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.


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.

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