Thursday, May 29, 2008

No-No Nori

When I moved out of home at 18, I jumped straight into the lion's den: New York City. I spent my the better part of my first eight independent years in the greatest city in the world (don't argue with me on this one), and thus there are certain New Yorker attitudes that have been ingrained into my being. I enjoy wearing black, I walk everywhere with efficiency and purpose with little mind to pesky cars, I read the New York Times and do the Sunday crossword with religious regularity, I can recommend a fantastic restaurant in every neighborhood, I miss ordering in any kind of food I want at any hour, I am a strong believer in the power of therapy, and I am devoted to sushi.

There seems to be a sushi bar on every block in New York, right next to the local Starbucks, and I frequented these ubiquitous Japanese haunts more than I'd like to admit. If I wasn't eating sushi out, chances are I was ordering it in. I had my favorites, depending on what neighborhood I found myself in - one near my apartment, one near work, one near my boyfriend's place, one in my sister's area. I was a sushi addict.

There are a few good sushi restaurants in Adelaide, but they are certainly not of the same quality and prevalence as those of New York City. Since going raw, I have actually increased my visits to local sushi spots, as I do not follow a strictly vegan diet. But too much raw fish is actually dangerous, as fish bioaccumulate mercury, and much as I love sashimi I really miss the fun of eating sushi rolls.

Enter the amazing Remedy, a creative and passionate raw lady that South Australia can proudly claim as our own. I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic raw food preparation workshop this past Sunday, and in addition to Anand and Runi's creative recipes and insightful information, we were given the gift of watching Remedy prepare raw vegan sushi. Just watching this glowing beauty, seeing the passion in the way she handled and presented the food, hearing the joy in her voice as she talked about studying raw food preparation and working on opening her own raw cafe in a few months, was enough to convince me to give this dish a try. I'll admit, my first attempt did not taste as delicious as hers, but I really like this idea and how open it is to variation. I've titled it No-No Nori, as it contains no rice and no fish but plenty of raw sushi love! It's bursting with flavor and appeals to the New York sushi addict in me.

No-No Nori

Courtesy of Remedy.
This recipe contains 3 parts. I made the yam salad first, then the winter pesto, then build the sushi rolls. You can have so much fun with this recipe; I have infiniate variations in mind.

Yam Salad
1 large yam/sweet potato
2 Tbsp coconut oil (if the flavor is too strong for you, use a different oil)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Tamari

Grate the yam or sweet potato into a large bowl. Add coconut or other neutral oil, lemon juice, grated ginger, salt and Tamari. Mix thoroughly and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.

Winter Pesto
1 cup almonds, soaked for 1-2 hours and drained
2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch coriander/cilantro
1/2 bunch parsley or basil
large handful of rocket/arugula
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Pulse almonds and garlic cloves in food processor until you achieve a bread-crumb like consistency. Add herbs (you can vary the herbs based on what is available seasonally), salt and a good drizzle of olive oil, then pulse to combine. Add more olive oil if necessary. You want some texture here, much chunkier than traditional pesto.

Sushi Rolls
Nori sheets
1-2 cucumbers
1/2 carrot
1 ripe avocado
1 red capsicum/bell pepper
soft greens, such as fancy lettuce, red oak lettuce, boston lettuce, etc.
yam salad
winter pesto
small bowl of room temperature water

Variation 1:
Cut 1/2 carrot, 1 cucumber, 1 avocado and 1 bell pepper into thin julienne strips. Set aside. Lay nori sheet on a clean, dry cutting board. Place 2-3 lettuce leaves in center, leaving a bit sticking out the ends. Arrange about 2 Tbsp yam salad along the middle of the lettuce leaves, lengthwise. Arrange about 1 Tbsp winter pesto next to yam salad. Top with slices of julienned vegetables. Take far end of nori sheet and roll over fillings toward your body. Roll tightly - this procedure takes some practice! When you are nearly at the end, dip your finger into bowl of water and wet the open end of the nori sheet. Finish rolling and press securely. Let the roll sit for a few minutes before slicing in 4-5 segments. Make as many rolls as you like.

Variation 2:
Again, julienne vegetables and set aside. Take remaining cucumber and slice very thinly lengthwise into long strips. Lay strips on cutting board, overlapping each strip slightly with the previous strip. Lay nori sheet on top of layered cucumber strips. Place 2-3 lettuce leaves in center of nori and continue as above. When you are ready to roll, take the end of a knife and gently side it under the ends of the cucumber strips. Lift with the knife so all the cucumber moves as one. Slowly and carefully roll up your sushi. Let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

Remember, you can have so much fun with this! Use different fillings, try other vegetables or pickles, and make your own dipping sauces. I like a simple dipping sauce of tamari with a little bit of wasabi. The key to the sushi taste here is the nori - that essential seaweed flavor that the New York sushi obsessed have come to crave.

Monday, May 26, 2008

On Top of the World!

Just had to share...

I've been detoxing for the past week. Meaning I've given up alcohol, coffee, and cooked foods entirely for 30 days, as well as taking a natural liver cleansing pill. Man, do I feel great! The first few days were difficult, to say the least. I developed a headcold, felt tired and irritable, and generally hated the world and everyone in it. But once I got past that hurdle, say about day 5, I started to feel really amazing. Really calm, clear, energetic and positive.

Today is the end of day 8, and it just keeps getting better. I'd say that the world is conspiring in my favor, but the truth is more complex. The fact is, I am conspiring in my own favor. I've been doing such nice things for myself! I took myself camping on Saturday night, went for a lovely solitary walk at dawn on Sunday morning, attended an inspirational raw food workshop on Sunday afternoon (more to come on that), spent the day pampering myself today, made myself some beautiful raw chocolate delight this afternoon, and participated in an outstanding David Roche yoga class tonight. Wow, a girl could get used to this!

On top of that, I've been really digging into the Green Smoothie Challenge. I've been experimenting with greater quantities of green smoothies, simpler smoothies (more fruit and greens, less additionals), and savory green smoothies/soups. This has been fantastic on top of the rest of my totally raw diet! I've been eating partially raw for a long time, but eating 100% raw for the past 8 days has been eye opening. I just can't believe how good I feel.

I've been doing some reading on food photography, so keep tuned in and I'll provide you with some more fun raw recipes and, hopefully, increasingly more drool-worthy photos. For now, here are a few more green smoothie recipes that I love:

Savory Green Smoothie Soup
5 stalks of spinach
1/2 bunch dill
1/4 avocado
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
juice of 1 small lemon or 1/2 large lemon
1 cup water (for soup) or 2 cups water (for smoothie)

Blend! I prefer to make this thick, with only 1 cup of water, and to eat it with a spoon as a soup. It makes a quite filling evening meal for me. You could make it thinner and drink it from a glass like a normal smoothie if that appeals to you more.

Caramel Green Smoothie
1 pear
2 apples (sweet varieties)
2 kiwis
1/2 head romaine/cos
a few sprigs coriander
2 Tbsp mesquite powder
1-2 tsp honey
2 cups water

Blend! If you're not familiar with mesquite, it is a beautiful powder made of ground up seed pods of the mesquite tree, and is a traditional Native American food. It has a caramel-molasses flavor - sweet, but low GI, so good for balancing blood sugar. Combined with the greens and fruit here, it should keep you going for hours! Add the honey to taste, depending how much of a sweet tooth you have (if you're like me, you will want the full 2 tsp, as I can't get enough honey - luckily we have many varieties of locally-produced raw honey here in SA).

Raw Chocolate Delight
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp raw, cold-pressed coconut oil
1 tsp raw, cold-pressed honey

I like to make this in winter, when my coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Combine all three ingredients in a bowl, and mash it around with a spoon until it comes together into a paste. Eat, enjoy the rich dark chocolate flavor and frosting texture, and in about 10 minutes, you will feel total bliss and lots of energy that should keep going for at least an hour. A great energy boost, smoother than coffee, and a real treat for chocoholics. Not to mention that raw cacao is packed with nutrition, as is coconut oil. Pretty amazing that something can taste so satisfying, make you feel so wonderful, and be so healthy.

Did I mention that I love being a raw freakin' foodie?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Apple Pie

This apple pie is so sweet and delicious, thanks to lots of juicy California dates - that's why I called it "American." It certainly rivals its cooked cousin in flavor, and a crust made from dates and almonds will do so much for your body than one made of flour and lard. My version is based on a recipe from Carol Alt's book The Raw 50, which is a really great raw beginner's cookbook.

Apple Pie
a little olive oil
a little carob powder
2 cups raw almonds
24 big juicy Cali dates (if you can only find the small, shriveled dates, use twice as many and soak them in water first)
2 apples, 1 cored and chopped, the other thinly sliced and dehydrated at 46 C for 2-4 hours
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt (himalayan is best)

First slice up one apple and put it in the dehydrator for 2-4 hours as noted above, or you can use pre-dried apples.

Grease a 9-inch pie plate with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with carob powder (this will help your pie not to stick to the plate). Combine almonds and 8 dates (make sure to remove pits!) in food processor, and blend until the mixture becomes crumbly and starts to come together in clumps. Press the crust mixture into the pie plate.

Combine the chopped apple with the remaining 16 dates, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and pulse in food processor (no need to wash in between crust and filling). How long you blend is up to you - you can let it become uniform and caramel-like, but I like to retain some texture and reminder of the presence of the apples. Add the filling to the crust, smooth, then top with the dehydrated apple.

I guarantee, this won't last long! If you like, you can top with some raw cream, or make a macadamia cream, but it is really delicious by itself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Green Smoothie Challenge

I am a Green Goddess.

That's right, I eat my greens and I love 'em. Can't get enough. And the beautiful thing is, most of the time my greens don't taste like, well, greens. That's the beauty of green smoothies.

The concept of the green smoothie is simple: 40% greens, 60% fruit, water, blended. The idea was pioneered by Victoria Boutenko, a darling of the raw foods movement who possesses profound insight into health, nutrition, and well-being. She claims that human beings do not eat enough greens (we don't), and that green smoothies are a more palatable way to consume them (they are). Furthermore, she champions the green smoothie over the green juice because the smoothie allows us to consume all that lovely insoluble fiber that keeps our digestive system moving.

I've been drinking green smoothies for a while now, but today is a very special time in the life of green goddesses (and gods) everywhere because it heralds the start of the Green Smoothie Challenge. This is a project that encourages people to drink a green smoothie every day for 2 weeks and track their progress. Anyone can take part, no matter where you live, and be part of this virtual community of green smoothie drinkers (read: veggie freaks). Even if you're not raw, I highly recommend trying these drinks out, as they give you a real energy boost and make you feel amazingly alive. As my friend Brad said recently, it's like consuming a little bit of the garden. You feel more connected to the earth.

I don't have any photos to post, mostly because on work days I like to add a heaped teaspoon of raw cacao powder to my GS's so they end up coming out a rather unattractive shade of brown. But they taste yummy, and I drink them out of what used to be my special coffee mug but is now my special smoothie mug, so I can't really see the color anyhow.

My verdict is that, in contradiction to Kermit the Frog's sentiments, it IS easy being green. Here's a few recipes to try - they make great breakfasts or afternoon snacks.

Jayson's Favorite Fruity Brekkie Smoothie
1 ripe banana
1/2 fresh mango
1/4 cup fresh pineapple
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp raw almond butter
1 cup greens
1 cup filtered water

Blend and drink up!

Ultimate Get-Me-Through-Dinner-Shift Chocolaty Smoothie
2 bananas
1 cup greens
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp honey
1 cup water

Blend and drink up!

Vanilla Pear Smoothie
2-3 ripe pears
1 cup greens
dash of vanilla extract, or section of vanilla bean seeds
1-2 sweet Cali dates
1 cup water

Blend and drink up!

The best thing about green smoothies is that there are no rules. Just toss whatever fresh fruit and whatever sort of leavy greens you have on hand into a blender with water and go. I often add nutritional supplements into my GS, such as maca, spirulina, and Percy's powder (a mineral sulphate supplement), and if I'm having it for breakfast before work and I know I won't be able to eat for a long time, I add chia seeds (which slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream, giving you more even energy over more time). I promise to post more on Chia in the the future because it is a really amazing and versatile food.

Okay - get blending!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wilted Silverbeet Salad with Avocado Dressing

Yesterday was my day off, and it was a gorgeously sunny, cool autumn day. As rain had been forcast for the next few days, I felt the need to take advantage of the sunshine, and a drive to the Adelaide Hills was in order. After a rejuvenating hike and drive through gorgeous foliage, we stopped at the Stirling Organic Market and Cafe, which I had been meaning to visit for some time. I walked through the Cafe, which looked lovely, but my attention was focused on the Market. It was a nicely presented little collection of certified organic food products, fresh produce, wines and self-care products. If I lived in the area - and oh, how I wish I lived in the area, this is beautiful country just a 20 minute drive from the center of Adelaide - I would definitely shop here frequently.

One of my purchases was an absolutely massive bunch of silverbeet, a leafy green similar to spinach. I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it, as I'd been eying the beautiful Wilted Kale Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing created by Russell James at The Raw Chef Blog for some time. Russell is a true master of gourmet raw food preparation. More than a chef, Russell is an artist of flavor, color, texture and composition.

My version differs from Russell, as certain ingredients that he uses are hard to find in Adelaide. Here's my take on this hearty, warming winter dish (serves 2).

Wilted Silverbeet Salad with Avocado Dressing
1/2 large bunch of silverbeet, or 1 small bunch
1 tsp himalayan salt
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, minced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 soft avocado
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp agave
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoky paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp tamari

Remove the stems from the silverbeet and chop roughly. Add the salt and massage into the greens for about 1 minute. Really get your hands in the there! The silverbeet will literally transform in texture, wilting to resemble cooked spinach.

Once your silverbeet has wilted, add the chopped tomatoes, red onion, and pumpkin seeds.

Peel and pit the avocado, then place it in a food processor along with the olive oil, lemon juice, agave, spices and tamari. Blend until you achieve a thick, uniform, creamy sauce. You may need to add more olive oil or lemon juice depending on how soft your avocado is and your taste.

Toss the dressing with the spinach mixture. Eat right away, or let marinate for a few hours or overnight for the flavors to develop.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Zucchini Fettucine with Rocket and Swiss Brown Mushrooms

Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable. Sliced thinly with a mandoline and cut into ribbons it makes a perfect raw version of pasta. Like traditional flour-and-water pasta, its mild taste and porous texture carry the flavor of whatever it is paired with - in this case, a simple dressing of local cold-pressed olive oil and a host of vegetables.

Zucchini Fettucine with Rocket and Swiss Brown Mushrooms
1 large zucchini
himalayan or sea salt

Slice zucchini thinly with a mandoline, then cut slices into ribbons approximately 1cm wide. Sprinkle with salt and let marinate while preparing the other ingredients; during this time the zucchini will soften to a noodle-like texture.

Sauce and Veggies
Large handful of rocket
1 tomato
6 kalamata olives
2 large swiss brown mushrooms
handful of pinenuts
cold-pressed olive oil
fresh lemon juice
dried chili flakes

First toss rocket with zucchini noodles to wilt a bit. Chop tomatoes, pit olives, and thinly slice mushrooms; add to pasta. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of dried chili to taste. Pulse pinenuts in a food processor to achieve a grainy texture, then sprinkle over top of pasta (this produces a texture similar to grated parmesan).

Serves one hungry raw gastronome.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Rawreo Pie

I'm on a pie kick at the moment. This rich baby features a dark, bittersweet base reminescent of an oreo cookie crust, topped with a vanilla cream filling and drizzled with dark chocolate. How amazing that such a decadent treat is full of nutrition! A chocolatey, creamy, dark and dreamy dessert that is -gasp- good for you.

My partner's dad said it reminded him of his mother's coconut slice, which is a sweet, custardy Aussie dessert. I wonder if they have even one common ingredient?

Rawreo Pie

3/4 cup carob powder
1 cup brazil nuts
1/2 cup dates
4 Tbsp coconut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla pod
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Process in food processor; the nuts will get crumbly and the mixture become sticky (like a pie crust...). When it just begins to come together, press into a 9" square or round pie pan and refrigerate.

1 1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup almond paste
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp coconut butter
1 cup coconut cream or milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in blender until really smooth. Spread over crust using a rubber spatula.

Chocolate topping
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp water
1 tsp agave nectar

Mix all ingredients and stir until smooth. Drizzle over cream in desired pattern (I wanted to do marbling, but ended up with something a little more Jackson Pollack).

Refrigerate the entire pie until firm. Dig in - no guilt allowed!

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