I Like It Raw

Here’s the 4-1-1 on how to stop using your grill and start playing with your food.




Photos by Leah Lizarondo
 

 

It has been well-documented on this blog that I don’t want to get anywhere near my stove this summer. And while I’m tempted to post a frozen dessert, I won’t, lest you think that’s all I live on during the summer. (Don’t fret though, another frozen dessert recipe is coming.)

Not cooking during the summer can be a big conundrum, especially for someone like me who has (repeatedly) confessed that salad is not her favorite. Neither are sandwiches. So what’s left to eat? We’re veering into frozen-dessert territory again! But no. I actually descend deep down into the recesses of the fringe-eating world and go raw.

Yes, in the summer, I like it raw. Not all the time, mind you, because sometimes we are gifted with respites of 70-degree weather, at which point I crank up the oven to bake a batch or two of treats and fire up the stove so that I can pile on the pots.

With all the freshness going on all around us, it is the perfect time to experiment with raw food.

I always thought raw dishes were too esoteric for my amateur self, but after I ate mind-blowing raw food at New York City’s Pure Food & Wine and One Lucky Duck, I knew I had to try it at home.

Why eat raw? I mean, aside from trying to keep your cool?

Raw foodists believe that cooking depletes beneficial enzymes in food, resulting in less nutrition for our bodies. They also believe cooked food forces our bodies to produce more of the enzymes needed for digestion. The combination of less enzyme intake and more expended for digestion depletes our energy and resources, leading to more disease.

I can’t comment on the benefits of an exclusively raw diet, but I personally feel better when I incorporate a lot of raw foods into my diet, especially in the summer.

A few weeks ago, I held a sold-out Raw Food 101 class at the Pittsburgh Public Market with Farm to Table Pittsburgh, where I demonstrated some very basic techniques you can use to craft amazing raw dishes without the need for fancy dehydrators.

Here are a couple of tips:

1. Invest in some tools — ones you can use all year round.
You can technically, go raw in the summer by eating salads and snacking on seeds and nuts. Sure. But how much fun is that? Raw food essentially consists of the same elements that go into a salad — vegetables, nuts, seeds, maybe some fruit — but the presentation is a little more … gestalt.

To transform your food without cooking, you need a few kitchen tools, most of which you probably already use:
 

  • A food processor and/or blender
     
  • A mandoline (skip the fancy ones)
     
  • If you really want to have fun, a spiralizer to make noodles out of anything (if you don’t have one, a vegetable peeler will do).


These tools serve both an aesthetic and functional purpose.

2. You will use nuts. A lot. No really, a lot.
Nuts will add protein, fat and fiber to raw meals. Not to mention the all-important texture and mouth feel that will make you feel satisfied. A technique you will use often is soaking your nuts. Ahem. You read it right. We’re all adults here. After soaking, run the nuts through a blender or food processor, and there you have it: milk, cream, paste. The cashew cream I’ve used many times in past recipes is produced via this technique.

Here is an example of a three-course raw meal:
 

Chilled Raw Avocado Cucumber Soup

Raw Beet Ravioli with Brazil Nut Cream, Marinara Fresca and Basil Oil

Raw Brownies with Strawberries and Cashew Cream


Below, you’ll find the recipe for the beet ravioli. This is such a fun raw food dish. As I said, the components are basically what you will find in a salad — beets, tomatoes, nuts, basil — but the technique and presentation make it extraordinary.

The Brazil nuts will transform into a paste reminiscent of ricotta, and the sun-dried tomatoes in fresh tomato sauce will give it a very satisfying umami flavor.

Now get your tools out, and start playing with your food.



 


 

  Raw Beet Ravioli with Brazil Nut Cream, Marinara Fresca and Basil Oil

 

  • 3-4 large or very large beets, sliced through the thinnest setting in a mandolin

 

 

  Brazil Nut Cream

Yield: Makes about 1 cup
 

  • 1 cup Brazil nuts, soaked overnight
  • 1 T mellow white miso
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

 

1. After soaking overnight, drain the Brazil nuts and place all the ingredients in a food processor.

2. Process until texture is somewhat smooth. The mixture will look a little like ricotta (see photo).

3. You’re done!


Note: I use this Brazil nut cream as a base and add different kinds of herbs to use it as a spread on crackers.



 

 

  Marinara Fresca

Yield: Makes about 2 cups
 

  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 leaves basil or 1 T dried basil
  • Salt and pepper

 

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Pulse until chunky.

3. You’re done! How easy is this?


Note: You can also use this marinara fresca tossed with zucchini “noodles” made with a spiralizer. Or use a peeler to make fettuccine-style noodles.



 

  Basil Oil

 

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 basil leaves

 

1. Place ingredients in a food processor.

2. Process until smooth.

3. You’re done! Seriously, how easy is this?



 

  Assembly


1. Top a sliced beet with a dollop of Brazil nut cream and top with another beet.

2. Repeat until all the cream is used.

3. Place marinara on plates and top with beet raviolis.

4. Drizzle with basil oil and sprinkle some good quality sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

5. Enjoy!



 

For more raw recipes:

Chilled Raw Avocado Cucumber Soup
Raw Brownies with Strawberries and Cashew Cream

Blueberry Pie Crumble With Cashew Cream

 

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