The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

In the Kitchen with Deb Roussou

In the Kitchen with Deb Roussou

In the Kitchen

July 29, 2012

Deb Roussou is a successful culinary professional with more than 20 years in the food industry as a food consultant, recipe developer, writer, teacher and caterer. She is the author of several cookbooks, including her recently published 350 Best Vegan Recipes. We talked to Roussou about the importance of eating and cooking with fresh, sustainable ingredients.

What is the main focus of your cooking?

My focus while writing 350 Best Vegan Recipes was using great flavor profiles to create fun, non-intimidating and delicious vegan recipes that can be enjoyed by everyone. The book’s introduction states “Good food is good food no matter what the label, and this cookbook is a celebration of just that!” The book is filled with intensely flavored recipes for luscious brunches, hearty main dishes, decadent desserts and festive cocktails – from French Herbed Strata to Stuffed Sopapills to Chocolate Cherry Brownies. 

Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?

A diverse diet is beneficial because it provides a variety of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are always better local and organic when available. Also, we know we get a complete protein change when combining grains and beans. Many recipes in this book contain both ingredients, such as Louisiana Red Beans and Rice Dinner Loaf and the Spicy Adzuki Futomaki. It is fun to choose from many bean and grain recipes to create complete protein meals. 3-Grain Tempeh is itself a complete protein as it includes both soybeans and grain and is featured in many recipes. 

What is your relationship with local farmers?

I am lucky enough to live in an area with a thriving weekly farmers’ market as well as multiple CSA offerings. Many large cities have farmers’ markets featuring produce brought to town by nearby growers. If this is unavailable in your area, look for a local natural food store that may sell local produce or can direct you to local growers. If purchasing from a local farmer is not possible, I urge people to choose the freshest organic produce possible. Freshness is very important for both nutrition and flavor.

Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your dishes? How?

Locally grown is all relative to where you live but the wide variety of recipes in this book are appropriate to all agricultural areas.

What are the major concerns today of your readers when it comes to making vegan meals at home? And how are you addressing them?

A major concern for vegans is the availability, cost and quality of vegan products. Some vegan products may be dairy and animal product-free but make use of less than healthy fillers and additives. There are some affordable and healthy alternatives to many hard-to-find or expensive vegan ingredients such as heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, creamy mayonnaise, crème fraiche, basic ricotta and caramel sauce. The book even features two recipes for homemade seitan. These recipes use readily available ingredients generally already present in a vegan pantry or refrigerator. I try to assist the new vegan as well by discussing what may be unfamiliar ingredients and sharing helpful tools and suggested menus for planning meals.

How important is sustainability?

Sustainability is a huge issue and at the root of continuing quality of life on earth. Eating vegan is all about sustaining your personal health and well being. It also directly speaks to some of the issues concerning industrial production of meat and commercial feedlots from the treatment and suffering of animals to the destruction created by the production of certain commodity crops.

What steps does you take toward conservation in your meal planning?

I strive to be a conservationist in all aspects of my life and mindful in my actions. I was raised in a restaurant and learned early on how vegetable trimmings and stems make great stock! If I have extra baked potatoes they become breakfast hash browns. I suggest substituting ingredients you have on hand for those called for in a recipe. Use up what you have first! Before buying ingredients, think about how you cook, and only buy what you need.