Reviews of my famous no-packaging no-recipe vegetable stews

August 5, 2017 by Joshua
in Art, Creativity, Fitness, Nature

Taste is a matter of taste, so you may not enjoy my food as much as I do, but I’ve grown confident enough in it to invite people more and more, including for business meetings and podcasts, including c-suite officers and directors at publicly traded companies. Come to think of it, they may have walk-in closets bigger than my apartment.

I’ve asked people to write reviews. If you come to my place for one of my famous no-packaging vegetable stews, they’ll tell you what to expect.

(EDIT: Here are pictures from a corporate event with Faherty clothes, where I spoke on sustainability and personal responsibility and cooked for over 50 people, producing no trash (the organizers brought bread and butter and got alcohol sponsorship independent of my stews).

EDIT 2: Here are pictures of me speaking on sustainability and cooking my stew at Lululemon’s flagship 5th Avenue store for Earth Day 2019. )

The reviews

When Josh first invited me over for stew, I didn’t jump at the opportunity. I recall thinking that a quickly prepared meal of some legumes and fresh vegetables heated in a pressure cooker would at best be bland. After decades of consuming processed and improperly cooked vegetables that needed seasoning with plenty of salt, spices and fats, I didn’t appreciate how much natural flavor could be found in the garden. Josh skillfully mixed lentils with fresh farm vegetables, and whipped up a superb meal that excited the palate. The fact that it was the healthiest meal I’ve eaten all year is secondary to the more remarkable point, which is that it was one of the tastiest meals I’ve enjoyed in recent memory!

—Peter S.

I’ve known Josh for over five years now and he’s come to be a invaluable friend and a big part of my inner circle. One of the things I’ve most admired about Josh is his commitment to an art form or craft that is often closely aligning to his passion to better himself and the world around him. In recent years, preparing and cooking has become a serious pursuit. He sources ingredients locally and takes great interesting in seeking out vegetables that I have often never heard about.

The result of his work is inspiring. The flavors are as personal and diverse as is the experience of sourcing, preparation, and serving. Josh has mastered a number of vegetable stew dishes with a range of flavors and textures that in a way reflect his worldview.

At first taste, each spoonful is a silky light base of root vegetables. Then there’s a flash of ginger, spice, and often a few hints of fruit like an apple or pear. He then balances out the smooth texture with the occasional crunch of various nuts. What I have found most intriguing is how he can transform a vegetable from a rather unappealing snack into a very filling and wholesome meal purely by finding the right balance with just a few other ingredients. Restaurants often add layers of various spices and ingredients to make a dish appetizing. What’s more, the time and energy from numerous people are committed to this before it hits our tables. The result is rarely as satisfying and the nourishment is obviously questionable.

— C. W.

The famous vegetable stew lived up to the hype 😉

— Becky Y.

I began a vegetarian (and often vegan) diet 26 years ago. I haven’t eaten processed foods or added sugars or anything along those lines for longer than I can remember. I eat clean and intentionally. But when Josh cooked for our crew here in San Diego, it opened up a whole new world of clean and eco friendly eating.

More importantly, it was shockingly delicious! His presentation was captivating and the food was bursting with flavor and nutrients. All of us were blown away, and it’s significantly influenced how we eat today. From the reduction of packaging to the pressure cooker process to the robust flavor, it was a magical experience that we are all so grateful for. Thank you, Josh, for all the joy you brought into our kitchen, not just for our event, but every day since!

— Jared Angaza

About a month ago, Josh treated me to a sampler course of his legendary homemade vegetable stews. I figured I was in for something a bit off the beaten path when he had me meet him prior to breakfast at the local farmer’s market from which he sources his ingredients—but it was when he picked a fallen cherry tomato off the ground, cleaned it, and popped it right into his mouth that I realized he had an eye for truly superlative ingredients.

When you go to a restaurant, you’re tasting a chef. When you’re at Josh’s, you’re tasting the food. The best-case scenario at a good restaurant—if you’re fortunate not to be overcome by the sugar, oil, salt, and additives of weaker establishments—is that the food is an expression of a chef’s style, taste, and overall culinary vocabulary. What’s on your plate is akin to an author’s voice, a singer’s intonation, or a pitcher’s wind-up. This is not altogether a bad thing, but it means that the primary thing a chef is offering you is an conduit to a restaurant’s overall vision and experience. Sometimes, though, you just want to eat.

It’s easy to forget how food actually tastes: the layers of texture, the nuanced spills of sour and tang. But Josh sourced that day from a set of accents—nutritional yeast; vinegar; salt; some home-grown basil and spicy greens from his windowsill garden—that gave the ingredients center stage. And when they do, they earn their applause. I sunk my teeth into a peach that caused me to make the kinds of noises typically reserved for ‘decadent’ dessert commercials, and a few bites of crisp zucchini bore no resemblance to the soggy sautéed stuff you find seeping into your side of rice. My favorite, though, were the beets: rich morsels of umami that brought out darker notes within the lentils and the greens.

Of course, the process takes time—time we spent talking and sharing, laughing and observing, with an intentionality you rarely get to experience when you’re more removed from the different stages of the process. Because Josh doesn’t use packaged ingredients—he (rightly) observes that most of what’s served at e.g. Whole Foods is literally garbage, in that it’s packaging you throw straight into the trash—he curates every piece of every vegetable from the form it takes when it comes out of the ground to the form it occupies when it’s sitting on your plate. It’s intimate in the classical sense of the word.

I’m hardly a culinary mastermind myself—I can barely boil water—but my own kitchenette ineptitude means that I spend a considerable portion of every day in restaurants. I’d gladly choose Josh’s offerings over at least 90% of the food I regularly eat—and this is from quality Manhattan standbys. If you get a chance to enjoy a meal the way Josh puts it together, don’t hesitate to accept the invitation.

— Zac H.

As an athlete who doesn’t know enjoy cooking or know how to cook, but still loves great food to eat, Josh’s stews were perfect for me. For starters, the process of cooking the stew itself was simple and in just one sitting I would have enough food for a week. That was immediately appealing to me. I then loved the high quality of healthy ingredients, from the variety of vegetables to the lentils to the yeast (What was that called again? 🙂 ). The “yeast thing” was a new discovery for me, but I loved the way it complemented the rest of the meal. I was surprised at how flavorful the meal ultimately was, considering there was no use of unhealthy spices, oils, or sugars. The variety of textures from the harder vegetables, to the softer lentils, to the yeast provided for a delicious and high quality meal that ideally complements my athletic lifestyle.

— A. N.

Authenticity meets opportunity

In the heart of New York City, how can you consume only what grows from the earth without contributing unneeded containers as environmental waste? Josh creates delectable combinations of ingredients in easy and quick-to-prepare vegetable stews, using only locally-produced, seasonal ingredients from the farmers’ market. It is the only venue where I have ever experienced the passion of sustainability meeting great taste with simplicity. Josh combines his authentic desire to promote environmental well-being with the opportunity to feed his guests with deliciously prepared local food.

—David s.

So he pulls the raw vegetables out of the fridge and starts rinsing and chopping them up. A scoop of lentils, some veg, and all into the pressure cooker. We chat about projects and relationships, the past, the future, and then comes the beep: it’s ready. Some crushed nuts on top, a pinch of salt, I pass on the fresh horseradish. And there it is, steaming in its bowl. The lentils are a smooth and solid foundation, a base and a stage on which the dance begins. Radish and chard show their flavors and colors. The nuts add a crunch and contrapuntal finish. It’s just so good and so fresh. A conversation among flavors and a reminder of so many other things: simple and present but full of nuance, complexity, and riches.

—John E.

Josh makes a hardy stew that is both flavorful and environmentally friendly. He can take whatever vegetables he gets from the local farmers market and make a masterpiece of a meal that’s delicious and healthy. Don’t believe me, ask him to cook for you. I think you’ll really like his cooking.

—Andrea D.

First I want to thank you for turning me on the use of the pressure cooker for bean stews, and you’ll be happy to know that I have learned how to operate it properly. We had so many problems when you were here because the seal was installed upside down. Now it works perfectly every time. Since that day there have been few days that we haven’t had a stew (or bean concoction as J [his wife] calls it) in the fridge. It’s really been transformative with regards to our diet. Most days of the week we have a bowl for either lunch or dinner. The effects on food cost and my weight have been notable.

However, unlike you I don’t limit the ingredients to seasonable vegetables, which leads me to why I’m probably not a good advocate for your stews … I actually like mine a lot better :-). I’ve built a substantial repertoire of loosely defined recipe groups. I generally make the soups with lentils, split pea, or a blend of a select group of beans that I combine with leafy green vegetables usually leftover from the week’s meals. Those vegetables would often go to waste.

The bean blends have proven to be the more popular, and I’ve incorporated large white corn and barley into many of my recipes. Amazingly, they have remained vegetarian … with the exception of the chicken bullion. I’ve yet to make a stew akin yours because J’s palette doesn’t really favor spicy food for more than a day or two. I actually finished the rest of the stew we made while she currently eats most of the ones I make.

With that said, I think we might be due for another brunch so I can introduce you to one of my variations.

— Sean N.

I enjoy Josh’s whole food-plant based stews. He tries to bring you as close to the essence of the original food with minimal interference from common additives that we have over-reliant on in society today. His stews challenge a lot of cooking orthodoxies and dare you to test your boundaries—banana peels? Why not!

On the whole I really enjoyed the experience of dining with Josh. The savory stews are my favorite. By combining interesting base vegetables (could be squash or peas or beans) with leafy ones (kale, chard, etc.) along with a twist (“is that orange rind?”) different flavor a come out. Importantly, oil and salt are spared. Toppings that add texture are interesting as nuts and raw onion add crunch and complexity.

On the fruit stews—my advice is to go for it and then find your line on what works and does not. I found that I liked diced whole orange and that the pith did not add unwelcome bitterness. I also enjoyed the texture it adds. Sliced bananas—peels and all—are not my speed but I was grateful for the experience. That said, I understand that peels are naturally sweet and perhaps finer dicing could move them from texture to flavor-enhancing. No sugar added perhaps some cinnamon and the natural sugars really come out in the pressure cooker.

All in, the food was interesting, tasty and opened my horizons. Also, Josh ate more than I did and he is the one with the six-pack abs, so how can I argue?

—James K.

I love to cook healthy seasonal delicious food. I also feel most joyful cooking when surrounded with community. Combining these two precious ingredients and an evening with Josh, I felt inspired with the fresh ideas and new perspectives that he so eloquently added. Thanks for taking our dinner gathering to the next level!

—Erica Wexler

Josh’s homemade stews are to die for!

Who knew vegetables mixed together could be so good? You can taste how each of the ingredients brought its own flavor to the mix. The best part is that none of it includes oil, butter, salt or any of the unhealthy additions you would typically find at restaurants.

Cooked perfectly and so quickly—truly impressive and delicious. More please!!!!

—Mera B.

I must admit, that while New York City has some wonderful farmers’ markets, I simply never go to them. My produce needs are usually met by Muhammad, the ever engaging proprietor of the produce stand at 68th & Columbus, or at my local Trader Joe’s or Fairway.

Always up for a new adventure though, how could I turn down the offer when Josh Spodek, suggested we make an afternoon of picking up produce at the Union Square farmers’ market and turning our purchases into lunch?

I met Josh by the square’s Gandhi statue and from there, we zig-zagged through the market. I don’t remember seeing squash that large, carrots that orange, or potatoes so hefty. A walk through the market gives one perspective that more grows out of the ground in New York than skyscrapers.

After assembling bags full of New York’s (and no doubt, New Jersey and Connecticut’s) bounty, we headed for Josh’s kitchen where he blending our stash—along with a variety of beans—in a pressure cooker. The result, was a quick and nutritious puree which we ate on its own but could have easily been paired over a bowl of rice or quinoa for added heft.

Did I not mention that it was delicious? What made this a standout dish were the flavors—a melange of taste sensations from the produce bought earlier.

I walked away from the afternoon with a new appreciation for farmers’ markets and the natural flavors they yield in such healthy and hearty dishes.

— Steven S.

Josh’s vegan pâté was amazing!

I was invited to a friend’s house where Josh presented us how to make his split pea soup and vegan pâté. I really liked how we use root vegetable slices for dipping instead of crackers. It was really tasty and a new experience for me.

I also really liked the split pea soup, the texture and the combination of other vegetables in it, however, I suggest cook the split peas a bit more to become softer to blend more with other vegetables.

Josh is really a good presenter 🙂.

— Fereshteh

I work for a local CSA-model business, and so I’m always surrounded by the season’s best ingredients. The question is what to do with them all!

What I appreciated most about Josh’s vegetable stew was the ease with which you can include whatever is in your fridge — no recipe planning or specialty ingredients required. Even better, the only tools he used were a knife, cutting board, and the pressure cooker. Each ingredient (our stew included beets, a leafy green, black beans, and parsnips) was simply diced and added to the cooker.

With the addition of just nutritional yeast and salt [from Josh: we topped the stew with nuts, onion, and radish that time. We also snacked on local kohlrabi and had local pear for dessert.], you’re still able to appreciate the individual flavors of each ingredient: the earthiness of the beets, the mustard of the greens, the sweetness to the parsnip. Because of this, Josh’s stew recipe is a wonderful way to highlight the complex flavors of local produce without having to worry about stocking your cabinets with unusual spices and seasonings…all the flavor is already in the veggies!

This dinner was quick, simple, and filled with the flavorful nutrients your body craves. I think this is the ultimate cooking hack for anyone looking to eat wholesome ingredients that are incorporated into dinners they’ll love.

— Camryn

Josh’s stew was quite an experience: when we arrived, we were confused how he was going to make this stew without any prep work but then he brought out the pressure cooker. A delicious homemade meal in 10 minutes? Amazing!!

Josh talked to us the whole time about his values and passion around sustainability and local food as he prepped the meal and we were so excited every time he had us taste a new vegetable. One of the most special parts of the experience was when he used our Local Roots veggies to include in the stew. The flavor notes of the stew, even with minimal spices, were bold and bright.

What a wonderful time!

— W-J

More reviews to come.

What makes my cuisine my cuisine

My cuisine looks filled with things to avoid, but it’s about abundance, deliciousness, featuring the flavors and textures of fresh fruits and vegetables, and fun putting it together.

  • No animal products
  • Avoiding fiber-removed foods (such as sugar, white flour, corn syrup, oil, etc)
  • Avoiding food packaging (such as boxes, bags, stickers, rubber bands, bottles, etc)
  • Mostly food from my farm share and neighborhood farmers markets and bulk food store
  • Preparing when you arrive, nibbling while cooking, having fun

Sound challenging to avoid packaging and food whose fiber has been removed? Check out the reviews!

If you’re curious, contact me and invite yourself over.

fresh vegetables from the farm
A typical bunch of ingredients from the farm (see pictures below)

The farm where most of the vegetables come from

Here are pictures from the farm most of my summer and fall vegetables come from, north of New York City. I pick up the vegetables from where they drop them off a few blocks from my home. I get them within about a day of their being picked.

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16 responses on “Reviews of my famous no-packaging no-recipe vegetable stews

  1. I began a vegetarian (and often vegan) diet 26 years ago. I haven’t eaten processed foods or added sugars or anything along those lines for longer than I can remember. I eat clean and intentionally. But when Josh cooked for our crew here in San Diego, it opened up a whole new world of clean and eco friendly eating.

    More importantly, it was shockingly delicious! His presentation was captivating and the food was bursting with flavor and nutrients. All of us were blown away, and it’s significantly influenced how we eat today. From the reduction of packaging to the Instant Pot process to the robust flavor, it was a magical experience that we are all so grateful for. Thank you, Josh, for all the joy you brought into our kitchen, not just for our event, but every day since!

    • I appreciate the feedback and loved the dinner with you and your crew. I hope you don’t mind I copied the comment into the text (changing “Instant Pot” to pressure cooker since any pressure cooker will work, including old-fashioned stove-top ones).

  2. I love to cook healthy seasonal delicious food. I also feel most joyful cooking when surrounded with community. Combining these two precious ingredients and an evening with Josh, I felt inspired with the fresh ideas and new perspectives that he so eloquently added. Thanks for taking our dinner gathering to the next level!

    • I appreciate the feedback and loved our dinner. I hope you don’t mind I copied the comment into the text to make it easier for others to find.

      I can’t wait until next time. I hope to hear if it’s led to new directions in flavors, textures, community, and less packaging. Or other directions entirely. A lot of what I shared came from others before you sharing their discoveries.

  3. I work for a local CSA-model business, and so I’m always surrounded by the season’s best ingredients. The question is what to do with them all! What I appreciated most about Josh’s vegetable stew was the ease with which you can include whatever is in your fridge — no recipe planning or specialty ingredients required. Even better, the only tools he used were a knife, cutting board, and the pressure cooker. Each ingredient (our stew included beets, a leafy green, black beans, and parsnips) was simply diced and added to the cooker. With the addition of just nutritional yeast and salt, you’re still able to appreciate the individual flavors of each ingredient: the earthiness of the beets, the mustard of the greens, the sweetness to the parsnip. Because of this, Josh’s stew recipe is a wonderful way to highlight the complex flavors of local produce without having to worry about stocking your cabinets with unusual spices and seasonings…all the flavor is already in the veggies! This dinner was quick, simple, and filled with the flavorful nutrients your body craves. I think this is the ultimate cooking hack for anyone looking to eat wholesome ingredients that are incorporated into dinners they’ll love.

    • Thank you for the review!

      I hope you don’t mind that I copied it above to make it easier to find, with two edits: I added paragraph breaks and commented that we topped the stew with nuts, onion, and radish.

      I’m already looking forward to next time. January local vegetables in New York like beets, parsnips, and watermelon radish are delicious. Summer and fall ones come in more variety.

      Come to think of it, I think we also had some pear for dessert and some kohlrabi for snacking too.

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