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Using Spring Produce To Cook Delicious Vegetarian Dishes

A variety of colorful vegetables on display at a market.
A variety of colorful vegetables on display at a market.
Using Spring Produce To Cook Delicious Vegetarian Dishes
Spring is here, so what's cooking? We'll explore the wonderful options of vegetarian cuisine in our monthly food segment.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. If there's ever a time of year when even the most dedicated carnivore can be lured into the vegetable garden, it's springtime. And for vegetarians, spring and summer are a delight of fresh fruits and produce. More and more people for health and/or ethical reasons are deciding to turn away from a meat-centric diet. So whether you’ve chosen to give up meat all together, or you'd like to expand your meat-free options, we're discussing vegetarian dishes on this edition of our food hour. I’d like to welcome my guests. Caron Golden is food columnist for, and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff. Welcome back, Caron.

CARON GOLDEN (Food Columnist, Thanks for having me on again.

CAVANAUGH: Deborah Schneider is executive chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach and author of the new book, "Amor Y Tacos." Deborah, welcome back.

DEBORAH SCHNEIDER (Executive Chef, SOL Cocina): Hi, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Trey Foshee is executive chef and partner for George's at the Cove. Trey, it’s good to see you.

TREY FOSHEE (Executive Chef/Partner, George’s at the Cove): Likewise. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And we’d like to invite our listeners to join this conversation about—this hour-long conversation about vegetarian food. Tell us about your favorite vegetarian dishes or if you’ve got a question, how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals, give us a call with your questions and your comments. Our number, 1-888-895-5727 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-888-895-5727      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. I’d like to start out by asking you all sort of a conceptual question. It’s hard to do on a food hour but I’m going to do it. You know, lots of people think of vegetarian cooking as simply cooking without meat and I want to hear from you if you think there’s more to it than that. What does vegetarian cooking actually mean to you, Caron?

GOLDEN: Well, certainly you are taking the meat out of dishes but – and that’s been the way a lot of places have operated and a lot of cookbooks have functioned from the perspective of removing a protein out and hoping to get the flavors, you know, still in there. And I think that today we’ve got a lot of really talented chefs and really talented cookbook authors who are reconceptualizing what it means to create a dish and it just doesn’t happen to have the meat proteins in there so that you can capture all sorts of interesting flavors by using pastas and grains and vegetables and fruits and lots of different flavor combinations that are absolutely delicious and can be very filling and yet don’t have the animal protein in them.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, are you reconceptualizing, Deborah, like an actual menu of food that doesn’t need meat?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, you really sort of don’t even consider meat. It’s more about celebrating the vegetables, the fruits, grains, things that are available to you. We eat meat twice a day at home now, and I sort of have been weaning the rest of my family off it. My daughter’s been vegan for years. And I’ll just cook a slew of stuff and we don’t really notice there’s no meat.

GOLDEN: Twice a day or twice a week?

SCHNEIDER: Twice a week. Did I say twice a day?

GOLDEN: Yeah, you did.


SCHNEIDER: Sorry. I meant twice a week.

CAVANAUGH: I was going to say, boy, they eat a lot of meat.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, well, you know. Well, chefs will do that, too. I mean, the meal to me used to be standing up and eating a chunk of filet out of my hand and putting salt on it as I ate it. Now, I’m – I really appreciate vegetables more. I’m more interested in them. They’re more of a challenge for me.

CAVANAUGH: And, Trey, what does cooking vegetarian mean to you?

FOSHEE: Well, I think it’s more than just taking the protein out of it. I mean just taking the animal protein out of…


FOSHEE: …the dish. It’s – What we realized at the restaurant was that a lot of our dishes were based on the vegetable component in the first place and so how do you make something that’s interesting to the palate that’s nutritious, that has a balanced nutrition profile but that’s really interesting to eat? I think that’s the challenge with vegetarian cooking and that’s what people, I think, are a little bit fearful of, that they’re just going to end up with a plate of, you know, bland, steamed vegetables on their plate. And so I guess what we’re trying to do is help expose them to ways of not doing, you know, making it actually a really substantial, delicious meal.

CAVANAUGH: Now you brought in something that is not a bunch of bland vegetables on a plate, this marvelously looking and smelling dish that you brought in from the menu at George’s California Modern. Tell us what this is.

FOSHEE: It’s just a celebration of Chino carrots. As simple as that is, we include sliced kumquats, cilantro, almonds, and then what I think vegetarian dishes lack in general is a sense of acid. And that acid can come from a cheese product, it could come from any kind of fermented product like miso. In this case, it comes from a yogurt dressing that’s on the base of the plate that’s spiced with Indian spices. So that kind of helps the mouth feel, it brings a little bit of creaminess to the dish. It’s not just a plate of carrots. It has something for the carrot, sweet carrot flavor, to bounce off of.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Trey Foshee. He’s executive chef and partner for George's at the Cove. And Deborah Schneider, executive chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach. And Caron Golden, food columnist for and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff. We are talking about vegetarian meals all this hour on These Days and asking you to join the conversation to tell us about how you’ve been cooking vegetarian. Or if you’d like tips and you’ve got questions, we’re here to help, 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call right now. Joanne is calling us from Cardiff. Good morning, Joanne. Welcome to These Days.

JOANNE (Caller, Cardiff-By-the-Sea): Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, how can we help you?

JOANNE: Well, I wanted to give the listeners some ideas that my husband and I did. A couple of years – Two, three years ago, we joined a CSA and we get our weekly box, and what we started to do rather than…

CAVANAUGH: That’s a community…

JOANNE: Community Supported Agriculture…

CAVANAUGH: …garden, right?

JOANNE: …yeah, uh-huh. And rather than organizing meals around protein, which I think a lot of people do and still do, like let’s have chicken and then treat the vegetables as side dishes, we began to organize our meals around what was in the box. And so I would – we would take the beets or the cabbage or some vegetables that we don’t use every day and go online to Epicurious or different places, and find really interesting ways to cook those particular vegetables. And it just has opened up a whole new world for us and it’s been actually rather fun and it introduces all the flavors that the chefs and those on your show have been talking about.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thanks for the call, Joanne. I really appreciate it.

GOLDEN: You know, it’s interesting, I interviewed Rick Bayless a couple weeks ago and was talking to him about Mexican food, obviously, and one of the things that he mentioned, which I thought was relevant to what we’re talking about, is the fact that when you look at dishes in Mexico, they’re named after the sauce, not the protein. And that – and basically what it’s saying is we are a very meat-centered, meat-centric, culture in the United States for the most part, and other cultures are not. And so when you order a dish, say, you know, from a Bayless restaurant, you’re going to be ordering the sauce and then maybe pairing it with a meat protein. But it’s not that people go around saying we’re going to have chicken for dinner tonight or we’re going to have pork, they’re going to have whatever the sauce is.


GOLDEN: And it’s a whole different mindset from what we tend to do here. And even if you’re not a vegetarian by, you know, for ethical reasons or for other, or health reasons, most of probably need to be cutting back on the animal protein that we eat anyway. If for no other reason, it’s going to getting much more expensive. It’s not as good for us. And what it takes to feed cattle or feed a pig or feed chicken, in comparison to the yield that you get back, is really unbalanced in terms of, you know, the environment.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Right.

GOLDEN: So for a lot of various reasons, it’s not a bad thing, even if you’re not a full time vegetarian, to be thinking more about eating less meat.

CAVANAUGH: I want to follow up on the phone call that we got from Joanne because—and Deborah, I know that you are co-author of a book as well, "Cooking With The Seasons At Rancho La Puerta." She was talking about getting a box of produce…


CAVANAUGH: …of seasonal what – what’s in season, and working with that. And, of course, here we are in spring going into summertime, and the amount of fresh produce and fresh fruit that we’re going to have to work with is really going to just skyrocket. So tell us what are you looking at now in terms of using seasonal produce and working with it in a way to create something sensational?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I sort of get my inspiration just by walking through markets. People with a CSA program, I wanted to ask her which program she was with and where she was getting her vegetables from. It’s terrific. Every week you go and you pick up your box of whatever happens to be in season, and it really does drive you in the direction of eating what’s not only least expensive but what’s probably going to be best for you now. One of the great things about working with Deborah Szekely on this book at Rancho La Puerta, she had a lot of philosophies about – Their garden is six and a half acres, organic. It’s spectacular.

GOLDEN: It’s gorgeous, yeah.

SCHNEIDER: It’s just – When you walk through it, you can’t believe the abundance that’s coming out of this stony ground that we think we can’t grow anything here. It’s beautiful. She says that nature gives you what you need when you need it. And if you happen to have a farmers market be within driving distance or bus distance of one, just to go and see what’s on the shelves, well, on the tables, in that instance, is a great inspiration. Also, if you can’t get – make it to a farmers market, whatever’s cheapest at the supermarket is what’s in season. So when tomatoes plummet, when zucchini’s everywhere, when oranges are almost free, that’s what’s seasonal and that’s what people should be looking at.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Trey, when you’re putting together—and you do have a new vegetarian menu, right, at George’s California Modern—when you’re putting that menu together, what – are you looking for seasonal produce as well or are you going to have some things on the menu year round?

FOSHEE: No, we – I mean, all our menus work seasonally so what we – The vegetarian menu came out of our normal dishes and we’ve been getting more and more requests from guests about vegetarian items. And I had a conversation with a couple that said that as vegetarians, they felt alienated from the higher end restaurants because – and for events, you know, for different culinary events because they just can’t go. And I thought, well, that’s just not fair. And here we are as a restaurant in San Diego, San Diego has the largest amount of family-owned farms in the state. We’ve got incredible product at our fingertips, and we’re not able to come up with a decent vegetarian menu? It just seemed ridiculous.


FOSHEE: So I – we started using the ingredients that we’re using in our protein dishes and a combination of maybe three of those dishes and putting together a vegetarian entrée with it that made sense. And it was surprisingly easy to do because we’re using fresh produce all the time in our menu.

CAVANAUGH: I’m going to ask you for an example of that but first I want to take a phone call. A lot of people want to get in on the conversation. All right, we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Eve is calling us from Kearny Mesa. Good morning, Eve, and welcome to These Days.

EVE (Caller, Kearny Mesa): Oh, thank you so much for – I don’t usually say thank you for taking my call but I am grateful…


EVE: …because I’m going to be specific. I get inspired. I could be a vegetarian. I’m not but I could almost be a vegetarian. My daughter’s a vegan and she really sticks with it, and she’s got all the wonderful ideas to maintain the protein and all of that. But I’m going to be specific. I would like to have a recipe for Portobello mushrooms.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, that is specific. Does anyone – can anyone help Eve out with a Portobello mushroom recipe?

SCHNEIDER: Mmm, I don’t know. Portobello mushrooms, you first, Trey.

FOSHEE: I think Portobellos are one of the easiest things. You can simply douse them in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and garlic and grill them. You could use any kind of a rub that you used on a steak would work fine on a Portobello as well.

CAVANAUGH: Really? I did not know that.

FOSHEE: Yeah, I mean…

GOLDEN: Yeah, they’re very meaty.


GOLDEN: So you could use them instead of having a hamburger, make a burger – and this happens all – I mean, you see this on menus all the time in restaurants, but a Portobello burger.


GOLDEN: And just use all of the fixings for a hamburger but that Portobello mushroom, grill it and put it between the buns and you’ve got a really good sandwich there.

SCHNEIDER: Or dice it up and use it almost like meat. We make a thing at our house…

GOLDEN: Stir fry.

SCHNEIDER: …what we call Train Wreck, which is a terrible name but you – we used to make it based on meat. It’s just a lot of vegetables sautéed and then we add rice and some fresh tomatoes to it and just simmer it and it’s fantastic in that. Portobellos are great to have around.

CAVANAUGH: And everybody’s getting in on the act. Our director Kurt Kohnen says his favorite is roasted Portobello mushroom on rye with pepper jack cheese.

SCHNEIDER: There you go.

CAVANAUGH: There you go, right.

SCHNEIDER: Just treat it like a slab of beef.


CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s take a break right now and come back and take more of your calls and talk more about tips and recipes and all there is to talk about when it comes to making vegetarian dishes. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about vegetarian menus and recipes and tips and questions all this hour on our food hour here on These Days. My guests are Caron Golden. She’s food columnist for, author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. Trey Foshee, executive chef and partner for George's at the Cove. And Deborah Schneider, executive chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach, author of the new book, “Amor Y Tacos.” And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We’ve got a lot of people who want to get in on the conversation and speak with us but I want to get specific like our caller Eve a little while ago and talk about how you actually go about creating a really good vegetarian dish. I’m wondering if you use different grains or herbs and spices to give more substance to a dish. Let me start with you, Trey, on that. What are the things that come to mind when you’re in the act of creating a dish?

FOSHEE: Well, I think number one is texture for me. It needs to have a variety of textures on the plate. That keeps your interest. And especially with vegetables, if you’re just eating a plate of everything’s crunchy, you lose interest. If you eat something that’s all soft, you lose interest. So there needs to be a balance of textures. That can come from grains, that can come from a puree that’s on the plate, a little bit of a raw element to the same vegetable maybe that the puree’s made with.


FOSHEE: Something that adds crunch and interest to your mouth. Number two, I think it depends on how your – if you’re a true vegetarian or are you a vegan or do you eat limited amounts of animal protein, be it fish or chicken? What is the dietary necessity that you need to consider when you’re building that plate? If you’re strictly vegetarian then you need to balance the grains and beans, things, you know, that are going to give you the protein that your body needs. So I think there’s a lot to it and, like I said earlier, I think that acid with vegetables is something that’s really necessary, something that gives something for the flavors to bounce – I always use the word, you know, kind of bounce because the flavors need to bounce around in your mouth, that’s what holds the interest. And if a limited amount of cheese or, like I said, miso, anything that has some acid element to it, is incorporated in the dish, it’ll add a lot of interest to it and you won’t get tired of eating it.

CAVANAUGH: And would you add to that, Deborah?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I tend to be very ingredient driven, so let’s go back to the Portobello mushroom. Another great thing about mushrooms that we can mention is that mushrooms have something called umami and they bring almost a sense of – I think of that as a sense of satisfaction…

CAVANAUGH: Ah, okay.

SCHNEIDER: …to a dish and they enhance all the other flavors. It makes it seem less like you’re eating a lot of vegetables and more like you’re eating something really substantial. So if I were looking – Say, I just all of sudden got a wild hair about Portobello mushrooms and had to have them on everything, I’d start looking at them and seeing different things that I could do with them. I tend to be very technique inspired, too, so I’ll look at them and I’ll think, okay, here’s a mushroom, what can I do? I can roast it, I can braise it, I can eat it raw, I can grill it, I can do all these different things with it. And then that tends to lead me towards what I’m going to do with it. So I might grill that Portobello with maybe a red pepper, put it on a salad. I might dice it up, put it in an enchilada. Make enchilada sauce. Make a mole, use the mushroom in there. So that’s kind of where I go from. I go from…

CAVANAUGH: Interesting.

SCHNEIDER: …ingredient to technique to sort of finished dish.

CAVANAUGH: And, Caron, you’ve brought a whole table full of grains.

GOLDEN: Yeah, well…


GOLDEN: …you know, one of the things that I – I think maybe 25 years ago people would go into a vegetarian restaurant and they would get brown rice and steamed vegetables. And I don’t know if a lot of people are thinking beyond that when they hear that term ‘vegetarian,’ and so I was poking around various farmers markets and regular markets and ethnic markets and found a lot of wonderful interesting grains and beans that people might not realize are really good alternatives just to kind of, you know, get the variety up. So, for instance, yeah, we know we can eat a lot of pasta, you know, vegetarian but there’s a wonderful Italian pasta that’s toasted called Fregola Sarda and it’s – it almost looks like couscous, which is also a pasta—it is not a grain. And – But it’s just – it’s bigger. It’s like the size of a pea, and that just, you know, you can boil that and add a wonderful light sauce to it and get that kind of toasty flavor out of it and interesting textures. That would be different from having just, you know, spaghetti.


GOLDEN: There are a lot of beans, amaranth, farro. Farro’s really interesting. Farro is a wheat grain also and you can make risotto out of farro instead of using Arborio rice. You can use farro. You could use barley for risotto, so you can really mix things up a lot. And there’s some really beautiful ones. We’ve talked a lot about texture and flavor but to me look at that salad Trey made. It is so beautiful. And you can get a lot of, you know, really gorgeous looking grains and beans. The beans I brought in were from Rancho Gordo, which is up in Northern California. You can order them online. I happened to be at the – in San Francisco and bought bags of it. But at the farmers market in Hillcrest, there’s a woman who has Good For You Gourmet and she sells, for instance, this bamboo rice, which is bright green.

CAVANAUGH: Bamboo rice, yeah.

GOLDEN: Yeah. And it’s very sweet and sticky. But there are a lot of different applications, and you can have fun playing with your food.

CAVANAUGH: Which we all want to do.

SCHNEIDER: Only if you can win.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls, talking about vegetarian food, 1-888-895-5727. Jane’s calling us from Imperial Beach. Good morning, Jane. Welcome to These Days.

JANE (Caller, Imperial Beach): Thank you. Hi.


JANE: Well, I wanted to mention a website that has a whole bunch of wonderful vegan recipes. It’s called and I go to it quite a bit. I’ve found some great recipes.

CAVANAUGH: Well, great. Thank you. Thank you for that tip. We really appreciate it. Thanks so much. Let’s go to Victor now in San Diego. Good morning, Victor. Welcome to These Days.

VICTOR (Caller, San Diego): Thank you, and thank you for taking my call. I’m always amazed how little we know about food in every single different country. I grew up in Mexico City and people think the Mexican food is only tacos, tamales, tortas and there are many, many much more right out of vegetables. Very delicious like cauliflower patties, spinach, potatoes, even vegan enchiladas, which nobody knows about.


VICTOR: And also the people will let you know, we tell you if there is no sour cream, it’s not Mexican food. So that way, the same way with Italian food.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

VICTOR: We don’t hear about all these food which is unbelievable.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank…

VICTOR: The good thing is with the internet access we have now, access to all that information and be alert to cook all those vegetables. So…

CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, thank you.


CAVANAUGH: Victor, thanks so much. Cauliflower patties, I never heard of that. That’s pretty good. I want to know, do you have any tips on maybe herbs and spices. I was surprised to learn that you can rub Portobello mushrooms with the same seasoning that you can ground beef. But any herbs and spices that really work well with certain vegetables and really sort of bring out a flavor or a new aspect of a vegetable?

GOLDEN: Well, I was at this new restaurant called Blueprint Café a couple weeks ago and I don’t know if this recipe is truly vegetarian because she may be using chicken stock instead of…

CAVANAUGH: I see. I see.

GOLDEN: …vegetable stock. But she made a – the chef made a carrot soup with mint. And to be honest, I’d never really thought of pairing those two flavors…

SCHNEIDER: It’s classic.

GOLDEN: …but it was fabulous.


GOLDEN: And I think part of all of this—and the chefs can speak to it much better than I can—is sometimes it’s the surprise element, I mean, as long as it actually works. It can really be – you can screw things up also. But I think there’s a lot of wonderful sort of mouth surprise that you can get using Indian spices or Mexican – typical Mexican spices or, I mean, all sorts of things. I’ve got a – I think you need to invest in a lot of great spices and herbs to be able to pull a lot of this off and be happy.

CAVANAUGH: Before we take another call, I want to ask you both, the chefs here, though how often does that happen? Secret meat ingredient in a seemingly vegetarian dish? Does that happen a lot?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, I used to work in a restaurant where we had Sikh customers who would come in and have the onion soup and it was beef base…


SCHNEIDER: …and they were vegetarian, and this was a long time ago and no one really thought to bring that up. I think it probably happened more in the past than it does now.


SCHNEIDER: I think people are more alert. But there’s still people who think that if you eat chicken, you’re a vegetarian, or if you eat fish, you’re a vegetarian.

GOLDEN: I have a vegetarian cook – Vegetarian Epicure – Vegetarian Epicure, I think, is what it is, that I’ve had for I don’t know how many decades, and one of my favorite recipes is an eggplant soufflé which requires eggs. And I’ve never figured out, you know, are eggs – I mean, how can you be vegetarian and eat eggs? But I guess every…

SCHNEIDER: Oh, lots of people are ova-lacto.

GOLDEN: It’s a shifting, you know…


GOLDEN: …boundary, depending on what your philosophy is.


GOLDEN: So – But I’m sure that chicken stock is not a vegetarian component.


SCHNEIDER: Although, I’ll say I use soy bacon bits quite a bit at the restaurant. When we do our black beans, we use them as part of the base with lots of garlic and they give wonderful flavor and we’re still sneaking around that edges of something that tastes meaty without actually adding vegetable protein to it.

CAVANAUGH: In the vegetarian menu that you use, do you use any tofu, you know, sort of like meat substitutes?

FOSHEE: We don’t because, to me, tofu in a little bit of a way feels like a cop out. And I’d rather just make it a more interesting meal based on the seasonal produce that’s available and not something that I’m trying to kind of, you know, here’s your vegetarian meal, it has your tofu and whatever.


GOLDEN: Right.

FOSHEE: People are coming to us for a certain reason. We’re a certain type of restaurant. They’re coming to, hopefully, enjoy a glass of wine and have great service and all those things that come with the restaurant that’s at our level and we want the vegetarian aspect of it to kind of marry what the person sitting next to them that’s having a steak is having. And that’s really our goal, you know.

CAVANAUGH: Rather than the fake steak on the plate…


CAVANAUGH: …next to the real steak.


SCHNEIDER: Vegan cutlets, remember vegetarian cutlets?

GOLDEN: Oh, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes.

SCHNEIDER: And the old vegetarian cookbooks that would have you mash up rice and lentils and form them into something like…

GOLDEN: I tell you, though, there’s some…

SCHNEIDER: …a steak shape.

GOLDEN: …good sausages out there. I had a bunch of people write to me with suggestions and they weren’t soy. They were made of different vegetables.

SCHNEIDER: Umm-hmm. Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: The problem with a lot of these products, though, is that they’re really high in sodium and so you’ve got to really read the labels because if you’re doing this for health reasons, for instance, you can get yourself in other kinds of trouble by eating a lot of these other vegetarian products or vegan products because it may contain other ingredients that your doctor wouldn’t be any more thrilled about than the meat and fat.


SCHNEIDER: Miso, definitely…


SCHNEIDER: …being one of those things.


FOSHEE: I just wanted to make a point that, you know, with food allergies and dietary restrictions just going through the roof right now, restaurants are really, you know, at least I’ll speak for our restaurant. We’re much more conscious about…

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm.

FOSHEE: …going back to your question on whether meat items sneak into vegetarian items. It’s just not possible for those kind of things to happen anymore. I mean, we have people that have severe nut allergies and all those kinds of things that go with it. Our crew, and I think most good restaurants, you know, we’re really aware of that and sensitive to that.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about vegetarian dishes. 1-888-895-5727. We have a bank of calls. We’re going to get to as many as we can but if you can’t get through on our phone lines, please go ahead, post your comments, Gigi is calling from Point Loma. Good morning, Gigi. Welcome to These Days.

GIGI (Caller, Point Loma): Oh, good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I’ve never in my life called on a talk radio program…


GIGI: …and so it feels funny.

CAVANAUGH: …thank you so much for doing it today. How can we help you?

GIGI: I listen to you all the time. I have two, there’s a A and a B.


GIGI: I had my chiropractor and my MD, I try to balance them both. To switch a little bit, I know the show’s mostly about recipes but to go a little bit to the health factor of it, and I’ve been told by three health professionals that I have protein deficiency and I honestly – when I eat a nice small pork chop or steak, I definitely feel better.


GIGI: But I know that that’s not really good for digestion, other parts, so I try to follow it with a apple or a pear because that helps. So the one part is how can I get more protein without so much meat, and I know mixing beans but we just – you just had that part about how we’re getting away from that a little bit and doing more vegetables, so that’s the first part, protein.


GIGI: And my daughter has – actually has the same health problem. She is protein deficient and…

CAVANAUGH: Gigi, we’re going to have to stick with the protein question, okay? And thanks so much for the first call ever. We really appreciate it. But let’s talk about the protein issue that Gigi was talking about. So how can, this is a classic question, how can vegetarians make sure that they’re getting enough protein?

GOLDEN: Definitely the beans are going to fill that. Surprisingly, some of these grains, amaranth and farro are also high in protein. So you need to do a little bit of research and find grains that you might like to cook with…

FOSHEE: Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: …that also have protein. And while you may not want – like Trey doesn’t want to use tofu in his dishes as sort of a protein substitute, tofu really is—it can be—a delicious, you know, additive to a stir fry or to – I broil it and I make like a cilantro pesto and have it every once in awhile. And there are things that you can do. It’s so neutral that you can pretty much do anything you want with it. And there’s certain restaurants, Taste of Thai, I think all of their dishes are – if they say it’s a chicken dish, it’s tofu that they’re creating into chicken.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Right.

GOLDEN: But you can find a lot of different grains and some vegetables also have proteins in them. It’s just a matter of tracking them and making sure you eat enough. And eat enough other vegetables that have different kinds – and fruits that have different minerals and things that are also going to supplement that. Find out what’s complementary to that as well.

CAVANAUGH: And just a quick question, if you are a vegetarian who does drink milk and eat cheese products…

GOLDEN: Cheese products, too. Dairy is high in protein.


CAVANAUGH: Yeah, right. Let’s take another call. Valerie is calling us from Solana Beach. Good morning, Valerie. Welcome to These Days.

VALERIE (Caller, Solana Beach): Good morning. How are you?

CAVANAUGH: Just great, thank you.

VALERIE: Good. I was calling to let you guys know about Quin Noa. It’s spelled q-u-i…

CAVANAUGH: …n-o-a?

VALERIE: Umm-hmm.


VALERIE: And it’s a complete vegetable protein.


VALERIE: It’s got 9 grams of protein per serving. It’s got the – a perfect blend of essential amino acids. And it’s a great additive like in any type of food you can put it in, as in smoothies and salads and soups to add your protein.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. Excellent.

VALERIE: And it’s a good substitute for tofu and soy because soy products are kind of hard on the thyroid gland. They’re, you know, it’s a hormone so, you know, you really want to have soy in the small amounts. And so quinoa’s a great substitute for protein and you can add it into anything and you can also make these wraps that I have. I’m a personal trainer and I suggest this to my clients because they always have trouble finding protein on the go so if you take a whole grain wrap and use avocado as a spread in place of cheese because that’s a better healthy fat for your body, and you sprinkle quinoa and then, you know, whatever vegetable, spinach, lettuce, peppers, and broccoli is a great – another super food like quinoa. It’s just got the fiber and a lot of other healthy benefits to it. And you wrap that up and there’s no – nothing in there that can spoil, so I suggest to carry those with you in the day and you can make like four of them on a Sunday, you know, and wrap them up in the refrigerator and grab them on the go and keep them in your bag and not have to worry about…

CAVANAUGH: Valerie, you’ve been thinking this through. Thank you. Thank you so much for that. That’s a good tip. Let’s take another call before our break. Don is calling us from Carlsbad. Good morning, Don, and welcome to These Days.

DON (Caller, Carlsbad): Good morning. And as far as vegetable protein that can be locally grown, there’s always what the Chinese call meat without bones, also known as edamame soybeans.


DON: And for those that aren’t familiar with edamame, edamame is to soybeans as field corn is to sweet corn. And it’s my understanding that edamame has all the essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein. It grows well in this climate as a garden crop. I have five different varieties growing at this time from different parts of the world. And unlike tofu and other derivatives of soy product, it is natural. You pick it, you boil it and you eat it, straightforward.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Don. Thanks so much. We’re going to continue our conversation about vegetarian dishes, vegetarian menus, vegetarian recipes, your vegetarian questions and tips, 1-888-895-5727. We have to take a short break. We’ll be back in just a few moments here on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about vegetarian diets on this food hour. My guests are Deborah Schneider. She’s executive chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach. Trey Foshee is executive chef and partner for George's at the Cove. And Caron Golden is food columnist for, author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. I want to ask if there are any special challenges in vegetarian cooking. And I’m thinking, you know, things like gravies and soups. Did you – If you try to recreate that in some way, Trey, would that be a challenge?

FOSHEE: Well, no, I think with soups it’s not an issue at all.


FOSHEE: I mean, soups are really easy to incorporate into a vegetarian diet. Sauces can be a little bit challenging.


FOSHEE: Just because it doesn’t have that depth of flavor. It’s kind of a – vegetable sauces tend to be a little bit one-dimensional. If you – I think spices are a great way to add depth of flavor to that. Going back to the use of spices and herbs, which was a topic earlier, I think it’s important that you don’t just go haphazard with this. There’s a lot of resources out there that, you know, if you’re looking for an Indian direction to just something, or a Mexican direction toward something, that you kind of stay true to the nature of those ingredients because if you start mixing and matching a lot of these things, they don’t really work that well together. There’s a reason why there’s cilantro used in certain cultures, and mint and tarragon and those flavors used in other cultures. And I think if you stay true to that, you’ll end up with really good tasty food.

SCHNEIDER: Less is more in many cases.

FOSHEE: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Did – Any way that you get around any problems with sauces or – soups, I can understand…

GOLDEN: Well, I’m not a big – I’m not a big sauce person…

CAVANAUGH: You’re not a big sauce person.

GOLDEN: …anyway, so that’s not a huge issue. And I think in restaurants it’s a bigger issue than for a home cook necessarily. But there’s a wonderful book called “The Flavor Bible” that people can look at and use as a resource for mixing and matching different flavor profiles. It obviously includes, you know, meat proteins in there, too. But I find it really useful as a guide toward figuring out if things will work together and complement one another.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right. Yeah.

FOSHEE: I think one of the things, too, I mean, when you’re talking about sauces, I mean, from a chef, from a classically trained chef’s perspective, I mean, for me, a sauce means a certain thing.

CAVANAUGH: Certainly.

FOSHEE: And, really, you know, a soup is a sauce and a soup is – could be a sauce for a vegetarian item. It can be thickened a little bit and turned into a puree. It’s really anything that coats the ingredients that you’re going to be eating, right. So if you’re going to – you know, you could long-cook onions and puree those. You could use carrot puree for something, carrot miso puree for something. You know, using those vegetables to complement what you’re going to eat with and turning it into a puree that makes a sauce I think makes a lot of sense.


CAVANAUGH: Very good. Okay. Anything – anything to add, Deborah?

SCHNEIDER: I was just going to say vinaigrettes are also a sauce…


SCHNEIDER: …and vinaigrettes are a great complement to a lot of foods that are cold but also to things that are warm from the grill or at room temperature. So it’s definitely something you need to keep in mind.

GOLDEN: And remembering your fruits.


GOLDEN: I mean, berries and all sorts of different fruits can help make a really nice sauce, too.

CAVANAUGH: There are a number of people who are on the line but also some people who have posted their comments at There’s one question: What are better fast options of fresh and nutritious vegetarian food that will fill me up? So fast foods? Anybody?

SCHNEIDER: Ohh… You know, if fast food chains decided to go in a vegetarian direction, they really could save the world because they would be able to drive these things in a healthy direction. My daughter eats a lot of French fries…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah.

SCHNEIDER: …honestly, but there’s variations on that. There’s roasted potatoes available.

GOLDEN: And sweet potatoes. And things like that. Make or buy tortillas and fill them with delicious things that you can, you know, wrap.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, right.

GOLDEN: Also, a lot of Middle Eastern flatbreads are wonderful…


GOLDEN: …and pitas are great, and you can put all sorts of interesting things there. One thing we haven’t talked about is nuts. And a really good peanut – I mean, I just said I don’t like sauces or don’t do a lot of sauces…


GOLDEN: …but, in fact, I guess I do more than I think. A wonderful peanut sauce on carrots and different kinds of greens, and you get a little crunch in there, too. And you, you know, you can come up with some really quick foods.

SCHNEIDER: Trey mentioning soups are terrific…


SCHNEIDER: …because of my schedule, I tend to cook a lot. You know, I’ll have a couple of days off and I’ll shop and I’ll prepare a lot of things. I make soup and freeze it and we sometimes live on soup.



SCHNEIDER: Soup and Cheerios, depending on how busy a week it is but, you know…

GOLDEN: One of my favorite sandwiches is to go over to Whole Foods and they have this, I don’t know what they call it, Mediterranean sandwich, which is roasted red peppers and roasted – and grilled eggplant and hummus and some kind of – I don’t know what kind of cheese they use. I can’t remember. I haven’t done it in a little while but when I am really in a pinch and I happen to be by a Whole Foods, that’s the sandwich I’m going for, actually.

CAVANAUGH: All right.

GOLDEN: Not a chicken sandwich or a roast beef…

FOSHEE: I was going to suggest hummus. I mean, hummus is a great go-to…



FOSHEE: …snack food. And as well as avocados. I mean…

GOLDEN: Avocados…

FOSHEE: …as simple as an avocado is, it’s a delicious snack.

GOLDEN: Absolutely.

SCHNEIDER: And very good for you.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call. Kathy’s calling us from City Heights. Good morning, Kathy, and welcome to These Days.

KATHY (Caller, City Heights): Good morning. I’m really pleased that you’re taking me because I know there’s thousands of people calling. So I just wanted to be real quick with this. We were down there when Michelle Obama came through City Heights for the – our community garden, the New Roots Community Garden, and her crusade to get people aware about obesity in children.


KATHY: And one of the most important things since I have years and years of experience as a migrant camp cook nutritionist for the daycare centers and in Northern California working with Cesar Chavez way back in the seventies and San Diego city schools as a teacher, having gardens with the kids is one of the first ways to get the healthy eating for the future. And vegetarian dining is the way I converted unhealthy diet and high lard content…


KATHY: …was introducing these principles to, I guess it’s a couple of generations ago now. I wanted to tell you that as an outgrowth of this visit, or simultaneously, of Mrs. Obama, we are having a food – Cultivating Food Justice Symposium this weekend, April 24th, 25th at San Diego State University and it is family friendly and free.

CAVANAUGH: And will there be food?

KATHY: There will be workshops…

CAVANAUGH: Will there be food?

KATHY: There will be free food and it will be demonstrating, exactly. The answers to all the questions of all the callers today, including diabetic diets and gluten and wheat allergy diets, which are becoming very epidemic practically…

CAVANAUGH: Kathy, tell us one more time where and when?

KATHY: It’s San Diego State University, right by your headquarters there.


KATHY: April 24th and 25th. Registration: 8:00 a.m. Each day, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is free food. There are workshops. There are local and outside experts coming in on gardening and taking – taking testimony and questions to address exactly what you’ve been talking about. The phone number…

CAVANAUGH: Kathy, thank – Okay, one more – just give us the phone number.

KATHY: …512-3802, and if you’re in cyber village, it’s – you can also see the program and different workshops, which you may wish to sign up for…

CAVANAUGH: Kathy, thank you so much. Thanks so much. Another resource for people if they want to go somewhere and learn all there is to know about becoming vegetarian. Carmen’s calling us from Bonita. Good morning, Carmen, and welcome to These Days.

CARMEN (Caller, Bonita): Hi, good morning. Thank you so much for taking my call. I’m from Europe and I have to really second the call from the Mexican gentleman. There is so much good vegetarian food out there that some Americans just don’t seem to know about. So many dishes in Europe are vegetarian and not because they have to be vegetarian but they just happen not to have meat or any milk in it. And, you know, if we think about all the Italian cuisine, pasta, risotto, pizza, most of it is vegetarian, not because it has to be but just because it’s very good…


CARMEN: …and also very healthy.

CAVANAUGH: …thank you so much for that. And, as you were saying, you were saying that before. And, Caron, you were saying that before, other cultures are not perhaps as meat-centric as we are when it comes to…


CAVANAUGH: …making dishes.

GOLDEN: And back to the fast food. We, all three of us, neglected pizza.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah.

GOLDEN: I mean, like, you know and it’s…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, that’s vegetarian, yeah.

GOLDEN: Yeah, and yummy. Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: As long as you don’t get the Meat Lovers.

GOLDEN: Yeah, and there are – I mean, Trey’s doing an amazing job at George’s with his wonderful menu. There are a lot of other restaurants in town also doing some great things. Alchemy, for instance…

FOSHEE: Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: …over in South Park. On Wednesdays they have a farmers market vegetarian tasting menu. And it basically is, you know, whatever they happen to get that day or the day before is going to be on the menu so that you really don’t necessarily know until that day. And Isabel Cruz just opened up Barrio Star and she has a lot of vegetarian dishes on her menu, so you can get Mexican food and you can go vegetarian doing that. And there is a website:, which has a long list of vegetarian – or restaurants that have vegetarian food on there. And you can also – you know, you could put on Google Maps ‘vegetarian food’ and your location and it’ll give you a whole long list of places to go, too. So there are a lot of – it’s not like the secret, you know, where can you find the good stuff kind of place any more.

CAVANAUGH: Right, and…

GOLDEN: There’s a lot out there.

CAVANAUGH: …one of our website contributors also said you can use vegetable stock for cooking. The book “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” by Deborah Madison is great. So I just wanted to…


CAVANAUGH: …mention that. And, Deborah.

SCHNEIDER: Well, I just wanted to say that people that are listening who are carnivores or omnivores, which is really what we are.


SCHNEIDER: You don’t have to go exclusively vegetarian to make an impact in your health. It’s not only important for you but I also want to say on this lady who called about Social Justice or the garden exhibition this weekend, it makes a huge difference to the planet. You know, if we can cut back on our meat consumption, it’s not just what we eat that affects us, it’s what’s being grown affects farm workers, affects everyone. Things that are flown in that are covered in pesticides and herbicides that we don’t allow to be used in this country anymore affects the people who work in the fields down there, changes their culture because they’re growing monoculture for export. Food’s a huge topic and I think that vegetarianism is catching on because people really understand the impact on us globally of our meat-centered diet.


SCHNEIDER: So you can change a little at a time. You can – You know, we’re – we were a meat-eating family and now we’re down to two days a week and eventually I think we probably won’t eat meat anymore.


FOSHEE: And to support our local community. I mean, there’s some great farms…


FOSHEE: …here. We’re living in a city that’s absolutely perfect to live this kind of lifestyle.



CAVANAUGH: Those are great points. Thank you. I want to take one more phone call if we can get it in. Lynn is calling from Carlsbad. Good morning, Lynn. Welcome to These Days.

LYNN (Caller, Carlsbad): Good morning. How are you?

CAVANAUGH: Just great, thank you.

LYNN: So I’m calling because nobody’s addressed the issue of vegetables in a slow cooker and I just finished a book, just published a book called “The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker.” Hi, Caron.

GOLDEN: Hi, Lynn.


LYNN: Nobody thinks about that. Nobody thinks about – I mean, generally I think when people think slow cookers, they think of throwing a chunk of meat in there.


LYNN: But what occurred to me is that there are probably a lot of great vegetable alternatives and if you’re clever about your techniques then you can do – you can turn out something really great in the slow cooker with vegetables.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much for calling in, Lynn, I appreciate it. So there’s slow cooker, you have roasted vegetables, you have all these different menu options that are come – you know, I just have to say this, Trey. I think that there are many longterm vegetarians that could remember a time when all you could get in a restaurant was a cheese sandwich if you were a vegetarian. And now here we have George’s coming out with this exclusively vegetarian menu. I’m wondering where – when did you – what was the tipping point for you guys to actually do this, to go full bore vegetarian at least on one side of your menu?

FOSHEE: We were doing an event called Side Table, which we do in the modern bar downstairs, and it’s a single event that we do for 20 people. That’s the only – that’s the limit of how many people we can fit in there. And we did a summer vegetarian menu, and it was the only menu that we ran for Side Table that sold out both nights. We got huge response. And like I said earlier, there was a couple that was there that was our model guest in our restaurant, you know, well-dressed, well educated, very conscious of all the topics that we’re talking about today, and they just felt like, you know, this is an opportunity for them to come. They enjoy wine, they enjoy good service, and they want to be able to eat in the manner that they choose to eat…


FOSHEE: …in this kind of environment. And I thought, well, there’s a market there, you know. It’s not only – You know, we’ve always dealt with vegetables as part of our menu but here we have a whole group of people that’s being alienated from fine dining establishments or upscale restaurants because we’re not willing to cater our menus towards that group, and it just doesn’t make any sense, especially where we are and what we stand for as a restaurant and what we talk about, about, you know, that it’s – that our dishes are based on vegetables and then the protein’s kind of added. We don’t do the protein and add the vegetable.


FOSHEE: …idea. So it just made sense for us. I mean, it was really following along with what we believe in in the first place.

CAVANAUGH: We’re out of time but I think we can all say vegetarians like good food. Oh, yeah. Caron Golden, food columnist for, author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff, thank you.

GOLDEN: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Trey Foshee, executive chef and partner for George's at the Cove, thanks so much.

FOSHEE: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Deborah Schneider, executive chef at SOL Cocina, author of the new book, “Amor Y Tacos,” thank you so much.

SCHNEIDER: My pleasure.

CAVANAUGH: And if you’d like to go online to post your comment, it’s You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.