Whenever I listen to people talk about their adherence to a raw food diet my mind fills with questions and my face turns quizzical. How do you eat raw food all the time? Aren't your dinners boring? What about cookies? How do you eat on road trips? How can you know for sure if something has or hasn't been heated above 104°F? Does it really make you feel that energized? Don't you miss eating warm soup? What if it's 105°F outside and you're having a picnic -- will you not eat your food? Did I ask you about cookies -- you miss eating them, right? So many questions. I certainly don't know all the answers, but I can now confidently say that raw food is not boring, it's possible to enjoy cookie-like treats, and it does pack an energizing punch.
This month, Whole Living magazine did a feature on raw foods and challenged each of its readers to try going raw for an entire day. While a day of raw sounded intriguing, I decided to get my (and Dan's -- poor guy is dragged into all of my eating adventures) feet wet with dinner and dessert. I chose the Marinated Mushroom Caps and then remixed their Strawberry-Macadamia Bars to be Nectarine-Almond Bars. A smokey mishap that put the kibosh on my mini food processor made the dessert slightly more difficult to throw together but, overall, this meal was a cinch to make.
Even more spectacular than the meal's simplicity was its flavor. The texture of the Marinated Mushroom Caps was very similar to what it would be had they been cooked due to the caps marinating in a lemon juice mixture for over four hours. Bursting with a bright citrus-rosemary flavor, this was a very satisfying introduction to a raw meal. As for the Nectarine-Almond Bars, they were chewy, sweet, and slightly tangy. As Dan enjoyed dessert, his face expressed both confusion and contentment as if internally debating, "How do these taste so delicious if they are so good for you?" I'm pretty sure that's the best kind of internal debate to have with yourself.
So, will I be eating raw all the time? No. However, I will be working to incorporate raw meals into my diet on a more frequent basis... especially now that I know raw foodies don't skimp on dessert.
Whole Living's Marinated Mushroom Caps (Serves 4)
* Juice of 3 lemons, plus 1 tsp grated zest
* 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
* Sea salt
* 4 small portobello mushroom caps
* ½ cup raw cashews
* 1 ear corn, shucked (about 1 cup kernels)
* 1 cup baby spinach
* 2 scallions, sliced
1. In a bowl, whisk lemon juice and zest, oil, garlic, and rosemary. Season with salt. Arrange mushrooms, rounded side down, in a glass baking dish. Pierce each with the tip of a knife. Drizzle with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 2. Soak cashews in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain. Pulse in a food processor with ¼ cup water until smooth. (Add more water for desired consistency.) Season with salt. 3. Spoon cashew puree into mushroom caps. Top with corn, spinach, scallions, and any remaining marinade.
Nectarine-Almond Bars (Makes 6)
Modified from Whole Living
* 1 ½ cups pitted dates
* ¼ cup raw almonds
* 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
* Pinch sea salt
1. Pulse dates, nuts, oats, and salt in a food processor until combined. 2. Press the date mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. 3. Mash half the nectarines and spread on top of date mixture. Top with remaining nectarine slices. Slice into rectangles.