What did you think of us taste-testing your recipes?
I'm so enchanted that you did this. It's adventurous. I'm in awe. But I think you should have had parting gifts of Charlie Trotter's mignardises! That is the easiest recipe in the whole book—five ingredients in a processor, and then however you want to shape or roll them...
We loved Jason Cunningham's homemade stock. What do you do for vegetable stock when you're in a hurry?
Sometimes, if I'm in a real rush, I just use Rapunzel's bouillon. You can get it with herbs in it, or without salt, whatever you prefer.
How was the experience of working with so many different chefs?
One of the big questions that I've had in talks was, 'Well, how did you handle the egos of these chefs, when you wanted them to just do plant food?' I didn't experience any egos, not a one. They find the plant kingdom just full of endless possibilities. They're trained to think of color, texture and taste, and they say they get tired of cooking the animals, there's [only] so many ways you can cook them. [Consider] every fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, grain and bean—and then think of all the different textures you can create out of them.
Which are some of your favorite recipes in here?
I really like Dan Barber's cauliflower steak with quinoa and basil drizzle. I like Phil Evans' soup—he did a fava-bean puree. John Besh in New Orleans—I couldn't get enough of his risotto with batter-fried asparagus and mushrooms.
What image is on the cover? It looks so, well ... creamy.
Thomas Keller's sun-choke soup, made with roasted Jerusalem artichokes.
Is it hard to maintain a vegan life?
It's easier than it used to be. It's amazing how many vegans there are now. Since I've been vegan for 33 years, I've had a long history with this. I also grew up in the restaurant business, in [my parents'] truck stop in southern Pennsylvania, and then I worked in the resort hotel business in the Catskills, and that was kosher. What I've learned to do is look on the menu to see what's with every dish. I think of the menu as a pantry, and then I ask if this and this and this can be put together. . . . You get very creative when you're hungry!
Do you see more chefs adapting to vegan demand?
Erik Blauberg, who is in the book, he consults for restaurants. Three major places he's consulted with now ... he has discovered that their business increased solely—and he emphasized solely—on how they started to treat their vegan/ vegetarian customers. They've learned that if one person at the table is not satisfied, the rest of the people at the table are not satisfied, they haven't had a good experience, and you never get that tabletop again.
Do you carry emergency rations?
I carry tamari-roasted almonds. I always travel with my own version of granola. I carry my own soy milk with me, just to cover the trip. Maybe some whole-grain pretzel sticks to get me through.
What is your go-to dinner when you cook in?
I love putting maybe six cups of water on the stove, grab one of my Rapunzel bouillon, and while that is getting to a boil, I look in the refrigerator to see just what I might have. Usually I have some red lentils, so that becomes the base. Then I hope to have carrot, onion and celery, all three. I also throw in some garlic, and one more thing I can't live without: Old Bay seasoning. While that is cooking, I get raw or curried cashews, or just raw peanuts, and I put a handful in the blender and barely cover it with hot water to soak. And when the soup is completely finished, I blend the cashews and pour it into the soup, and I have a creamy-based lentil vegetable soup. I would really love to do a soup cookbook one day.
Do you think eating vegan takes too much time?
It's not about time. Any kind of cooking takes time. You also can cook well learning just a few things.
Great Chefs Cook Vegan author Linda Long visits the Triangle for four events next month.