Raw food is based on the idea that eating plants, lots of them, minimally heated, is good for you. No argument from me there. However, a lot of raw food books also assume that you have 1) a dehydrator, food processor, power blender, and juicer; 2) unlimited time; and 3) unlimited money for ingredients so obscure that even Whole Foods doesn’t have them.
Uh…no. So I was intrigued by Rawlicious, which claims to be accessible even to the non-hardcore raw dilettante. Talia over at North Atlantic Books kindly sent me a review copy. Written by South African raw food chefs Peter and Beryn Daniel, it’s an appealing introduction to eating raw (all, mostly, or partly) with basics on sprouting, juicing, nut milks, and raw nutrition. There are over 140 recipes that range from the truly simple (salads, smoothies, juices) to the fairly elaborate (raw pizza, anyone?), and almost all of them are accompanied by gorgeous full color photos.
You won’t be able to make all the recipes in Rawlicious if you don’t have the standard set of raw cooking appliances, but you can make many of them with nothing more than a hard-working home blender and a good vegetable knife. I did. And while some recipes call for superfoods like spirulina and maca, most of the ingredients are available in a well-stocked supermarket.
I started with the juicing section, using my blender instead of a macerating juicer. The authors don’t assume that dark green juice is immediately palatable, so they offer a series of progressively darker green juices. I have to admit I stopped at the first one because it tasted so good and lent itself to so many delicious variations. Here’s the recipe — bet you have everything on hand already.
Makes 1 generous cup, dilute with the same quantity of water to make 2 cups.
2 celery stalks
Juice all the ingredients and dilute with water.
From Rawlicious: Delicious Raw Recipes for Radiant Health by Peter Daniel and Beryn Daniel, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2011 by Peter Daniel and Beryn Daniel. Reprinted by permission of publisher.
I can never resist the temptation to meddle with a recipe. I enjoyed the light, clean flavors the first time I made it in my blender; the next time, I cut down on the celery and added a dollop of raw honey to sweeten it up. The time after that, I dumped in a cup of berries and a kale leaf and left out the celery altogether. It was terrific. I’ve always been afraid of putting leafy greens in a beverage, but I couldn’t even taste the kale. This juice has become my favorite way to get at least 3/5 of my daily servings of fruit and vegetables in one easy go. It’s a breakfast or light meal several times a week for me now.
What really surprised me was how easy raw food can be to make. Nut-based cheesecake, which always seemed like it would be complicated, came together in a snap in my blender. I fed it to non-vegetarians, and we all enjoyed the thick, rich texture and mild flavor. Even simpler was an instant cashew ‘cheese’ sauce that made a tasty dip for [non-raw] crackers and would probably be great on a vegan burrito. Many of the techniques and basic recipes in Rawlicious lend themselves to improvisation.
The only recipe I didn’t care for was the raw leek and broccoli soup. Raw soups use warm water, but they don’t have the comfort food feel of a steaming hot bowl of cooked soup. Also, raw leeks are hot, even mixed in with other things.
I didn’t get into the gourmet section — that’s best left to raw food enthusiasts with dehydrators and lots of time — but the recipes I did try were enjoyable, and there are lots of salads and smoothies I want to try once spring produce has arrived in earnest. Just looking through the photos of vibrant food makes me hungry. If you’re at all curious about raw, Rawlicious is a wonderfully friendly and unassuming resource.