For many of us, the words “raw food” conjure up images of odd and exotic dishes, most of them doused in sprouts and seeds. While raw food (food that’s prepared without heating past 115° F) can be delightfully offbeat, it doesn’t have to be.
If you eat salads, slaws, gazpacho, or smoothies, then you're eating raw food already, and you know how delicious and refreshing it can be. Summer happens to be an ideal time to expand upon this familiar repertoire, and to get creative with raw produce.
I often say that I think about raw food more in terms of “techniques” than recipes. A few key approaches to preparing raw produce can yield a huge variety of meals — here are five of the techniques that I can’t live without, all of which are perfect for lunch.
Who doesn’t love a good slaw at a cookout or summer potluck? I like to use red or green cabbage as a base, but I’ve also used thinly shaved apple, carrots, and kale. For a creamy dressing, I like to use blended cashews or tahini. I also make slaws with a simple apple cider vinaigrette with a little maple syrup for sweetness.
Gazpacho may be the most celebrated of summer soups, but my love affair with chilled soup doesn’t end there. Cucumber avocado soup (a simple mix of cucumber, avocado, scallions, and seasoning) is a favorite, as is a raw bisque made with carrot juice, avocado, and ginger. If you have your heart set on gazpacho, get creative by using different fruits (strawberry, watermelon, or even grape) and vegetables.
Salads are, of course, the quintessential raw food dish, and there’s no better time of year to liven up your salad routine than during these balmy summer months. To me, the keys to a good salad are a stellar dressing and texture. I add all sorts of nuts and seeds to my salads for crunch, and I experiment constantly with new dressing ideas. A few of my recent favorites are a spicy cilantro vinaigrette, an almond butter and sun-dried tomato dressing, and a creamy maple-chipotle dressing.
As it turns out, it’s incredibly easy to slice certain vegetables (especially zucchini, beets, and carrots) into long, thin strands that resemble pasta — pasta with just a little crunch. There are special tools that can do this for you, but you can also create vegetable noodles by using a vegetable peeler or a julienne peeler. I like to dress vegetable noodles as I would regular noodles: with some marinara sauce, or vegan pesto.
Vegetable rice is made by chopping vegetables into pieces so small that they resemble grains of rice. You’ve probably seen it done with cauliflower or jicama; I also love to do it with carrots, parsnips, and broccoli. Vegetable rice is a fun, light alternative to a standard grain salad, and the possibilities for presentation are endless: You can mix it with vinaigrette and chopped vegetables, smother it in a rich sauce, or even stuff it into raw sheets of nori for a quick raw “sushi” roll.
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