The Simple Salad

March 30, 2008

I love creating food that is beautiful to look at. It is such a pleasure to take a moment or two to allow oneself to engage in a bit of creativity and give the brain an opportunity for a bit of play time. This is just as nourishing to Being as actual elemental nutrients are.
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This took so little time and was totally unplanned. I split the napa cabbage leaf as a base for no particular reason other than to add a bit of creative interest to an otherwise very plain salad. Simple mesclun greens, a bit of diced red, orange and yellow mini peppers that held just a hint of heat, some rinsed dulse, all tossed very lightly with a hemp oil, olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. The pear slices were an obvious addition at the last moment because of the color match first, and secondly, because a bit of simple, sweet fruit goes so well with the bitter greens and the heat of the peppers. A sprinkle of hemp nuts and a bit more dulse on top and it was a radically improved simple salad.
The slow food movement really encourages one to take the time to make meals a pleasure. As well, indulging in a bit of food play is one way to really honor the choice one has made to eat as well as possible for health and well-being. This also helps to infuse your meals with the element of love so sorely lacking in our mostly factory-farmed produce, which often includes organics as well. And every little bit of love COUNTS, now more than ever, whether we’re giving it to ourselves or to others!
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This is a very hearty meal composed of walnut ‘bulgar’ salad with absolutely delicious, sweet white onion chunks, lots of parsley, bulgar-filled organic, super-ripe plum tomatoes and napa cabbage scoops from the heart of the cabbage. Very filling and delicious meal.
Recipe was cobbled together from several recipes for various nut ‘meats’; though, as a long-time vegan I prefer to call it Bulgar salad, because that is what is looked and tasted like to me. Pretty delicious.
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Here is another introduction to one of the unusual and delightful tropical fruits I am doing my best to share with everyone. Introducing: the Suriname Cherry. It played a unexpectedly starring role in my dinner last week.
This was another ‘make the best of nothing in the fridge’ night. There was a squash, called ‘Hawaiian pumpkin’ here, dried hijiki and some random odds and ends like half a red bell pepper and a bit of coconut cream floating around in the fridge. The red fruits are Suriname cherries from the tree out back. It’s just begun to shower us with it’s springtime gift of these odd, strangely appealing cherries. See my post about them here, on my other site called JungleGirl.
There is not a recipe for this because it was a totally unplanned meal that just happened to turn out wonderfully well, but here is a sort of re-cap of how I put it together. I re-hydrated a tablespoon or two of dried hijiki, topped it with some finely grated sweet, raw pumpkin, using a ring mold to hold it in place. Then, I put the bell pepper in the VitaMixer with the coconut cream and some herbs and spices that I cannot recall because it was a spontaneous, stream of consciousness collaboration with the refridgerator god of leftovers. Or maybe it was the Suriname Cherry Spirit, looking for some prime-time online?  Either way, it turned out to be shockingly good-looking (to me, at least – finding myself with slim prospects for dinner at 8pm, tired and with an empty fridge. I wasn’t looking forward to much!) and very delicious. The cherries added a piquant, chutneyish flavor that was totally and surprisingly complimentary with the red bell pepper. Which is great, because I usually don’t know what to do with them. They really stepped forward in the most pleasing way here.

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Going all raw can be terribly new terrain for anyone who grows up eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.).  Familiar analog food is so good for those times when you really want the comfort of the known and lasagna is one of those dishes that can be very emotionally satisfying for someone who has begun a raw journey, but also for anyone at anytime!

I made this dinner for a client who is very conscious of his health by typical standards, (no meat other than fish, and almost no sugar) and is going raw to loose extra weight gained during extensive travel and to explore it as a health option.  Yay!  We’ll see how well received this was later today.

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And so, I’m back.  This was very well received, which pleased me to no end, naturally!  I usually make this with a layer of marinated mushrooms, however mushrooms are on the very short list of ingredients to avoid for this client and so I used a walnut ‘meat’ layer instead.  It can not be stressed enough how important it is to very thoroughly chew a meal that includes chunky nuts.  It makes all the difference in how well one’s body digests.  Also, a little known fact is that chewing is a trigger for the release of serotonin, the ‘feel good’ chemical, and intimately linked to the digestive tract and so that’s a double win!  Better chewing equals better digestion equals a happier and more nourished you.

LASAGNA
For the noodles:
2 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
big pinch of celtic salt

Slice the zucchini’s 1/16″ thin with the mandoline or cut carefully with a vegetable peeler.  Place into a small bowl with the marinade ingredients and gently toss and shuffle like a deck of cards, keeping the strips uniformly straight to evenly coat.  Let them marinate in a bowl on the counter while you prepare the rest.

For the Cheese:
*I’ve done this chunky or creamy; this time I chose to go creamy and I think that’s become my preference.

1 cup dry mac nuts, pine nuts or cashews – or any combination thereof (I   use dry because then I can use more liquid to blend it creamy and it will thicken nicely as it sits)
1/2 lemon, juice of
1 clove garlic
1/3 t celtic salt (err on the side of under-salting because the tomato sauce is saltyish, and it tastes more like a ricotta with less salt)
1/2 t coriander powder
2 T nutritional yeast
2 to 4 T water, only just enough to move the blender, it should be thicker than yogurt

Puree all to desired creamyness in the blender (use a high speed blender like VitaMix for best results), or if you haven’t got a powerful blender, use a food processor.  Taste and make adjustments as necessary.

Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup soaked sundried tomatoes, squeezed as dry as possible in a clean dish towel or paper towels, as they can stain.
1 med tomato, or about one cup diced, super ripe
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed fine
1/2 t celtic salt
1 T Italian herb mix
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Pulse everything together in the food processor.  Leave it a bit chunky for texture.

Nut Meat:
1 cup soaked walnuts
1 T nutritional yeast
1 t cumin, 1 t coriander
1 T onion powder
1 clove garlic
1/4 of a small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 of a red bell, roughly chopped
1/2 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 t nama shoyu
pinch cayenne

Pulse all together a few times until evenly chopped; not too fine, not too chunky…***NOTE: T = tablespoon and t = teaspoon in all my recipes.

Assembly:
Drain the zucchini slices and lay them down, one overlapping the other at each midway point, to create the base using anywhere from 4 to 6 slices. Keep in mind that it’s best to do individual servings rather than one large lasagna because cutting generally disturbs the presentation, no matter how sharp your knife.

Use a tablespoon to drop dollops of the tomato sauce on the zucchini base and spread evenly about 1/4 inch thick.  Top that with the cheese in the same way, then another layer of zucchini.  Begin the second layer with the nut meat, then the tomato, then the cheese, reserving a bit each of the tomato and cheese for garnish.  Top the last layer of cheese with more zucchini and lay a tablespoon of the reserved tomato sauce in a dollop ontop.  Put a lesser amount of cheese in a dollop on top of that.  I garnished with half a sun-dried black olive.  Served with a side of simple and refreshing undressed carrot salad and an organic plum tomato and there you have it!  Enjoy ~~~

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When all goes well, my meals are utter symphonies of flavor, texture, beauty and nutrition. And, some days, they are strange experiments that might need quite a lot more work; hardly ever, of course, but it very occasionally happens. : ) And for all the other times, when I am so busy with other elements of life that I just need to get some nutrition into my body, I resort to my go-to meal of choice: the vegetable smoothie. The, hUMMMble vegetable smoothie, as you can see for yourself. Because when you first see it, about the only adjective it’s likely to inspire is, …um…as in, I am going to drink that?

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So, nooo…, it’s definitely not a born beauty, and there may be some textural issues to overcome, but for flavor and nutrition – it is the BEST! Am I sure about the flavor part, you ask? Well. YES, frankly, and it is largely thanks to a recipe called ‘Rocket Fuel’ that was making the rounds in my circle when I went raw for the first time, seven years ago. It’s a great, forgiving recipe that I wished I had known about for my first four months of raw when I lived on blender food alone, not knowing how else to prepare anything, haha! I had inadvertantly hit upon the very thing my body required to shift into this lifestyle: the easiest, most nutritious preparation possible in the form of vegetable smoothies, or as I like to call it: Blender Food.

I am not so enamoured with the concept of adding fruit to greens in a smoothie, other than the occasional addition of perhaps a quarter of an apple to round out a particularly intense combination like dandelion greens or the like. The following recipe is perfect for people like me who don’t like sweet greens and yet want something powerfully pleasing to the palate. And, being a smoothie, it is by nature fast food. That’s rather catchy, isn’t it: By Nature, Fast Food. Fast food, by Nature. Hmmm…

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This will fill a one quart mason jar, more or less, depending upon the size of your vegetables. I used to make HUGE blender batches, using lots of water and I now prefer this in the proportions given below. Experiment a bit to find your own preference, because that is probably what your body needs most. (And then expect that to shift, and shift again, at some point!) An even more potent variation if this recipe, and the one that is most optimal is in my up-coming recipe book. For now, enjoy this one. I do, almost daily!

TIP: I keep all my veggies washed and prepped (but uncut to retain nutritional integrity) in plastic boxes in the fridge, that way all I have to do is pull out the entire bin and I can slice off and toss bits of everything in there into the blender and have a fulfilling, delicious, nutritional and portable meal, in way under 5 mins.

ROCKET FUEL

1/4 cucumber

2 sticks of celery, sliced with 1/4 inch cuts

1/4 carrot stick, scrubbed, only peeled if not organic, and sliced into discs

1/4 beet, roughly chopped

2 inch wedge of red or green cabbage, or bok choi

1/4 avo

1/4 bunch of kale or collards

1/2 bunch of cilantro, can sub or add parsley but it will thicken, because parsley puree will gel.

1/2 lemon, juiced and NO SEEDS or it will be too bitter. Trust me, I’ve tried to be manly and take it with seeds for their cleansing effect and decided it is just not necessary to suffer that much bitterness. Just take citrus seed capsules. Really.

1 big splash of nama shoyu (about 1 Tbl)

pinch of cayenne and or an inch or two of sliced ginger, both ideally. I am also into fresh tumeric right now, which I LOVE so you’ll see that and some spirulina tabs in the photo above as well.

Add filtered or spring water to your preference, about 1 cup is a good place to start, and blend. If you’d like a big pitcher of easy to drink liquid, then add water to the top of the vegetables and you’ll have enough to last you an hour or two. It’s also easier to drink that way if the thick texture bothers you. Matt Amsden doesn’t add any water, (he says at the bottom of this post), but does add a whole cucumber. I love it that way too, then it’s like a spoonable, savory pudding. Either way, he has another helpful tip, which is to remember to stir in some whole goji berries, about 1/4 cup or a nice handful, after you blend it in order to have a physical reminder to chew your juice! Goji berries are sweet and salty, so I can handle them. Forty percent of digestion takes place in the mouth and many digestive issues can be eliminated by simply chewing everything that goes into your mouth until you get a flavor change, signaling that it’s ok to swallow now. This definitely includes liquids, except perhaps water, though I wonder what Danny Vitalis would have to say on that subject!

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Yeah, so, like I said: yuhhhhhhhh um………………..

A Simple, Sexy Sandwich

March 1, 2008

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This is a sandwich made with a lemon, pinenut cream and ‘fried’ mushrooms from Karen Knowles’ recipe. I added a splash of nama shoyu to the mushroom prep because I can get salty like that. Topped with baby braising greens on homemade dehydrator bread, it was just what I wanted for a light meal.
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The bread in this photo is a bit thin, but I tend to make it as thin as possible because I do not really want that much dehydrated food in my belly. But sometimes, it is very, very satisfying to just make a sandwich.
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The bread recipe will be in my afore-mentioned recipe book. It’s a real winner and the best one I’ve tried yet, and although a raw neighbor I have says his is definitely the best, I haven’t tasted his recipe yet and I feel rela, rela good about this one. Maybe I’ll do a dehydrator ‘bake-off’ and see which one I prefer. Naturally, I’ll keep you posted.
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