Sunday, October 28, 2007

Green Rice

So last week we've been all, "Raw food, fnaar, fnaaaaar!" But do not fret! We haven't abandoned any of our favorite recipes. Fish with green rice is one of my very favorite meals. Quite a few friends have feasted upon green rice at my house! Because it takes some time and hassle to prepare, I always make a large batch. Unlike many rice dishes, this one tolerates reheating rather well. It's almost blissful in a black-bean burrito the next day. Since I can't invite you all over for dinner tonight, I'll share the recipe with you.

1 1/2 Cups long grain white rice (other rice will work, but this seems to be the best for this recipe)
Generous 1/3 Cup virgin olive oil

1 green or yellow pepper (the sweet bell kind)
1 small *hot* green pepper (or more if you like!)
2 med/small onions
8 cloves garlic

1 bunch cilantro
2 Cups (plus possibly a bit more) good veggie broth
sea salt, to taste

Find the heavy pan that is probably at the back of your pan collection. Choose the one that is not your favorite, and preferably non-teflon. You know, the one that always looks somewhat dirty because you forgot and left it on High while you answered the phone and it was your best friend, long distance. Oh, you never did that? Well, find an ugly pan anyway because it won't be any prettier after we're done with it today.

Heat that pan up to medium-high and put in the peppers, halved onions (unpeeled), and unpeeled garlic. Char them on all sides, yes, char. Turn them occasionally. If you have gas burners, your job is made easy. Stab your pepper and hold it over the flame until the skin is evenly burned. It will probably smell a little odd, and not really look like something you want to eat right now, but don't worry, it will turn out fine. When everything is charred put a lid over it to let it steam and cool while you prepare the cilantro.

Meticulously wash your cilantro and remove any large stems. Place the cilantro in a food processor with about a half-cup of veggie broth (more if needed) and pulse until it's somewhat pasty and there are no large leaves or stems present. Leave it in your processor for now.

Out of habit, I always rinse rice, but it's not absolutely necessary here. Mix the olive oil and rice in a heavy-bottom stock pot or large saucepan on low-medium heat. Lightly sauté it until it is golden and glistening. Turn the heat off if this happens before you're done preparing the pepper mixture.

When the peppers/onions/garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, transfer them to a plate and remove the skins, stems, and seeds. You might want to wear a pair of disposable gloves to handle the hot pepper. The burny oils (capsicum) will stick to bare hands for much longer than you might think. Since I wear contacts and have a habit of rubbing my eyes, I always do just to be safe. If you got the peppers good and chary, removing the skin shouldn't be too difficult, but don't worry if it doesn't all come off. Just get as much of it as you can, then toss them in the food processor with the cilantro. Pulse these until they're as smooth as possible. Add a little broth if you need to keep things moving. It will still be a little lumpy when it's done, but there should not be any large chunks.

Add the cilantro mixture to the rice in the stock pot/saucepan, returning it to low-medium heat. Simmer it, stirring often, until the rice is fully cooked. Depending on the rice you use, you may need to add a bit more vegetable stock before it's done.

I suggest you serve this with some light, flaky fish with plenty of lime juice. And a margarita.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Raw Food is All About

I started this post by doing my homework; that is, procrastinating. For me to write any amount of information that someone else might possibly read on the subject seems utterly ridiculous and it's daunting. There are so many books out there and so many lifetimes devoted to it, there's really no way I can tell you anything of importance.

But I realize that as we move more in the Raw Food direction, it would be helpful for any readers who visit to have a baseline of what we mean when we describe something as "Raw." I'll try to keep it interesting.

Your cj was brought up in a good Dutchy family. Mom and Dad quickly quashed any early inclination I had toward becoming a vegetarian-- "You need that protein! Don't you look at your pork chop like that, you ungrateful little shit, and eat your (boiled to oblivion) potatoes and vegetables!" I was permitted to conscientiously object to veal, but no more. I say this only to reassure you that I was not raised to become a "food weirdo." It is something that I happily chose, because it was finally the right time to do it. And it really doesn't seem all that weird now.

The Raw Food movement has been around for a long time. I won't tell you when it started because historically, it's more accurately described by when we humans started cooking our food, rather than when the crazy-crunchy-hippie-probably-communists-conspiracy-theorizing whack jobs started not cooking it. Throughout history, meat and other foods which require cooking were often prohibitively expensive luxuries for the general population. Fuel was also expensive, so diets included a lot more simple, uncooked and unmessed-with foods. Such as-- GASP!-- unpasteurized, hormone-free dairy products. Can you believe that free-range was once the norm? Or what about non-irradiated vegetables? Do you know which ones in your grocery stores are picked unripe and then "gassed" to produce a ripe-like appearance? Did you know that your "raw" almonds are probably cooked to temperatures of over 150 degrees? It's hard to find a non-biased article about the almonds, but just try googling it for a start. You practically have to go on the black market for food that hasn't been somehow altered-- usually for "safety" reasons.

Raw food enjoys sporadic resurgences as people following the diet go in and out of the media. Right now Sarma Melngailis (who is, incidentally, the most radiantly beautiful woman I've ever seen-- for a blonde) holds the limelight with the cookbook Raw Food Real World, co-authored by her then-partner, Matthew Kenny. You can see these two beautiful people here.

But really, what do we mean when we refer to something as "raw"? The most simple answer is that the food is as close as possible to its natural state, and has not been heated at any point beyond a temperature of 118 degrees F. This is why we protest our almonds being pasteurized. Now, why would we worry about that? Common raw-foodie belief is that cooking food destroys a large amount of the nutrients available when at its natural state. "They" also say that it kills the enzymes that aid digestion and keep your colon happy. Happy colon = good!

If you want to read the health benefits, as well as the cautions (there are some), there is plenty out there. I will not bore you with a bunch of links for that, just go to google and type in "raw food", and you'll have a wealth of information. Read some articles, both pro and con, if that interests you. What I will bore you with is some of the personal experiences I've had.

A few weeks back I posted here that I wanted to start eating one (just one, I felt it was a reasonable goal) raw food meal per day. It's been much easier than I thought. Since then, I have felt much lighter, and my jeans are starting to look just-right again. I don't weigh myself, but I can tell you that my stomach looks firmer and I feel, overall, much less flubby. The stairs at work don't leave me gasping anymore. I'd estimate I've dropped five pounds.

Another effect is on my skin. For years I've had trouble skin. Back when I went to a dermatologist, he insisted that it had nothing to do with diet. All the literature I could find reiterated what he said. I remember one of the last times I showed up in his office; in tears because I was eating better than I ever had in my whole life (in my opinion, that meant more vegetarian, including a lot of organic breads and pasta), and my skin was worse than ever! He was kind about it, but reminded me that it had nothing to do with diet. The trouble is, I knew it did. For example, when I would have the flu and could keep nothing down for a week, miraculously everything cleared up beautifully. If I went camping for a weekend and we just brought certain items, again, clear skin. There was a pattern to it, but I just couldn't figure it out.

Finally I traced the problem to dairy. Eliminating dairy has been so very hard (Brie, feta, parmesan, smoked gouda, come on!!) but eating raw food has been paying off there, too. My skin is smoother and not feeling icky halfway through the work day. Every time I eat dairy, it reinforces the fact that it's been the major culprit all along. Recently I read that a high glycemic-index diet (read, typical Merkan highly-processed, refined-grain diet) is another contributing factor.

When it comes down to it, I like to think of Raw Food as a way to increase our creativity in how we look at meals. It's not about a list of things we can't have. If we want something, we eat it. We're just more aware of when we really want something, rather than when we're just eating it out of habit. Does the crunchy, nutty element in tabouli have to be cracked wheat? No, it doesn't. But does a sandwich sometimes just cry out for fresh crusty french bread? Yes, it does. Do I need American cheese on a burger? No, I don't. But do I really, really want a tablespoon of fresh sheep-milk feta cheese on my salad? Yes, I do. And I feel better about those choices when I make them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Super-Easy Raw Tabbouli


We're looking in to doing a little lame podcast of sorts. If we get it together (big IF), this recipe will be the first one! Keep an eye out!


I have to say, I love tabbouli. Love love love it. It's so fresh, tangy, and green. I know, it sounds ridiculous to say a salad is "filling," but this one is. Add it to any raw meal, and it's better than three cups of coffee for me any day. I told you in a previous blog post how I've been trying to eat one raw meal a day, and I truly find that a helping of this tabbouli fills any perceived or real nutrient void. Good parsley is available year-round, and it keeps forever in the fridge. I find myself rooting after this salad right before bed, just like I might have investigated a cold slice of hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple) previously. Really, I can't sufficiently express how much I love tabbouli. For this version:

Raw Tabbouli Salad

1 bunch fresh, obsessively washed curly parsley (don't sub italian flatleaf, just this once)
juice from 1 and 1/2 lemons
1 medium-small sized onion
1/2 Cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked overnight or at least 2 hours, drained
2-3 TB good olive oil
sea salt

Juice the lemon(s). Combine with the salt and olive oil in a large, tightly - sealable container. Set aside for now.

Either mince the onions finely or send them through a food processor. Add the tiny bits of onion to the lemon juice mixture and set it aside. This step is important as it "mellows" the flavor of raw onion without cooking it. You'll find that the flavor blends much more easily after it marinates in lemon juice for a few minutes.

Before you wash your processor, throw the sunflower seeds in there. Alternately, toss them into a plastic bag and send a rolling pin over them a few times. Pulse them until they're about the size of a pencil tip, but DO NOT over process them into a paste. You'll want to keep them in little crunchy bits to add texture. Toss them with the lemon juice.

Pull any browned, wilted, or kinked stems of the parsley and snip them off. Coarsely chop the rest, keeping in mind that tabbouli should be light and fluffy, not pastey or spreadable.

Throw your parsley in with the lemon juice mixture, and after securing the lid, shake the hell out of it. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or salt as needed.

Serve as a side with anything.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Raw Pesto Collard Greens and Sweet Beet Salad

I had no idea we were so close to a Produce Junction. Four bunches of fresh curly parsley for one dollar? Sweet and firm avocados, three for two dollars? That's insanely cheap! Many recipes beg to be blogged. Today, from the glut of beautiful produce in our fridge, I bring to you two raw, delicious, and lovely salads. You might think it's a little strange to join two salads together, but these are so different in style and flavor, it works. The vivid green of the collards next to the deep red of the beet salad looks lush and velvety, plus they're both full of good things for your body.

For the record, your cj hates beets. Never liked them. There are many things I hated as a child that I've come to love and even crave, such as asparagus, beets, tomato juice, and pickles. Growing up, hating the asparagus and beets I can attribute to my mother's good old-fashioned PA-Dutchy way of cooking things (boil it to a bitter, slimy oblivion), but I still can't account for the tomato juice or pickles. Anyway! Enough rambling.

For the Pesto Collard Greens:

5 large collard leaves, washed thoroughly
1 1/2 TB pesto (I know, the parmesan cheese in pesto is not raw or vegan. Either deal with it or leave it out. I find that the tiniest bit adds so much real-pesto flavor it's worth it, but if you don't, leave it out and add some extra pine nuts and garlic.)
2-3 TB good olive oil (I particularly like "First Lady" from Trader Joe's)
Sea salt to taste.

First, reconsider how thoroughly you washed the collard leaves. Go re-wash them to be safe. Are you sure? Positive now? Okay, fine. Shake or pat off any excess water. Lay all the leaves flat on a cutting board, stems in one direction, overlapping each leaf as you might do with a hand at poker. Let's say five-leaf stud. Start with the nearest leaf towards you and roll them up tightly. This is important as it will help you get a very fine, thin strand as you slice.

When you reach the last leaf, tighten the roll up again, place the seam down, and starting at the non-stem end of the roll, slice the tiniest, thinnest little shreds you possibly can. You will need a good sharp knife to do this. When you get down to the wider part of the stem, you may want to remove them and re-roll the leaves. The stems are still sweet and tasty, but will slightly alter the texture of your salad.

After you've sliced your greens, put your pesto in a large bowl and mix it with the olive oil. I especially like a little extra fresh-grated garlic, but that's not for everyone. Add a bit of sea salt, then toss your greens with the mixture. Mix it so all the greens are evenly coated and glistening and there are no big clumps of pesto. Now, onto the sweet beet salad.

For the Sweet Beet Salad:

1 medium red beet, scrubbed and lightly pared (many people think beet skin is bitter; I haven't found this, but you may)
1 medium carrot, scrubbed
1/3 cup pecan pieces
Juice of 1/2 tangerine
1 TB balsamic vinegar
Tiny sprinkle sea salt
(some diced apples would also be yummy)

Mix the tangerine juice, salt, and the balsamic vinegar in a large glass bowl (do not use a porous bowl or the beet juice will dye it pink!). Let it stand and grate your hands rapidly over a grater. Or the beet. Whichever. Then grate the carrot. Toss the beet and carrot in the juice, then mix in the pecan pieces.

I hope you enjoy. When you make this for yourself, please let us know how it turns out, and what additions or improvements you made!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

endives and mango

endives and mango
Originally uploaded by vrai the dotty prof.
- Sprinkle endives and mango with lemon juice (mostly the endives)
- Melt a TBSP butter, mix with a tsp olive oil.
- Brush endives and mango with butter oil mixture.
- Sprinkle the endives with sugar (I put a bit of sugar on the mango too -- not much is needed but it does lend to some lightly caramelized mango goodness). Substitute sugar for a touch of agave nectar if you wish, I prefer the nectar to sugar at this point.

- 400 degrees (F) for ten minutes
- Brush endives again with butter/oil mix
- Ten more minutes in the oven

I may try this next time with a lemon butter reduction rather than adding the lemon and oil/butter to the endives separately.

portobello night!

Originally uploaded by vrai the dotty prof.
recipe to come:

portobello mushrooms, baby squash, and glazed butternut squash sautéed in olive oil with rosemary.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Almond Milk

today's breakfast
Originally uploaded by vrai the dotty prof.
Almond milk is amazing stuff! I rate it as the best replacement for bovine milk and would say it is definitely better tasting. Soy and rice milks aren't too bad though soy can have health consequences over time. Oat milk is thick, which good for granola style cereals and the new hemp milk has a pleasant nuttiness. By far almond milk is the best.

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups filtered water
1 dash salt
1 tsp. light agave nectar

Soak the almonds in a bowl of filtered water for 3 hours. Drain and combine with the filtered water in a blender. Blend on the highest setting for 2-3 minutes.

Line a large glass bowl with four layers of cheese cloth. Pour blender mixture into the glass bowl and gather up the edges of the cheese cloth. Allow the liquid to drain into the bowl while twisting and squeezing your cloth wrapped ball of almond'y goodness.

Add agave nectar to the almond milk and salt to taste.