As celebration of FoodBuzz's new Healthbuzz section, I wanted to discover the mysteries of the Raw Food diet. This month, FoodBuzz selected my proposal for 24,24,24 I decided to invite a group of my friends and together we explored the beauties of eating raw through a 5 course meal. Does that sound Awesome Rawsome? I think so.
This was probably one of the most challenging menus for me to think of --- I mean eating RAW? I am use to the heat of the kitchen, the sounds of oil sizzling in a pan but no, not this time. One of the main rules of eating raw is nothing is cooked above 118F, any temperature above that will begin breaking down the natural enzymes in fruits and vegetables. Now many of you are thinking -- So what? but because of the degradation of these enzymes, it forces our bodies to generate the enzymes necessary to digest cooked food. Our bodies are unable to produce enzymes in perfect combinations to metabolize our foods as completely as the food enzymes created by nature do. As a result, starches, proteins and partially digested fats can cause blockage to your body's intestinal tract and arteries leading to health challenges such as high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.
I used Raw, a cookbook written by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein, as guidance through my exploration of raw foods. They included this example about Eskimos and their raw diet:
"The Eskimos are a remarkable example of the transformative power of enzymes. The word Eskimo means one who eats raw. While living for centuries on a diet that consisted primarily of raw whale or seal blubber, Eskimos developed no arteriosclerosis and experienced almost no incidence of heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure. Established nutritional doctrine would predict a high rate of these ailments given the diet, but even blubber will digest itself completely if it is not cooked since its enzymes are intact. Once you heat even the finest olive oil above 118F, you will not be able to digest it completely. More important, many authorities believe that eating cooked foods depletes our finite enzyme reserve. Proof of this effect is that an eighty-five-year-old has only one-thirtieth the enzyme activity level of an eighteen-year-old. In other words, your enzyme reserve is slowly exhausted over a lifetime of eating cooked foods."
I found this compelling, I never thought about the importance of eating foods raw. I mean in my mind, raw food meant leafy salads and those party veggie trays, -- food isn't meant to be eaten raw, right? I guess that's why I had so much fun with this proposal I had to think of a 5 course menu consisting of all raw foods, made in different ways and in clever combinations to make my guests say -- Wait, this is RAW? I could eat this!
To do this, the most important thing would be to pick good quality produce and discovering the beauty of fruits and vegetables in their natural state and using them in way that would enhance their flavors. An interesting fact I also learned when reading Raw, was our bodies' struggle with digesting unsprouted nuts and seeds -- nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting into a plant or tree; however, if they have been sprouted (soaked in water), these enzyme inhibitors will degrade and then our bodies are able to digest them naturally.
Maybe it may not be practical to say-- I will eat raw for the rest of my life! In the society we live in today many of us are not able to do that. However, I'm going to make a personal commitment to improve the quality of foods I place into my body. Maybe as a start, I'll start eating raw a couple nights a week, or making my meals half cooked and half raw either way, incorporating raw foods into my daily diet would never be detrimental to my health and would only improve it. Our health is one of the few things we are able to control in our lives through daily practices of healthy eating habits and exercise; our bodies will take care of us if we take care of it.
In all of the food we eat, (fruits, vegetables, meats), there are natural food enzymes that are present in their raw state. These enzymes are a perfect combination and fit to help our bodies digest it completely. Enzymes act as catalysts for every metabolic reaction in our bodies: cell division, energy production, brain activity, which are essential to our mental and physical well-being.
"Nature in her never-ending perfection sees that all food, whether flesh, fruit, or vegetable, decomposes and returns to the earth from which it came.“ Roxanne Klein
Menu for Awesome Rawsome
relish of cucumber, red and yellow bell pepper and red onion
cream of corn soup with tomato basil lemon oil
heirloom tomatoes with arugula served with lemon tahini
jicama ravioli with avocado crema and southwestern corn slaw
watermelon medallions served with a tropical salsa in a chilled mango soup
Ingredients for Gazpacho Granita: (serves 4 to 6)
- 2 pounds ripe sweet tomatoes, peeled
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ cup cold pressed olive oil
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
- ½ red onion, finely diced
To make granita: Quarter tomatoes and puree in a food processor with sugar and garlic. Strain puree through a sieve to discard seeds. Stir in basil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Let mixture chill in refrigerator at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
Pour the granita mixture into a wide and shallow container, such as a stainless steel baking dish (the shallower the container, the quicker the granite will freeze). Cover with a lid, foil, or plastic wrap. Freeze the mixture 1 to 2 hours, until it is solid around the edges. Take the container out of the freezer and scrape the ice with a fork, mixing it from the edges into the center.
Repeat this scraping and mixing process every 30 minutes or so (at least three times) until the entire mixture has turned into small, sequined ice flakes. When ready to serve, scrape with a fork to loosen the granita and spoon into serving dishes.
To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients until blended. To assemble salad, in a large bowl combine all ingredients; add dressing and toss to coat. Spoon granita on center of serving dishes. Arrange salad evenly around each.
Ingredients for Cream of Corn Soup: (Makes 4-6 servings)
- 4 cups sweet corn kernels
- 2 cup filtered water
- ½ avocado
- Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Place ingredients in a large bowl and using a blender or hand held blender, puree until it is a smooth consistency. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove skin of kernels and taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish for Corn Soup:
- ½ cup sweet corn kernels
- ¼ cup julienned jicama
- ¼ cup microgreens
- 4 tsp tomato basil lemon oil
Ingredients for Tomato Basil Lemon Oil:
- ½ pound ripe tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups cold pressed olive oil
- ¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp lemon zest
Slice the tomatoes in half crosswise (through the equator) and gently squeeze out the seeds; discard them. Working in a large bowl, rub the cut sides of the tomatoes across the large holes of a metal grater so that the flesh is coarsely grated but the skin remains intact in your hand. Discard the skin.
Combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a large bowl. Place at room temperature for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, before using. Strain and spoon the oil off any juices into clean, dry jar. The oil will keep in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month Bring to room temperature about ½ hour before serving.
To assemble soup, pour corn soup into bowls and garnish with jicama and corn mixture. Drizzle with tomato lemon basil oil and top with microgreens.
Ingredients for Heirloom Tomatoes with Lemon Tahini: (Makes 4-6 servings)
- ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 medium heirloom tomatoes, washed and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
- 3 cups Arugula
- 1lemon,, thinly sliced, for garnish
- Freshly ground pepper
In the bowl of a food processor, place tahini, half the lemon zest, and lemon juice; pulse to combine. With the motor running, add 7 to 8 tbsp cold water and continue to process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add salt to taste, and refrigerate until cold.
Bring tahini to room temperature.Place arugula on a large platter and arrange tomatoes on top in a tight overlapping pattern; drizzle half the tahini over the tomatoes. Scatter remaining lemon zest on top. Tuck lemon slices around and between tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve remaining tahini on the side.
Ingredients for Jicama Ravioli: (serves 4-6)
- 1 ½ medium-sized jicama, washed and peeled
- 3 cups raw walnuts, sprouted
- 1 tsp garlic
- 1 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Finely chop the walnuts and mix with chile, cumin powder and salt pepper to taste. Set aside. Take peeled jicama and cut into paper thin slices using either a sharp knife or mandoline. Place in a large bowl of water with some fresh lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Ingredients for Corn Salsa:
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- ¼ cup jalapenos, seeded and minced
- ¼ cup red onion, minced
- 1 tsp cilantro, minced
- Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and taste with salt and pepper.
Ingredients for Avocado Crema:
- 1 ½ avocado, pitted
- ½ cup filtered water
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ tsp garlic, minced
- Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Puree and strain ingredients into a large bowl, adjusting the consistency according to your preference-- if it's too thin add more avocado, if it's too thick add more water. Adjust the flavors to your taste.
Take jicama slices and using a round cookie cutter, cut into desired sizes. Lay one jicama round and spoon walnut mixture in the middle and top with another jicama slice. Make 3-4 per plate and top with Corn Salsa and Avocado Crema. Serve immediately.
Ingredients for Watermelon Medallions in a Chilled Mango Soup: (serves 4-6)
- 4-6 Watermelon pieces cut into 4" rounds 2"thick
Slice watermelon into 2"-thick slices and using a 4" round cookie cutter, cut out 4-6 rounds. It would be preferable to use seedless watermelon so it is easier to eat for your guests.
Ingredients for Chilled Mango Soup:
- 3 Champagne Mangoes
- 1 ½ cups filtered water
- 1 tsp agave
- ½ vanilla bean
Peel and slice the mangoes, discarding the pit, and place in a large bowl with water and agave. Using a blender or hand held blender, puree ingredients until nice and smooth. Scrape vanilla beans from the pod and allow soup to chill for at least an hour. To make mango stars, pour some of the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for 1-2 hours.
Ingredients for Tropical Fruit Salsa:
- ½ pineapple, small-diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 mango, small-diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- ½ vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp ginger, crushed
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and allow fruit to macerate/marinate overnight. You may add a little agave or honey if the fruit is not sweet enough.
To assemble the dessert: place watermelon rounds in bowls and spoon chilled mango, filling bowls ¾ of the way. Top with tropical fruit salsa and garnish with mint and frozen mango ice cube.