Meet Marissa Jedell, a fierce redhead who chases waves around the globe. Marissa is also a nutritionist and chef who is working on a vegetarian cookbook inspired by her surf travels. We invited her over for lunch one day after surfing Malibu together, and she made us a delicious Caribbean gallo pinto. Recipe follows our interview, margarita optional.
[Photo right: Matt Vaughan]
JDV: How did you become a chef?
MARISSA: I was raised in New York City by parents who were "health nuts". They raised my sister and I on a vegetarian diet. By 18, I had a good foundation of holistic health knowledge that I learned from my parents, as well as from seminars we would go to. We were always reading books from the extensive family health library and discussing them.
Later I earned my Bachelors in Science in Dietetics and Food Science from the University of Vermont. I ran the nutrition counseling department and taught yoga at the SCLA on Upper East Side of Manhattan. Then I had a private nutrition counseling practice out of my home office. I taught private one-on-one cooking and nutrition classes in my kitchen. I wanted to become a chef to better combine the two skills but there are not many serious, vegetarian-friendly chef training programs. The best choice was $40,000 in tuition and required a year of my time.
I chose instead to spend my time and resources traveling around the world, in search of amazing recipes — and waves! I figured I could stay close to the coast to get better at surfing at the same time, and perhaps work on my Spanish too. At that time I had also just been relieved of a seriously agonizing and debilitating injury that kept me from walking, let alone surfing for a few years. While on my travels, I spoke to chefs in restaurants as well as people around town. I got invited into their homes, and I would soak in the interesting methods and uses of spices they were willing to share with me. After about five years of travel, I started doing cooking workshops at Haven's Kitchen back in New York. I've recently relocated to sunny California, a welcome change after spending most of my life in NYC.
JDV: What do you love about cooking?
MARISSA: There are so many things I love about cooking. One thing that stands out is that finally the chef / foodie world and the health consciousness world are overlapping more than ever! And that is very inspiring to me.
JDV: In Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time," biting into a madeleine acts as a catalyst that unleashes a floodgate of memories. Can you tell us of a food or dish that stirs up a meaningful memory for you?
MARISSA: Well funny enough, I have a madeleine memory myself from when I was a kid because I would get those as a treat after school. Yum! But I would have to say, my mother's beet soup, or borscht, brings lots of memories. Plus it's so good and so healthy! I used to hate it as a kid because of the color, but I quickly became a fan. Yeah, you can't judge a soup by its color.
JDV: Tell me about this recipe that we'll be cooking. Will it be in your cookbook?
MARISSA: Yes, I will have a gallo pinto recipe in the Costa Rica section of my cookbook. I choose this recipe because Costa Rica was the first country I visited where I realized how different the food can be in different regions of the same country. This became my focus years later as I traveled in search of new food.
Caribbean Gallo Pinto
1 cup cooked brown or white medium or long grain rice
1 cup cooked red or black beans
⅓ cup dried or fresh shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup diced white or yellow onion
½ cup diced red or yellow bell pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper or fresh chilies to taste
1-2 tbs coconut oil
1 green or overripe plantain
2 whole eggs or egg whites
1-2 corn tortilla
1 cup papaya
First, sautee the rice for 2 minutes in the coconut oil. Next add salt, onion, diced bell pepper, cilantro, cayenne pepper or chilis, and shredded coconut . After about 5 minutes, add the cooked beans. Gently mix all together. Cook another 3-4 minutes. Add fresh cilantro on top before serving. Serve with fruit, 2 eggs cooked to you liking, fried or baked plantains (green or maduro, depending if you want salty or sweet), lime wedge for squeezing on top of rice & beans, and a warm tortilla.
Protein: 25 g *
*These numbers are approximate depending on how you choose to use the recipe.