The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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

In the Kitchen with Julie Hasson

In the Kitchen with Julie Hasson

In the Kitchen

June 26, 2011

Julie Hasson is the author of the new cookbook Vegan Diner. She has 20 years of experience in the food industry, including working at the famed Patina restaurant in Los Angeles, and serving as a private chef for celebrities and high-profile clients. Julie opened the original Babycakes Bakery and has contributed extensive articles and recipes to Bon AppetitCooking Light,Vegetarian Times, and Family Funmagazines. She is also the host of the Internet cooking show “Everyday Dish.” Julie currently runs a popular food cart called Native Bowl, in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Jay.

What is the main focus of your cooking?

Vegan Diner is abundant with delicious, home-style diner classics, from hearty main dishes, soups and sides to breakfasts, baked goods and desserts. I love bold, fresh flavors and comfort food, so I definitely put my spin on classic diner dishes.

Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?

I try to incorporate lots of whole foods and produce into my recipes. Vegan Diner is a comfort food book, so the recipes are geared towards classic, diner-style dishes done with a healthier vegan twist.

What is your relationship with local farmers?

I do have relationships with local farmers, which is a terrific way to cook and bake, getting food fresh from the farm. One of my favorites is a local hazelnut farm where we get the most incredible roasted fresh hazelnuts. It’s nice to have access to farm fresh food.

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

I do for myself, but I try not to make this a main focus in my books. I want to see people cooking and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and unfortunately local, farm fresh produce isn’t a reality for everyone. I don’t want anyone to feel like fresh vegetables are out of their reach.

What steps do you take toward conservation at Native Bowl, your Portland-based food cart?

We try to use organic and local whenever we can. We compost as much of our food waste as we can, although we’re very fortunate to have very little food waste. We also use compostable containers for our rice bowls. We recycle too, and continue to make improvements as we go along.

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

The main complaint that I hear is not having enough time to cook. There are so many recipes that don’t take very long to prepare, especially if you keep certain items in the pantry such as whole grain pastas, rice and grains, canned or bottled tomatoes, canned or dried beans, and fresh vegetables. Add to that a package of corn tortillas, a loaf of bread, some veggie sausages or seitan roasts (try homemade versions fromVegan Diner), and you’ve got even more options. Think soups, stews, pasta, hearty grain salads, tacos, enchiladas, veggie burgers, hummus, sandwiches and so much more. You can also double your recipes and freeze the leftovers for very quick dinners.

I also like to soak dried beans overnight and cook them in either the slow cooker or pressure cooker. I then use part of the beans and freeze the rest. I find that dried beans have a better texture than canned and are certainly more economical.

How important is sustainability?

I think it’s a very important topic and issue. I really want to get people in the kitchen cooking food from scratch in whatever way that is feasible or going to work for them. I want to see people eating fresh, real food. I guess in a way it’s about taking baby steps and working toward using more locally grown, organic and sustainable produce.