Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Heat-Beating Treat

While the folks back home in New England are buried under masses of snow, here in Melbourne we've had three high-30 degree days in a row. To keep cool and nourished, I'm drinking this:

Come here glass of yumminess, I'm going to drink you...

It's a banana-date-almond frostilicious glass of cold creamy joy. Takes about 1 minute to make, so it's perfect for a hot day when even moving is an effort. You could also add any superfood powders that you like for an extra boost.

Banana-Date-Almond Frostilicious
Serves 1

1 frozen banana
4-5 dates, pitted
small handful of almonds
water

Chop the frozen banana into a few pieces. Toss it in the blender with the pitted dates, almonds, and enough water to cover. Blend until smooth.

Chia Power

Chances are if I say the
word "chia
" to yo
u, it con
jures up this image:


Amazingly, it turns out that this same little seed that gave us not only the Chia Pet, but also the Chia Mr. T, Chia Britney and Chia Obama - I know, quite a miracle seed! - is also a serious nutritional powerhouse. But why eat something that you can grow into a decorative piece of greenery? Here's a few reasons:

1. It's a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids (including the famous omega-3 and omega-6) that our body needs to survive but can't produce itself. There are very few plant foods that fall into this category, so it's a fantastic food for vegans or anyone looking to decrease their meat and dairy intake - or just anyone looking for low-cal, high-energy protein source. Chia has been reported to contain twice as much protein as any other seed or grain.

2. It has more iron than spinach! Again, great for those who don't go to red meat for iron.

3. Chia is really high in those good old antioxidants, which we know help fight free radicals and keep our lovely cells stable and cancer-free. It is reported to have three times more antioxidants than blueberries! Further, all those antioxidants help keep chia really stable at room temperature, and can be stored in the cupboard for years without going rancid (unlike flax and many other seeds and nuts).

4. It contains way more calcium than milk (and none of the dubious hormones found in conventional dairy). Don't get me started on the dairy = calcium myth! Let's suffice it to say, it's a big industry with a powerful lobby and a long, strong history. Getting calcium from chia is a much better choice for many reasons. For starters, it also contains the trace mineral boron that helps our bones absorb calcium.

5. Chia has more potassium than bananas. Mix these two together in a smoothie and you'll be cramp-invincible!

6. It slows the release of sugars into the bloodstream, helping to prevent energy spikes. Great for diabetics or anyone, really. Add some chia into your sweet foods or drinks, and the chia creates a barrier between the carbs and the enzymes that digest them. It also means your carbohydrate energy becomes longer lasting, so you feel stronger for longer.

7. As above, because chia slows the release of carbs, it seems to be a great exercise food. If I eat chia and go running or practice yoga later that day my endurance and strength seem to be increased. Perhaps this is also due to chia's water absorption capacity, which keeps the body hydrated and full of electrolytes during exercise. In Mayan tradition, chia was eaten by runners carrying messages over far distances - they always had a little pouch of this "running food" with them.

8. Chia is great at cleaning out your intestinal tract. It acts like a little broom, sweeping into those out-of-the-way corners and removing accumulated waste (yuck, I know, but so much better to get it out of there!).

Chia is one of my favorite superfoods because it is not only packed with nutrition and a source of endless energy, but it is also incredibly versatile in terms of culinary creativity. Here's what the little salvia hispanica seeds look like when dry:


And here's what they look like when soaked in water:


They go all gell-y when soaked and can absorb up to 10 times their volume in water (or juice, or any other liquid). Chia doesn't have much flavor of its own but has a kind of tapioca-like texture, which makes it great to use in recipes. I especially like to create all kinds of puddings using chia as the base, or add the gell to smoothies or juices for some extra slow-release energy.

Black Sesame Chia Pudding

Chia Pudding, Three Ways
Serves 4 for a light breakfast or dessert, or 2 for a hearty breakfast

Basic Recipe
5 Tbsp chia seeds
2 cups almond milk*
1-2 Tbsp raw honey, agave or maple syrup (adjust to taste - sweetness is a very personal thing!)

For Middle Eastern Chia Pudding
1 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Add the vanilla, rosewater and cardamom to the basic recipe. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Stir again. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with cinnamon.

For Vanilla and Nectarine Chia Pudding
4 nectarines
2 Tbsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
1/2 vanilla pod

Cut nectarines in half and remove the stone. Drizzle with sweetener and place, cut side up, on dehydrator screens. Dehydrate for at least 4 hours, or overnight if eating for breakfast.

Scrape the seeds from the 1/2 vanilla pod and add to basic recipe. Stir well and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with 2 nectarine halves each.

Variation: Omit the nectarines. Mascerate 1 cup of berries in orange juice to cover for 1 hour. Spoon on top of pudding to serve.

For Black Sesame Chia Pudding
1/2 cup +1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
2 cups water
1/4 cup dried coconut

Omit the almond milk from the basic recipe. Instead, grind the black sesame seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Blend the ground seeds with the water in a blender. Add the black sesame milk to the chia seeds and sweetener. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, mix through the dried coconut. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and a dusting of dried coconut.

As you can see, chia is highly adaptable. For more sweet chia inspiration check out:
Chia can also be added to savory recipes. Carmella's (of The Sunny Raw Kitchen fame) Chia House Dressing is so beautiful, and it has inspired me to being adding chia to all of my favorite salad dressing recipes to thicken them without adding more oil. I recently created the following adaptation and served it tossed through a salad of raw rocket, zucchini and red onion mixed with cooked millet.


Sweet Sunny Chia Coriander Dressing
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tsp himalayan salt
1/4 cup (packed) coriander/cilantro leaves
1 cup water

Place everything into the blender and blend away. Mmmmmm. This would also be lovely over sweet potatoes, or any salad really.

Chia are really one of most versatile, remarkable and nutritious foods I've ever come across. I eat the slippery seeds nearly every day, and I suggest you give them a try. And if by some off chance they don't do it for you, you can always use them to do this:

"I pity the fool who don't like chia"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Superfoods for Super People

"The Beginnings of Green" by Alan Jaras

You and I are beams of light, shooting stars, balls of glowing vibrational energy.

And to burn our very brightest, let's add some super fuel to that internal fire, and see what kind of creativity comes glistening, gleaming, shining through!

We can eat anything to get "full" - to satisfy that pure animal appetite that is a grumbly tummy. But what are we getting full of? I want to be full of the materials that make me my best light-self; full of joy, full of love, full of boundless energy and creative impulse. Those materials come to me through plants, which have kindly synthesized nutrients from the earth, the sky and the water in delectably digestible morsels. Their life-force, ingested, adding to my own - imagine the possibilities!

Beyond the beautiful plant foods, there is another class of foods that are exceptionally high in essential nutrients. These are the superfoods, which nutritional visionary David Wolfe describes as straddling the categories of both food and medicine. These foods are among the most nutritionally dense and healing substances on the planet. When we eat them, we not only boost our bodies with vitamins and minerals, we also take on an extremely high level of vibrational energy. You only have to eat a little bit of these foods to feel the spirit of these plants awaken within you.


If you're among the superfood skeptics, bear with me a moment. I'm not talking fads here, I'm talking about foods that have been used medicinally for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Our contemporary knowledge of the superfoods often comes out of ancient traditions who recognized their power. Take the goji berry, for instance. Chances are if you're reading this, you've not living under a rock and you've seen the ubiquitous goji berry, or its concentrated powder or juice, at your local health food shop. This tart little ruddy guy is so much more than the latest thing in health foods - it has been celebrated within Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as a powerful longevity-booster, a claim which contemporary scientific study corroborates. It belongs to a class of foods known as adaptogens - substances that, by working on the body in several therapeutic ways, increase overall health. Gojis support the adrenal glands, helping the body deal with stress, while also strengthening the immune system, creating alkalinity, and directly supporting the liver, eyes and blood. On a nutritional level, gojis are a complete protein source, chock full of all the essential amino acids, as well as a range of trace minerals and a host of vitamins. They are also rich in anti-oxidants.

Other superfoods that I know (intimately) and love (deeply) include cacao, spirulina, maca, honey, bee pollen, hemp seeds, coconut, acai berries, sea vegetables, chia seeds and aloe vera, among others. I find these foods so much fun to incorporate into my recipes, and they make me feel AMAZING. Keep an eye out for my superfoods series, in which I discuss different superfoods in depth and explore their potential culinary uses.

The one caveat I would add about superfoods is that while they may be helpful in treating illness, and there are certainly cases where they have contributed to profound healing, they are at their most effective when consumed regularly in order to support ongoing health, longevity and vibrancy. This doesn't mean swallowing tablets or capsules! Superfood ingredients are more and more readily available in health and natural food stores or through the internet, and they are incredibly fun to play with across a range of recipes.

You might just find that the more superfoods you get into your body, the more inspired you feel to create new recipes with them. Go with it!

What are your favorite superfood recipes - what do you eat that really gets you glowing?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coconut Lucuma Cake with Mango and Coconut Vanilla Creme Swirl



I've been having fun creating superfood recipes lately, and this one was inspired by a box of ripe mangoes and a dinner party invite. Almonds, coconut, lucuma, honey, mango, banana, macadamias, vanilla - this cake is more chock-full of nutrients than most people's meals. Protein and mineral rich almonds, immune-system and weight-balancing coconut, vitamin-C packed lucuma and mango, enzyme-rich raw honey, and much more.

All that goodness and three delicious, complex textures and flavors to tantalize the taste buds to boot! The bottom layer is a dense, cakey coconut lucuma extravaganza, topped with smooth mango puree swirled with a beautiful coconut macadamia vanilla creme. This is why raw desserts are amazing. Every bite is packed with yumminess and vitality.

Coconut Lucuma Cake with Mango and Coconut Vanilla Crème Swirl

Cake Layer:
1 cup almonds, ground to powder
1 cup dried coconut, ground to powder
½ cup lucuma powder
6 dried apricots
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp water

Mango Puree:
4 cups fresh diced mango (2 large)
2 dried bananas
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Coconut Vanilla Crème:
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup Thai young coconut meat (1 large)
½-1 cup young coconut water or plain water
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp coconut oil


Method:

Grind the almonds to a powder in a coffee grinder or high powered blender. Set aside. Grind dried coconut to a powder using the same method. Combine the almond, coconut and lucuma powders in a food processor and add apricots, honey, coconut oil and water as needed. Whir until combined. Press into a springform cake pan and place in the refrigerator.

Combine mango, dried bananas and coconut oil in food processor or high powered blender and whir until completely smooth. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Rinse your food processor or blender, then combine coconut vanilla creme ingredients and whir until smooth. Add more coconut water or water as needed to achieve a very smooth, creamy consistency.

Spread the mango puree over the cake layer. Then make little wells and add the creme a little bit at a time until it is well distributed. Using a chopstick, swirl the mango and creme together. Place the entire cake in the freezer to set for about an hour, then remove to the refrigerator. Serve chilled and eat within 4 days.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FUNctional Food

Check out this cake!



I've been thinking for a while about what I'd like to call the Fun Principle. So often this whole raw-health-nutrition scene gets so serious. And yeah, on one level it IS incredibly serious. We've talking about our health here, and as the old saying goes, what have we got if we haven't got our health? So eating the optimal diet is most definitely a worthy goal that ought to be among our highest priorities.

But at the same time, we have to lighten up. I don't necessarily mean by compromising and eating less healthy foods, though there are times when that might be a worthy decision if it supports your social life and lessens stress - but that's not what I'm talking about right now. What I'm talking about is looking at food from the pleasure angle. The Yum Factor. The joyful, blissful, pure enjoyment of really amazing food that makes us feel great and buzz with happiness. The kind of food that makes us want to shout because it tastes so good and is so freakin' full of nutrition you can feel your cells dancing. This is happy food! And it ought to be celebrated.

Hence the celebratory cake above. This is Hi-Cake: full of raw cacao, lucuma and nuts, and topped with a rich raw chocolaty icing made of avocado! I made this cake in honor of my brother, Alex, traveling almost as far as one can possibly go around this little earth of ours to visit me in Australia. After spending 30 hours in transit, doesn't he deserve a joyful cake? I thought so. And what is more joyful than chocolate cake - what, that is, other than raw chocolate cake full of bliss chemicals and heaps of vitamins and minerals.

The recipe comes from one of my heroes: Kate Magic Wood. Her middle name is Magic! How cool is that? Kate is a super raw foods educator, writer and entrepreneur who lives in the UK and operates the funky website Raw Living. But it's not just her passion for raw and superfoods that I dig about Kate. It's her holistic view of things. The way she really gets that the whole point behind this whole nutrition thing is to allow people to fully realize themselves and reach their highest potential, and to provide a basis for the flowering of humanity - the real revolution. And her website is pink and purple - I dig that too. Her superfood recipes are so innovative and have such a sense of FUN flowing right off the page. If only I were in the UK to try some of her food. For now I will have to settle for deriving creative inspiration - like this amazing cake. I added the goji berry spirals because they just seemed to be in the spirit of Kate! I also subbed cashews for brazil nuts and used honey instead of agave - about half as much as called for. Divine.

Look, nutrition is a serious matter. But at the same time it's a laughing matter! Because joy is the true path to vibrant physical, mental and emotional health. So here's to utmost nutrition, unspeakable pleasure, and true creativity, which ultimately are all one and the same. Talk about having our cake and eating it too!

Hi-Cake

by Kate Wood

(published at Raw Living)

Time needed: 30 mins, 3 hours setting time
Equipment needed: blender
Makes 8 large slices

By popular demand, here is a raw chocolate cake recipe for you, so you can see what all the fuss is about. These cakes are so nutrient-dense, one slice is a meal in itself, packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats. Easy to make, and even easier to eat! Remember the Hi-bar? The first raw chocolate bar to be sold in the UK (and beyond!), made with cacao nibs and brazil nuts, this is the Hi-bar in a Cake.

Cake:

  • 250 g cacao nibs
  • 250 g brazil nuts
  • 250 g lucuma
  • 6 tbsp agave nectar
  • 150 ml water

Icing:

  • 2 avocadoes
  • 30 g raw chocolate powder
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 60 ml water

Decoration:

  • 2 tbsp goji berries
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries

Grind up the nibs and nuts separately in a high power blender or coffee grinder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the lucuma and agave. With your hands, mix the all the ingredients so you have an even powder. Add the water gradually, kneading the mixture into a ball with your hands. It should end up as a fairly thick dough-like consistency. Press into a springform cake tin, and leave in the fridge to set for a few hours.

To make the icing, put the avocado flesh in the blender along with the chocolate powder, agave and water. If you haven't got chocolate powder, you can substitute carob or mesquite. Blend until you have a thick cream. Once your cake is set, you can remove it from the cake tin, and spoon the icing evenly over the top and the sides. Decorate with dried goji berries and cranberries sprinkled over the top. Uneaten cake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Romance

I've been having a clandestine affair with spirulina. Just look at those curvy spirals! How could a curly-girl like me resist?



I thought the secret was safe from my long-time superfood lover, cacao, until I returned home from the office with a telltale smear of green on my cheek. Luckily cacao is a generous lover - she's okay with my girl-on-the-side green goddess. So now I'm dosing my body and my tastebuds with both of these phenomenal food-medicines, and life is just one big dance of ecstatic pleasure. Who would have thought that algae could be so racy!

Look, I'm not letting cacao go. I'm still drooling over her gorgeously bitter flavor, her delectable rich oils, her tantalizing way of potentiating other superfood partners. I'm blissing out on her feel-good chemicals: her love-inducing phenylethylamine, chill-creating anandaminde, brain-balancing tryptophan and serotonin, and satisfyingly stimulating theobromine. And as a woman, I appreciate the way her massive dose of magnesium soothes my sensitive soul.

But I'm just not a one-superfood kinda gal. And green is my favorite color. So spiraly spirulina is my new lover, superfood extraordinaire. The number one reason I've fallen for her is an absolutely amazing protein content - we're talking over 65%, which blows animal products out of the water. Not to mention this is a slaughter-free way of getting my protein, and is much more absorbable by my body. So don't ask me again where I get my protein! Or my iron, for that matter. Spirulina gives me super-power energy, balances my brain chemistry, and innundates me with antioxidants, and then some. If that's not sexy, I don't know what is.

This little firecracker is not just for adding to green smoothies or juices anymore, either. I'm eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I got a little inspiration from the fabulous video here: Courtney Pool of Tree of Life talking Spirulina Salad on Tim VanOrden's Raw Running Project.



Spirulina salad! Who knew? I've been making awesome green cacao yummies for my darling for a while now, and sneaking teaspoons of the stuff into my own smoothies and juices, but on salad? Whoa now. Green on green. That's madness.

Luckily I adore madness! So I gave it a try. Yeah, it's freakin' good. So good that I've been eating it at least once a day every since. I even had a simple spirulina salad with chard, sesame oil and himalayan salt for breakfast one morning instead of my usual green juice! And I've discovered an even better variation: adding some maca. Wow. The possibilites are endless. Here's my favorite recipe so far:

Maca-Spirulina Salad


Big bowl of iceberg/cos/romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size bits
Good drizzle of Olive Oil
Good sprinkle of Himalayan salt
Big heaped Tbsp Spirulina
Big heapted Tsp Maca
1/2 Avocado, cut into small chunks
1 small tomato, diced

Mix it all up and enjoy the salty/sweet/creamy/tangy/umami/refreshing pure joy.

And yes, just like Courtney says, your teeth get all green and you get a lovely little green moustache. A bit dangerous to eat on my lunch break at the office, but they all know me as health freak girl anyway! Which they don't mind, because I bring in lots of treats that they all agree taste way better than the usual lollies and baked goods, and they love the way these foods make them feel.

But raw superfood desserts are an easy sell. You're just going to have trust me (and gorgeous Courtney) on the spirulina salad. Go try it. Right now. Life will never be the same.

Just make sure to thoroughly wipe your face after - or risk your new romance being discovered.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Gastro Gnome on the Road



I'm venturing out of my gnome-home and taking my superfoods with me.

For those of you based in Victoria or South Australia, come visit me in action at three fantastic events over the next month:



This coming Sunday, November 1, I'll be representing Living Raw Magazine at World Vegan Day at the Abbotsford Convent. I'll also have Raw Life! chocolate bars for sale, made with love (and raw cacao!) by the amazing Paulina. Some of my favorite local raw/vegan enterprises will be there too - Loving Earth, le cru, the Melbourne Raw Food Meet-up Group, Helena's Living Foods, Vegan Revolution, Radical Grocery and more. Oh and make sure you stop by Thoran's Raw Lounge. It's all happening!

The following weekend, November 6-9, I'll be at the Entheogenesis Australis Conference in Swanpool, Victoria. This is a group very close to my heart, and the weekend is guaranteed to be paradigm-shifting. In fact it was at this very conference two years ago that I first discovered the magic of raw and living foods, thanks to Sufiyo, Luke and Stil. There will be an incredibly talented range of speakers and workshops all focused around different ideas of evolving consciousness and the human relationship with plants.



Gastro Gnome Superfoods will be sharing a market stall with the talented artistic folks from Izwoz. There will be lots of cacao consumed, so please excuse us in advance for extreme silliness. Better yet, try some superfood yummies and join in the joy. I've got five fabulous flavours on their way, all packed with super natural goodness: Honey Lucuma Apricot, Green Cacao, Maca Cacao Crunch, Orange Goji Mesquite, and Cacao Spice.



The last weekend in November Gastro Gnome Superfoods will make another appearance at the Circuitree Reconnect Festival in Robertstown, South Australia. Granted, it's in the middle of nowhere, but hey, so is Burning Man! And these guys put on a great party. Not to mention some booty-groovin' music, including an appearance by Bleep (Jayson!).

See ya out there in the universe!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spring Delights, and the Brilliance of the English Language

Isn't it funny how many idioms in the English language have something to do with food? I suppose this linguistic phenomenon exists because food is such a central aspect of our lives. Not only do we, as animals, need to eat frequently to obtain the nutrients that we require for survival, but we, as humans, need to assign value to our foodstuffs and apply our creativity to nature's produce. So here and there, food words have crept into our daily speak. People, objects and events are "worth their salt," "sweet as honey," or "the spice of life." An unpleasant experience "leaves a bitter taste," and gossip girls "share the juicy details." We've got projects "on the back burner," and, hopefully, clients "eating out the palm of our hands."

It's with the utmost appreciation of the possibility for irony that the quirks of the English language provide that I venture to share with you "what's cooking" in my raw kitchen.

First of Spring Asparagus with Pink Pasta and Pesto



When the first asparagus of spring appeared at the farmer's market, I nearly did a dance of joy right there among the roaming chickens and beautiful hippie children. What I actually did was snatch up a bunch of the slender stalks and danced a mental jig. I brought the beautiful babies home and did absolutely nothing to them - they were just too perfect and sweet and crunchy to adulterate in any way. I took some inspiration from Raw Chef Russell James' gorgeous Purple Pasta and topped them with some zucchini fettucine dyed with beetroot juice and a great big mound of ad-hoc pesto, consisting of just about everything green I could find in my garden mixed with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, himalayan salt and nutritional yeast. The dish was not only beautiful, but also really fresh and comforting at the same time, and pretty easy to whip up.

Primavera Celebration




Also known as This is Totally Not Lasagne. I have a real problem with calling this raw dish lasagne, even though clearly some the inspiration comes from the baked pasta classic. But come on, what do layers of zucchini, fresh tomatoes, living marinara, nut cheeze, and vibrant pesto have to with the stodgy casserole? I don't want to serve this dish and have my guests expect lasagne, and I don't want you to anticipate any similarity except in structure. This is a rich raw dish, but it's a celebration of fresh spring vegetables, not layers of starchy noodles and cheese and meat cooked into oblivion (no offense to lasagne - I used to love you). I made this dish because juicy, local tomatoes are finally back, as are the first of spring's local zucchinis. And because I had brazil nut pulp left over from making the most creamy, amazing nut mylk to pour over my grawnola.

Middle Eastern Salad




Sometimes the best inventions just kind of happen. Yesterday was one of the first long, warm, sunny afternoons, the kind that really feel like summer. After taking the dogs to the park, I just really felt like bright, sunny Mediterranean flavors, and this dish seemed to create itself from there. The base is chopped beetroot leaves, but I've added almost as much fresh coriander (cilantro), lots of chopped tomato and cucumber, some grated beetroot, fresh spring onions, and a fantastic mix of ground brazil nuts with cumin, coriander, turmeric and tamari, all dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The garnish is the eggplant bacon recipe from Matthew Kenney's book Everyday Raw. I could eat this all summer long.

Quinoa Sprouts




Not too much to explain here! It turns out that quinoa is incredibly easy to sprout. I followed a really basic method - soaked the grains overnight, then left them suspended in a fine-mesh collander for a couple of days, rinsing twice daily. By the third day they had these lovely tails and I stored them in the refrigerator, where they kept for about a week (I'd eaten them all by then). I ate them in just about every salad I had during this time, and they were delicious.

Sauerkraut




This is perhaps my best discovery in ages. A head of cabbage costs less than AUD$4, and it makes two big jars of sauerkraut that last for ages. It takes about ten minutes to make, and all it requires is salt and caraway seeds. Furthermore, it's fantastic for encouraging healthy bacteria to flourish in the gut and really improves the ecology of the body. My inspiration came from watching Donna Gates on the Renegade Health Show - though I haven't tried her method yet. The technique I used here is simple: finely chop a head of cabbage, massage in two tablespoons of himalayan salt and one teaspoon of caraway seeds until the cabbage releases a great deal of moisture (about 2 minutes), and then pack it all tightly into jars. I then left it to ferment for about a week, after which I stored the living sauerkraut in the refrigerator. Jayson says it tastes like the real thing, and he's half Aussie German! Oh yeah, it's pink because I added in a little bit of purple cabbage that I had left over, and it colored the whole batch. Amazing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

le cru: Creating a Better Way



This article appears in Issue 3 Winter 2009 of Living Raw Magazine, on sale now at select stockists and online.

In opening le cru, Melbourne's first raw restaurant, Carolyn Trewin's inspiration didn't come from the exploding raw scene in Australia.

When I pointed out that the interest in raw foods in our corner of the world has grown astronomically over the past few years, she did agree that perhaps the timing of her restaurant’s birth was auspicious. But she’s not the type of person to be motivated by trends. Rather, she follows her subconscious instincts on her quest to create a healthier society.

At the heart of the le cru project is Carolyn’s belief that vibrant health is achievable, but not through the channels that mainstream western medicine have provided us. She is a questioner; she wants to know why doctors receive one semester of nutrition at best while every supermarket in Australia contains multiple aisles of refined, heated products and carbonated water that induce ill health. “There’s got to be a better way,” she states emphatically.

I know she’s right, because I’m sitting in the middle of it. The restaurant, the physical manifestation of Carolyn's vision, occupies a beautiful space. It is lovingly furnished with warm wooden chairs and tables, tapestries and metal objects that create an opulent eastern vibe. Everything seems to have been carefully selected to create an aura of calm, a peaceful oasis from the dizzying Melbourne dining scene. Yet there’s a buzz in the air that reminds me that I’m in a restaurant, and I’m excited. I peruse a menu full of dishes that not only sound appealing, but are created out of nourishing, plant-based, living ingredients. I want to try everything.



But it’s only 10:30 a.m., so I forgo the rest of the menu (for now) for chef Nush’s offering of tiramisu and a cup of lukewarm brazil nut milk coffee and retreat with Carolyn to her upstairs office. As I settle myself into a deep armchair, pondering how to simultaneously take notes and enjoy my generous gourmet breakfast, Carolyn transitions from the flurry of morning preparations – getting change, taking bookings, cleaning, consulting with the kitchen – into a more pensive mode. She’s flipping through the first issue of Living Raw curiously.

“Training tips for raw vegans,” she muses aloud. “Why doesn’t it say anything about humility?” Carolyn’s question about vegan morality disarms me, as a vegan inclination is often taken for granted among raw enthusiasts. Turns out, she’s become more than a little wary of the term. In fact she wonders why some vegans flaunt their veganism like it’s a medal of honour.

“I dislike the word ‘vegan’,” Carolyn laments, describing a run in with a couple of haughty customers who short changed their account, another who complained that her budget had been blown, and yet another who trashed the restaurant with incorrect facts on an online message board. It’s a common problem for a young restaurant – attracting a clientele that understands what the establishment is about and embraces it joyfully. The difficulty for le cru is even more pronounced because there is a certain eagerness among the vegan and raw populations to adopt the place as their own, yet expectations for what a raw vegan restaurant ought to be vary widely.

Melbourne has a trend towards vegetarian restaurants that offer large portions at cheap prices but le cru is more on the casual fine dining end of the scale. Dishes are moderately portioned, and prices reflect organic ingredients and the labour intensive preparations that gourmet raw food entails. Furthermore, not all dishes are vegan as the restaurant uses honey in many recipes, which has caused a stir among some potential customers. But le cru stands by their decision to include honey, citing its health benefits and noting that all of the restaurants at which Carolyn and Nush trained in America (including Pure Food and Wine, Quintessence, and Café Gratitude) also use honey. They strive to keep their prices accessible despite demanding the very best organic and local ingredients.

Le cru certainly strives to be all embracing, and sees itself as a space to include everybody. They’re not about labelling people or lifestlyle; rather, the intention is to create a space for healing that brings wellness to the community. For these reasons, they deliberately reject the “vegan” moniker and opt for the all-inclusive “plant-based” title instead. It’s a viewpoint that focuses on the bounty of nourishing ingredients available rather than defining itself by what it excludes – a rather uplifting and liberating way of thinking about a high-raw lifestyle.

Carolyn is sure that embracing such a positive mode of thinking is the basis of health, happiness and success. She draws upon lessons learned from a background in psychology in asserting that the brain is our most powerful tool, and keeping this tool in working order requires clean fuel: “A clean body leads to a clean brain, which provides clear answers.”

This is the basic idea around which Carolyn bases her detox and nutrition programs, and what led her to explore a raw foods path in the first place. It’s a story that began with her initial diagnosis of breast cancer in 1994 and has been a complete journey since.

A recurring tumor in 1998 followed by extremely painful metastatic cancer in her ribs led her to “have a chat with her higher being.” At that point she had two young adopted daughters who had already lost their first mother, and Carolyn couldn’t see any reason that they ought to lose a second. “I had a job to do,” she explains earnestly, “and I hadn’t completed it.” From this experience she learned that she had to take not only her health, but her life, her very existence, into her own hands.

Since then she’s adamantly insisted against the contemporary inclination to hand over one’s entire being to a doctor. She doesn’t understand why the modern medical profession effectively hands out death sentences, and encourages people to instead decide for themselves whether or not they feel as though they will live or die.

In working with others on healing and detoxification, Carolyn strives to provide another mental picture – the option of choosing life. She has helped several people clear themselves of cancer, and another to lose 30 kilograms and rid himself of diabetes. Her technique? Detoxification through alkaline water, foods and green smoothies, for a start.

She teaches her clients to remove the acidity from their bodies, thereby changing their physical terrain to make it unsupportive of disease. She derides the fact that western doctors are provided with one semester of nutrition at most, yet at the same time echoes the disclaimer that spouts from the lips of so many raw food educators that she’s not a doctor. She doesn’t want her clients placing their lives in her hands any more than they’d sign themselves over to a doctor. Rather, she insists that each person’s health is up to him or herself, and what she strives to offer is education and support for each journey.

For local Melbournians seeking such support, le cru’s Tuesday night programs offer a great starting point. In May they offered a series of detoxification and nutrition classes, and in June followed up with a number of workshops focusing on raw food preparation. They have also hosted evenings featuring Scott Fry’s Loving Earth chocolate, Jemma Gawned’s Naked mineral makeup, organic food and wine matching, authors and other local enterprises that they see as being in line with their principles. Setting aside Tuesday evenings to focus on education and community support is telling about the intentions of the le cru team.



One of these intentions is, of course, to share a passion for food. That passion is embodied in the bundle of energy, creativity, generosity and hard work that is chef Nush. In my interactions with her, I’ve gotten the impression that she is so obviously meant to be a chef. She has a way of owning the kitchen, which I’ve rarely seen her leave unless it’s to check on her customers to make sure they’re enjoying their meal, or to offer a little nourishing treat to hungry visitors.

Carolyn has clearly passed on a nurturing instinct to her daughter, through it’s fascinating to see how differently they express it. With Nush, that innate quality that makes a chef a chef shines through constantly. An appreciation for good food can be traced to her childhood, when she and Carolyn would cook together. But as Carolyn says, this was simply family bonding – she had no idea that she was grooming a young chef. Yet clearly something about food – and even more, about her mother’s experiences with raw food – sparked her attention. She trained in the culinary arts and worked as a pastry chef before embarking on raw food preparation skills. She went to New York to study with Dr. David Jubb, then travelled around the US with Carolyn observing the way that different raw restaurants operate.

The resulting restaurant is a true collaboration between mother and daughter. While Carolyn manages the front of house, accounts and events, Nush’s domain is the kitchen. Carolyn tells me that Nush spends at least twelve hours a day in the kitchen; my impression that she rarely leaves turns out be grounded in reality. Carolyn and Nush work on menu development together, creating daily specials and updating menus to reflect seasonality and ongoing inspiration. They’ve recently added warming soups, dehydrator-heated items, and heartier dishes such as an apple crumble and an essene bread to reflect the desires of customers through the winter months. They constantly seek out opportunities to further their knowledge and spark their creativity, such as working with chef Felix Schoener during his recent visit to Australia.

Ultimately the message that le cru sends out is that there is an alternative to sickness, and that is vibrant well-being. There is an alternative to food-as-commodity, and that is food as physical and spiritual nourishment. There is an alternative to business as either large commercial enterprise or struggling independent endeavours and that is a community created through a supportive network of like-minded people.

By embracing ideals of gratitude and generosity and placing them at the heart of le cru’s operations, Carolyn, Nush and the rest of the team embody the “better sharing and caring way” that they envision.


le cru restaurant
137 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park, VIC 3206

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cosmic Carrot Lemon Cheesecake with Red Raspberry Sauce



I’ve got a bit of a bakery habit. While I rarely feel any pull to actually buy one of the gorgeous cakes – I know that despite their lovely appearances, they’re made of low-energy, dead food products like white flour, sugar and butter – I really love to ogle them. I admire the artistry that is patisserie. In fact I know that many of the master bakers out there, while they may differ with me on matters of diet, hold the same core philosophy close to their hearts: namely, using the best quality ingredients and preparing their little delicacies with the utmost attention to detail. Ultimately, it comes back to that old hang-up of mine: integrity.

Look, I’m not trying to argue the merits of pastry. No matter if your baker is using the finest flour and organic butter imported from France. That croissant is still nutritionally dead. Despite its beauty, it’s not doing anything to make you a glowing diva radiating an aura of earthly energy. I’m just giving credit where credit is due: to the creativity and artistry of the patissiere.

My latest addiction is a little cake shop on Little Collins Street in Melbourne. They make the most delicate, gorgeously petit cakes – miniature versions of French classics with contemporary twists. One that I’ve really admired lately is the “cosmopolitan:” a layer of carrot cake, a layer of cheesecake, and a topping of raspberry jam. I just had to have a go at rawifying it.
I’ll be the first to admit that mine didn’t come out nearly as pretty as the delicacies on display at Le Petit Gateaux. Then again, I haven’t been disciplined under the exacting eye of a French patissiere! So I’ll give myself a break in terms of design, and suffice it to say that the flavors are HOT. Sweet, spicy carrot cake, given a depth of flavour with the additional superfood boost of mesquite meal, layered with lemony cashew cheesecake and tied together with the sweet-tart, lip smacking sensuality of raspberry-honey sauce. This is a super-powered cake. Carrots, coconut, mesquite, cashews, lemons (from my lemon tree!), dates, berries, honey – this cake is seriously nutritious. Yup, my cake packs more vitamins than most people’s so called “healthy” meals, but don’t eat it for that reason. Eat it because it’s delicious, it makes you feel great, and because there’s absolutely no reason that every single bite you put into your mouth shouldn’t satisfy on every level.

Cosmic Carrot Lemon Cheesecake with Red Raspberry Sauce


Crust

1 cup dried coconut
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup dates
pinch himalayan salt

Carrot Cake Layer

3 1/3 cups finely grated carrot
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups medjoool dates (pitted)
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut
2/3 cup mesquite meal
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Cheesecake Layer

2 cups cashews
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 small vanilla bean
water, as needed

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
2 Tbsp honey, softened

For the crust: Grind macadamias and coconut in food processor. Add dates. Press into the bottom of a cake pan.

For the carrot cake layer: Squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the shredded carrots. Grind the sunflower seeds to a powder in the food processor. Add dates and process to combine. Add shredded coconut, mesquite meal, nutmeg and cinnamon, and pulse a few times. Add carrots and process until combined, leaving some texture.

Press half (or all, of you prefer 2 layers) of the carrot cake mixture on top of the crust, and place the cake in the freezer to set a bit while preparing the next layer.

For the lemon cheesecake layer: If honey and coconut oil are firm, melt over a double boiler. Combine cashews, lemon juice, melted honey and coconut oil and vanilla bean in food processor or high powered blender and whir until smooth, adding water slowly as needed (up to 1/2 cup).

Smooth half of the cheesecake mixture over the carrot cake layer. Place in freezer for 10 minutes to solidify, then top with the remaining carrot cake mixture. Again, freeze to solidify, then top with remaining cheesecake mixture.

Will keep frozen for a few weeks, about 1 week in the refrigerator.

Make sauce just before serving: Soften honey over a double boiler, then combine with raspberries and mash with a fork. Drizzle over each serving of cake.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekly Wine: Spring Seed Wine Co. Four O'Clock Chardonnay



A wise man once told me, when in doubt about which wine to choose, pick the one with the coolest label. I swear that's not what led me to choose an offering from the Spring Seed Wine Company as the first Weekly Wine feature, but I just can't begin this discussion without drawing attention to the absolutely beautiful bottle. Each wine features artwork from vintage seed packets - my 2008 Four O'Clock Chardonnay has a painstakingly detailed illustration of sunflowers doing their worshipful thing. The label indicates an attention to detail and appreciation for the slower way things used to be done, so before I've even taken a sip I'm partial to the drop.


Empty bottle of chardy, keeping company with my leeks.

It's made by the Bosworth family in McLaren Vale, South Australia, from certified organic, estate-grown grapes from low-yield vineyards. They are into traditional, minimalist winemaking, and, according to their website, aim to "ensure the purity, integrity and flavour of our vineyard" in their wines. Purity, integrity, and flavor: what more can one ask for in a wine? The winemaking techniques are pretty cool too: they picked the grapes in six batches over ten days, then fermented each batch separately to create complex flavors. After the ferment they left the wines on solids to protect against oxidation to decrease the amount of preservative needed. Cool fermentation temperature and the avoidance of malolactic fermentation retain the delicate chardonnay flavors and acidity. The results?

I'm not a wine expert, just an enthusiastic punter, so I'll describe what I tasted in my own language. A big, sweet opening - incredibly floral, a touch of stone fruit, a hint of citrus - but pretty short length giving way to a crisp, acidic finish. A strong mineral profile which clearly suggests to me a taste of the soil, a true sense of terroir. It's unoaked, but still maintains a pretty strong structure, with a touch of a vanilla aftertaste.

I knocked back a couple of glasses with my girl Kristina during a collaborate dinner making session. We munched on some crudites with two beautiful dips that I made using a recipe from The Kitchen Dispensary - beetroot and zucchini/avocado. The wine was well suited to the light, bright, clean flavors of Kelly's recipes, and went down pretty easily as we danced about the kitchen creating and nibbling. Suffice it to say Kristina and I finished the bottle.

Kelly's dips:

Zucchini & Avocado Dip

1 Large Zucchini

1 Medium Avocado

1 Tsp Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

1 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Tumeric

1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 Large Clove Garlic

Chop up the zucchini, avocado and garlic into smaller pieces.
Add with the remaining ingredients to your food processor or high speed blender and blend until smooth.
You can add a little water if the dip seems too thick.

Beetroot Dip

1 large beetroot

20 soaked brazil nuts

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 Large Clove Garlic

1 Tsp Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt

Chop up the beetroot and garlic into smaller pieces.
Add with the remaining ingredients to your food processor or high speed blender and blend until smooth.
You can add a little water if the dip seems too thick.

Both of these dips should keep for a week in an airtight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Introducing Weekly Wine @ Raw Gastronomy

I've been harboring a dilemma for a while now. Here it goes:

I love a good drop.

But I hate a hangover.

Obviously not drinking in excess is one key factor that leaves no room for debate. But what about the comforting embrace of a glass of merlot on a Friday evening, the first sip instantly melting the tedium of the (office) work week through its magical spell of round, robust fruity goodness. Or an evening shared with friends, sipping cabernet and swapping life stories over a meal made with love. Or a lazy warm afternoon, passing the hours between beach frolicking and a late summer supper with a glass of mineraly riesling and a plate of juicy summer tomatoes. As a gastronome, these are intense pleasures for me.

On the other hand, I am deeply concerned about health on every level - my body's health, my mental health, and the health of the environment in which I live (which are all, ultimately, the same thing). Over the past few years as I've journied down the path of nutritious eating, I've become increasingly convinced that everything that I put into my body has a profound impact on the way I feel. And I want to feel great, all the time! If I'm going to enjoy a drink or two tonight, I still want to wake up feeling great and energetic tomorrow morning. So therein lies the great question: is it possible to enjoy alcohol (responsibly) without detriment to my overall well-being?

I've spent a bit of time researching this question, and the best solution I have so far is to keep my wine, like my food, as natural and local as possible. It seems kind of obvious: I wouldn't buy Woolworth's apples, tainted with unknown pesticides and preservatives and possibly sitting in cold storage for a year, no matter how cheap they were. So why would I buy an $8 bottle of Jacob's Creek made from high-yield, heavily sprayed, machine harvested, lesser quality grapes that have been pumped full or preservatives? But it's not obvious, because many people who eat really healthy food don't apply the same principles to their plonk. They think, "It's just alcohol, it's not good for me anyway, so I might as well buy the cheaper stuff, right?"

Wrong.

The truth is, a good organic/biodynamic/natural (and I'll get into the distinction soon) wine is good for you. First of all, it's raw, which is something that few other alcohols can claim. Beer is usually made from roasted malt, and spirits require heat for distillation. But wine, in its pure form, is a really natural product. Grapes, left to their own devices, will ferment into wine, provided some yeast is present (and it will be in a vineyard that isn't sprayed with chemicals that kill the majority of living things that cross its path). Which means that the resulting beverage is not only potentially tasty and pleasantly inebriating, but also full of beneficial bacteria, as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the grapes themselves. Look, I'm not arguing that you should drink wine to get your vitamins. I'm just pointing out that like any food product, wine can be as good for you as the ingredients from which it is made - even more so than many products because heat hasn't been introduced to degrade the nutrients.

Which is why if you're like me and get massive enjoyment out of a bottle, I seriously recommend you spend a bit more and go for the good stuff. There are a few options here, all of which I have been, um, researching with amazing results. First off, there's organic. In Australia, as in most countries today, "organic" means certified, which basically means no chemicals. Of course the fact that a wine is certified organic doesn't mean it's going to be any good (in fact, until a few years ago, it almost guaranteed that it wouldn't be, but that's changing). But it does mean that no chemicals have been used in the vineyard, though it doesn't guarantee a lack of preservatives or non-vegan fining agents (such as egg whites or isinglass). Most organic wines tend to use a far smaller quantity of preservatives, because they are using a higher quality fruit harvested and fermented with more care, so less spoilage is likely to occur. So going organic with you wine is a really good bet.

Then there's biodynamic, which again in Australia is a certificiation issue. This simply means that the grapes have been grown according to the principles of biodynamics, which encompasses organics but also includes a close attention paid to the rhythms of the planet, the seasons and the cosmos. In terms of the winemaking, there's not a huge distinction here from organic. But through conversations with both organic and biodynamic certified winemakers, I've found that most people who have taken the time to grow their grapes with these labor-intensive methods are also making the effort to mirror such natural practices in the winery in order to produce the most authentic wine possible.

Finally there's natural wine. This has nothing to do with certification and everything to do with integrity. And if you're read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I'm all about integrity when it comes to what I eat and drink. Drinking natural wine is sort of like buying your produce from the farmer's market. They may not be certified, but you've gotten to know them and you know that they are growing good quality food without chemicals and with the utmost respect for the land. Like organic and biodynamic, these grapes tend to be grown in a chemical-free environment and are always hand-harvested. Where natural wine most differs is in the winery. Strict adherents to the concept of natural wine shun preservatives, fining agents and pretty much any other intervention while the grapes are doing their fermentation thing. In terms of flavor, this is it - rustic, alive. Not all natural wines are great, but the great natural wines are the best wines. They are deep expressions of terroir, with nothing but the flavor of excellent fruit grown in healthy soil coming through - or so I'm told. I have yet to find an Australian natural wine, but I'm on the lookout, and when I do I promise to deliver a full report. (For a more in-depth exploration of natural wines, check out Pameladevi Govinda's fantastic article in Imbibe.)

There are lots of really, really good organic, biodynamic and natural wines out there these days. Unlike the early days of the recent re-birth of organic winemaking, many of the people making these drops today know a thing or two about winemaking. They are passionate about the land and organics, sure, but they are also trained winemakers who know how to gently coax the grape on its journey from fruit to wine like a concerned, responsible and loving parent. Its an idea a bit late in coming to Australia, but in France the most revered wines have been the biodynamics for years now, and natural wines are now considered by many to be where it's at.

It's also worth mentioning that many organic and biodynamic winemakers are following the natural wine ethos. But it's not a certification, not something you're going to find stamped on the bottle, at least not in Australia. If you want to find the best wines out there, both in terms of flavor and natural methods, you're going to have to get out there and talk to winemakers - which is exactly what I intend to do here in this space. If you're lucky enough to have a boutique wine shop near you, start by talking to the staff, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

For my Aussie readers out there who enjoy a good, natural drop, I'm starting a new segment on this blog called "Weekly Wine." Each week I'll introduce you to a different organic, biodynamic or natural wine, and tell you a bit about its story as well as how it tastes and what sort of raw dishes would complement it. Look out for the first post in the next few days. Please feel free to leave suggestions for wines you'd like to hear more about in the comments.

Cheers! To your health.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

De-stressing with Dessert

When I feel emotionally drained, stressed or otherwise out of sorts, I find the most soothing thing to do is to get into the kitchen. As I begin chopping, mixing, molding and, yes, tasting, I feel myself relaxing, my posture softening, my breath slowing, my mind quieting. I work on instinct, sometimes referring to various recipe books or websites, but always tweaking things as I go based on my personal culinary sensibilities and the ingredients that I happen to have on hand.

These truffles are something that just sort of happened during one of my evening de-stressing sessions. I really liked the idea of a maca-cacao truffle, something that I'd seen in Matthew Kenney's book Everyday Raw, and I also had some juicy prunes sitting around. I thought their richness would be wonderful with cacao, but wanted to sweeten the mixture a bit more so brought in the dates, honey and a splash of orange juice. The almond-brazil nut combo came about because of their different flavors and fat contents; they balance each other perfectly here. Cinnamon came in at the last second and I really like the subtle spice it adds to the maca coating (after all, I'm still an American girl at heart, and as obsessed with cinnamon as the rest of my compatriots).

Not every kitchen experiment is blog-worthy, but I was really pleased with how these turned out. Give them a try, or use them as a jumping off point for some inspiration of your own. Please share your creative results in the comments section!



Rich Cacao Maca Truffles
Makes about 20 truffles

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup brazil nuts
1/2 tasp Himalayan salt
1/4 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted dates
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup + 1 heaped Tbsp cacao powder
juice of 1/2 an orange
a few drops vanilla extract
2 heaped Tbsp maca powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine almonds, brazil nuts and salt in food processor and grind to a powder. Add prunes, dates, hon ey, coconut oil, cacao powder, orange juice, vanilla and 1 heaped Tbsp maca powder. Whir until a sticky dough comes together. Place in the freezer for 1/2 hour.

Put the remaining 1 heaped Tbsp maca in a shallow bowl and mix in the cinnamon. Roll truffle dough between your hands into small balls, then roll in maca cinnamon powder to coat.


Another recipe I came up with recently on a rainy Sunday (gotta love rainy Sundays, I feel entirely justified spending the entire day in the kitchen and not out frolicking in the sunshine) is a new twist on oatmeal raisin cookies. You may have also noticed that I love oatmeal raisin cookies. I've tried a few recipes, and the truth is, they're all good. This time around I subbed soaked buckwheat for oats, which worked a treat. I like using buckwheat in raw versions of baked goods because they create a really satisfying doughy texture. These cookies are sweet, soft and slightly spicy - everything you want a oatmeal (or buckwheat) raisin cookie to be.

I use honey here - beautiful, raw, local honey - because it really deepens the flavor. There are differing opinions out there on the use of honey, as some people prefer to avoid all animal-related products, but I personally find it to be health-giving and utterly delicious. I've heard that eating local honey is a good remedy for hay fever, too. Personally it makes more sense to me than using agave imported from the other side of the globe, but there are times when I prefer the runnier texture and more subtle flavor of this sweetener in more delicate recipes. Follow your own instincts.

Buckwheat Raisin Spice Cookies
Makes 9-12 cookies

1 1/2 cups almonds, divided
1 cup buckwheat, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 cup pitted medjool dates
1/3 cup raw honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Grind 1 cup almonds to a fine powder in a powerful blender, food processor or spice grinder. Remove and set aside.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup almonds in a food processor and pulse a few times until the almonds are chopped into small pieces. Remove and set aside.

Combine buckwheat, dates, honey, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and cardomom in food processor. Whir until the mixture comes together. Slowly add in the 1 cup of almond powder and continue whirring until you have a solid dough. Add a little bit of water if necessary. Remove to a large mixing bowl.

Stir almond pieces and raisins into the dough. Scoop out heaped tablespoons of dough and arrange on dehydrator sheets. Dip the spoon in water and press down the tops of the cookies with the back of the spoon to create even circles. Dehydrate for 2-3 hours on one side, until firm on the outside, then flip onto dehydrator screens and dehydrate another 4-5 hours for a soft cookie, longer for a firmer cookie.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Salad a la Japonaise



I love the great tradition of the French composed salad. The composed salad is about compartmentalization, about showing off the gorgeous simplicity of good quality ingredients without a lot of fussy tossing. Think the classic nicoise: lettuce, boiled potatoes, hard boiled egg, black olives, tuna and green beans, everything in its right place. The composed salad is to the tossed salad what Vermeer is to Jackson Pollock. It's a detail thing: one about order and exactness, the other about explosive bursts of creativity.

As a lover of Japanese food, it occurred to me that the clean, sexy and somewhat restrained flavors of this cuisine lend themselves incredibly well to the composed salad form. What I'm talking about is more or less a nori roll, deconstructed. A gorgeous bed of greens, slightly wilted and lightly dressed in sesame oil, tamari and a touch of chilli, supporting an artful array of vegetables, finished with a mound of spicy ginger pate.

Don't be alarmed by the seeming complexity of this recipe. It's simple, really. Dress the greens, make the pate, and arrange. Done.

Just resist the urge to toss.

Salad a la Japonaise
Serves 2

Salad

6-8 large chard or spinach leaves, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 bunch bok choy, finely chopped
1/2 tsp himalayan salt
1/3 cup wakame (dry), soaked in water to cover for 10 minutes and drained
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp tamari
pinch of red pepper flakes

Ginger Pate

1/2 cup brazil nuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cm square piece of fresh ginger
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 tsp himalayan salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/4-1/3 cup water

Toppings*

2 medium swiss brown or white mushrooms
1 Tbsp tamari
1/2 Lebanese cucumber, julienned
1/2 carrot, shredded
1 medium tomato, cut into small wedges
2 small handfuls sprouts, any kind
4 radishes, thinly sliced

For mushrooms:
Slice each mushroom in half, then into 1cm slices. Place in a shallow bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp tamari. Set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.

For salad:
Combine chopped chard or spinach and bok choy in a large bowl. Add a pinch of himalayan salt and massage for about 30 seconds, until the greens just begin to wilt. Add rehydrated wakame, sesame oil, tamari and red pepper flakes, and toss to coat. Set aside while you make the pate.

For pate:
Combine brazil nuts, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic and salt in food processor and pulse until grainy. Add lemon juice and water as needed, and process until fairly smooth (similar to hummus texture).

For assembly:
Divide salad into 2 large shallow bowls. On top of the greens, place a large scoop of the ginger pate in the center. Surround with individual piles of carrots, cucumber, tomato, sprouts and marinated mushrooms. Serve immediately.

*Use any vegetables you have on hand for the toppings. Thinly sliced red capsicum, snow peas, broccoli, daikon, gobo, or many other vegetables would go just as well here.
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