FoodBuzz 24X24: Raw Bliss
Hello dear readers, new and old,
(Welcome to My Year of Food! If this is your first time visiting my blog… welcome! I am a foodie gal living in Madison, WI exploring and reveling in my local food scene. I love all things local, wherever I go, and most things edible. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope I’ll see you around here again soon.)
Sometimes I really luck out. This month I was selected to participate in FoodBuzz’s 24X24 March project. Each month the folks at FoodBuzz select 24 of their bloggers to make 24 different meals on the same day (this time, 26 March 2011), and than blog about them. The goal is to showcase the range of interests and talents within the FoodBuzz community. I submitted a proposal and lo and behold… I was chosen as one of the 24!
The most amazing thing about participating in this month’s project is that FoodBuzz gives you a stipend to make the meal of your dreams. I’ve been wanting to throw a raw dinner party forever, but the ingredients can be kind of pricey (especially in March in Wisconsin)… so a heartfelt thank you to FoodBuzz, for providing me with the resources to make one my dinner party dream come true!
For my raw food menu, I consulted the book “Everyday Raw” by Matthew Kenney. I bought it a few years ago, but had yet to make more than one of the recipes out of it. As I paged through, I looked for recipes that would enable me to buy as much locally produced produce as possible. Since in March we’re pretty limited (think greens, spinach and mushrooms. Seriously.), it was… challenging. Here is the menu I prepared for my guests:
Guacamole with raw Golden Tortilla Chips (using local corn in the tortilla chips, frozen last summer)
Mango veggie wraps with Sweet Chili-Lime dipping sauce (using local greens)
Local Mixed Greens salad with Radish Sprouts and Sunflower/Balsamic Vinaigrette (all local, except the vinegar)
Portobello Fajitas (with Local Spinach and Mushrooms)
Raw Sour Cream
Almond Gelato with Agave Caramel Sauce
It was an amazing meal, and a really fun experience!
Cooking in the Raw
The key to raw cooking is the timing. Almost every recipe required hours of prep- soaking of nuts, freezing various things, dehydrating crackers, veggies, etc….. Before you run away screaming, I have happy news: very little of that prep required active participation. I think I spent less time actively preparing food than I would for a “cooked” dinner party of similar proportions. Best of all, there were no lingering smells, the kitchen didn’t get hot, I didn’t get sweaty, and dishes were not a problem, since I only really used the blender, the cutting board, and the dehydrator. In a way, it was revelatory. I could be making food and decorating the house AT THE SAME TIME. Who knew such things were possible?
I am so grateful for the Willy Street Co-op, for providing me with all of the ingredients the farmers’ market could not. I’m also very thankful for the series of raw food cooking courses that I took through the Co-op a year or two ago. Their In the Kitchen with Cathy series, led by local raw food chef Cathy Thomas, gave me a baseline understanding of what to expect when embarking on my 24X24 project. I knew to read through the recipes several days in advance, so I could check and see what kind of prep work was required (the tortilla chips, for instance, required being in the dehydrator for 24+ hours). I also had some of the equipment needed to make a more elaborate raw food dinner, like a dehydrator and an amazing blender. And a 5-in-1 and a hammer (more on that later).
I’ve documented most of the evening in the pictures below. Since my current way of life could be accurately labeled as “hippy chic”, my dinner party decorations were all courtesy of thrift stores, the farmers’ market, and a local honey farm that also makes wonderful smelling bee’s wax candles. Each guest left with their own mini-lettuce plant, to grow and eat as we make the transition to spring. Scroll to the end of this post for my favorite recipe of the evening!
Snug Haven Farm grows some of the sweetest, most delicious spinach I have ever tasted. If you live in the Madison area, swing by the Farmers’ Market and check them out. You won’t regret it, I promise.
The wonderful farmers at Indian Trail Greenhouses agreed to provide me with lettuce heads for our centerpiece and as parting gifts a couple of weeks ago. When I came to the market on the 26th, they had already sold out of their more demure lettuce heads… so they upgraded me! I can’t get over how beautiful (not to mention bountiful) this gathering of lettuces is. We’re eating it for dinner tonight!
Snow in late March.
Each guest had their own unique plate, and a different sized ball jar. We ended up filling those jars with sparkling hard apple cider I’ve been fermenting all winter. It tasted just how I wanted- like a very dry, delicious sparkling white wine. All local, organic apples, and totally raw.
Ready! The tortilla shells (which you will see later) were made out of the same batter as the tortilla chips, but dehydrated for a shorter period of time. They were just as pliable as a regular, whole wheat tortilla.
This is a young coconut. I used young coconut flesh in the gelato and the mango wraps. Getting into one of these suckers is no easy task. First, you need to shave away some of the fibrous exterior (which I had already begun to do in this photo). Than, using your 5-in-1 tool and a hammer, you make three cracks in the top center of the coconut. From there you pry open a hole, pour out the delicious coconut water, and scoop out the flesh. (There are probably easier ways to do this…. but this is how I learned!)
Depending on how young your coconut is, there may be very little white stuff inside. Two of the five we used barely had anything besides water inside, and what little was there was to be found was shaded a beautiful light pink.
I saved all of the water from the young coconuts. Since some of our coconuts were very young indeed, the water was this pretty pastel pink. Coconut water is full of electrolytes and other good for you stuff. We served this as a prelude to our first course.
4 cups of fresh mangoes + 2 cups of young coconut = the base of an amazing mango wrap. These were also extremely easy to make- just blend, spread onto a dehydrator sheet, sprinkle with cilantro and ta da! A gorgeous and healthy wrap.
Agave played a big role in last night’s dinner. It’s a low glycemic index sweetener, so it can be absorbed slowly into the body, without the big spikes in blood sugar associated with other sweeteners, like sugar. Just to be clear though, the agave caramel on the gelato was plenty sweet!
Here is one of the mango wraps, before I closed it up. I decided to make them bite-sized, since I think that is more fun for an appetizer course. Inside each mini wrap were two locally grown greens, daikon radish, red pepper and cucumber. These are fabulously versatile- you could really put anything you want inside. And the flavor of the wrapper itself is sweet but mellow, so the flavors of whatever inside are complemented rather than overwhelmed.
And my favorite recipe from the night is…. (drum roll)….:
I loved everything I made tonight, but my favorite by far were the mango wraps. Not only are they easy to make, but they are also extremely versatile. Fill them with your favorite veggies for a great vegan raw appetizer. Make them larger for a healthy yet filling lunch. Or use them as the base for sweet crepes, or eat them fruit roll-up style.
Adapted from Matthew Kenney’s “Everyday Raw”:
4 c. chopped fresh mango
2 c. fresh young coconut meat
1/8 tsp. cayenne
pinch of sea salt
1/4 c. cilantro, roughly chopped
Place all of your ingredients, excepting the cilantro, into a blender. Puree until totally smooth, about 2 minutes (tops). Spread on a dehydrator sheet (I recommend the Texflex sheets made by the Excalibur folks. Obviously, avoid any of the sheets with holes). Be sure to spread it thinly and evenly- otherwise you have pockets of under-done batter and a super long dehydrating time. Dehydrate for 4-6 hours, until full dry but still pliable (like a fruit roll-up). Cut each sheet into desired square size.
Fill with your favorite filling, and complement with a dipping sauce or spread of your choice! The dipping sauce we used was just soy, agave, lime juice, red pepper flakes and sesame oil, combined until I liked the taste. Be creative and have fun!
Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am currently making even more mango wraps (we only used 1/2 the recipe’s batter last night!) for a tasty lunch tomorrow. What did you make this weekend?