Shiitake Banh Mi. The recipes that I did for my video series, Make It Vegan,  were some of my faves. So that's New England Glam Chowder, Beet Burgers, and my signature cookies, Rosemary Chocolate Chip. 

Your new book contains an extensive, invaluable guide to kitchen basics, from stocking the pantry to swapping out allergens. What's the number one mistake you've noticed budding cooks making, and what advice do you have for them?

Not reading the recipe through. If you're brand spanking new in the kitchen, read the recipe from beginning to end, twice if you have to! 

The photography in Isa Does It is literally the most gorgeous food photography I've ever seen. Could you talk about the process of working with Vanessa Rees to capture your dishes on camera?

I agree. Vanessa is amazing. She was actually voted best food photographer by Saveur Magazine. Not "vegan" food photographer, but best overall. We worked in a surprisingly tiny apartment. She had a Murphy bed that she's put up during the day, and we'd photograph right there on her floor. that is how small her place was.  I love working with her, she has the best eye. 

To combat that pesky, inevitable question from omnivores: what are your five favorite protein-packed, plant-based foods?

Quinoa, chickpeas, kale, cashews and black beans.  Yum!

Tell me about your new online cooking series, "Make It Vegan." You wrote on your website that the filming process was "very fun and, you know, NOT STRESSFUL AT ALL." Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? What was that process like?

We filmed all of the episodes over 3 days, so it was kind of a madhouse! I brought my assistant from Omaha (who is ANOTHER Vanessa...Vanessa Jones) and she just prepped everything 3 times like a rock star. It was hard to get a hang of camera angles for me. They caught a lot of candid moments, and that was probably the best part of it. The production crew at ZPZ are amazing, and the editing really made me look a lot more comfortable than I was. 

As a former Portlander, are you looking forward to returning to the city? Are there any local vegan havens that you'll make a point to visit during your trip?

Oh yes, I make frequent trips back. I will definitely be darkening the doorway of Portobello more than once. And I love the vegan menu at Departure. Back To Eden will be a necessary stop, as well. You would never believe that a vegan gluten-free baked donut was like the best donut ever, but I promise you, it is! 

Watch Moskowitz make super cheesy vegan mac (and dance the robot) on this episode of “Make It Vegan,” and don't miss the chance to meet her in person at Powell’s on November 18!

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