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March 9, 2012

Cooking with Chloe Coscarelli

An award-winning chef offers a fresh take on America's favorite comfort foods

  • "Coscarelli's sleek volume ... includes the kind of straightforward, go-to recipes busy foodies can appreciate."—Kirkus Reviews Miki Dusterhof/SimonandSchuster.com

  • "Now, something for our furry friends!" Coscarelli shares Peanut Butter Dog Treats with pals ("Chloe's Kitchen" p.247). SimonandSchuster.com

The HSUS participates in Meatless Mondays by sharing a meat-free recipe each week. This week, we’re delighted to offer a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli, who won the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and has been featured in The New York Times. We talked with the author about her new cookbook, “Chloe’s Kitchen."

HSUS: Your meat- and dairy-free cookbook is a mix of comfort foods, dishes to entertain with, and recipes that are easy to prepare—a sampling includes Mango Masala Panini, Sweet-and-Sour Party “Meatballs,” Wasabi Sesame Noodle Salad. Where does your inspiration come from?

Coscarelli: Everything in the book is part of my repertoire of my favorite foods. So, if I didn’t like it, it didn’t go in the book! It was important to me to have comfort foods that are familiar to people, while also showing new and unique foods. The biggest goal was to show people that vegan food … is not about a restriction. It’s about a really fun, flavorful cuisine.

Your Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter is simple and satisfying. 

I tried to make all the recipes as simple as possible and rely on everyday ingredients.

You show a fun and satisfying side to cooking—how just a little effort brings a great meal to the table. 

I think that people are leaning towards getting back in the kitchen because it’s so much fun [and] because it tastes so much better. There are also no hidden, junk ingredients. I think today, when people are concerned about all of the chemicals and preservatives in food, it’s a lot safer to cook at home. 

You attended the Natural Gourmet whole foods cooking school and studied nutrition at Cornell University. Both programs focus on the connection between food and health.

There is a connection between a plant-based diet and [the prevention of] heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Incorporating a couple of meatless meals into your diet, even if it is just once a month, once a week, a couple of times a week—it is a step in the right direction. I always tell people that this is not an all or nothing type of diet—it doesn’t need to be looked at so strictly. If you can reduce the amount of saturated animal fat in your [diet], then you are helping yourself so much. 

I think I heard one of your dogs barking in the background.

You probably did. In every single one of my professional calls there are always dogs barking in the background. Sorry about that!

No problem. We have a dogs at work policy, so you will hear the same thing on our end. 

They’re the best. I have four adopted dogs.  

You adopted four at once?

We had two adopted dogs, and then we took in two baby Chihuahuas who were going to be put down. Of course, after one day of fostering, they were ours to keep. They are so amazing and adorable. It really breaks my heart to think if I hadn’t gotten that call or picked them up—they’re wonderful. 

Is there a connection between your love for dogs and your diet?

Absolutely. To me, there is no difference between a beautiful dog or a beautiful cow or pig. I made that connection at a young age when I first went vegetarian.

Being vegan helps you to see this whole other world of food experience that makes it so much more exciting.

How so?

It wasn’t really helpful to be a vegetarian who could just eat grilled cheese sandwiches, or cheese lasagna, or cheese quesadillas. I thought I would be eating better and feeling better if I was getting a little more creative with my food. For example, if I eat regular, cream-laden Fettuccine Alfredo, I will feel heavy afterward, and not so good. But to eat a dairy-free ice cream sundae and still feel light and energized afterward, that really worked for me. 

There is nothing you can’t eat on a vegan diet. If you can eat all of this delicious food that is easy to make and you aren’t harming animals, then why not?

What are your favorite recipes from the book?

I love the Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Kale is an amazing vegetable—it has so many nutrients and is so delicious and versatile. I make a pizza with kale, roasted sweet potatoes, pesto, a balsamic reduction … it’s a grilled, stovetop pizza. That’s one of my favorites.

I had guests over while I was in the thick of recipe testing and development. The dad in the family likes the vegan milkshakes and the cheesecake that I make, but he doesn’t like anything else. So I told my mom that I was going to try testing this pizza for him, the grilled pesto pizza with the kale and sweet potatoes, and she said, “Okay, good luck. Don’t be offended if he doesn’t like it, because that’s just his taste.” And I remember this moment during dinner when he put his hand down and he shouted, “I love kale!” It was music to my ears.

Our favorite recipes from “Chloe’s Kitchen” include Falafel Sliders with Avocado Hummus, Spaghetti Bolognese, Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts, Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Pancakes for Dinner, and her award-winning cupcakes.

Order a copy of “Chloe’s Kitchen” online. She will be signing books in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in March, 2012.

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