I've been in a bit of a culinary rut. The limited variation in spring vegetables, combined with an exhausting work schedule and a general cooking malaise has led to some very uninspired dinners around my house. Recently, however, I've been inspired by my sister and her boyfriend, who have embarked on an experiment with the 'raw diet.' As you probably know, raw foodists don't eat anything that has been heated in any way. No bread, cheese, or beans, three of my favorite things ever...sounds pretty terrible, right? Well, I can't say I'm planning on 'going raw' anytime soon, but the creativity required to maintain such a diet and still take in a healthy level of nutrients has inspired me. Ron and I enjoyed a (primarily) raw dinner the other night, celebrating what's in season and (of course!) some good wine thanks to Once Upon a Vine.
Recipes for this simple, fresh and (mostly) raw meal...
4-5 heads baby pak choi
1 bunch white or pink Japanese turnips
A few radishes
1 apple (or 1 pear)
1 Tbsp. currants
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
Red wine or cider vinegar
Salt & pepper
4 leaves (or so) finely chopped fresh basil
Grate carrots, turnips, radishes and apple/pear. Finely chop pak choi, and mix with all grated ingredients. Add currants, basil and ginger. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and a few dashes of vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Slaw is a great way of enjoying all these spring veggies, especially if you're sick of sauteing. The ginger is key here, as are the currants. This was really good, and would also make a great filling to stuff squash with. I do recommend doing all the grating with one of those disc-like food processor attachments. We don't have one, and this did take a while to do by hand.
Strawberry Shiso Salad
A bit of explanation here. Shiso is a most wonderful asian herb with a very distinct flavor, useable in place of basil in salads, salad dressings and on pizza. The botanical name of Shiso is perilla -- check out the wikipedia article on this plant. I ate green shiso (青紫蘇 or aojizo) all the time in Japan, often wrapped inside makizushi or as a salad dressing, and came to love its unique flavor. I'm not sure if it's for sale in Tan-A or other asian grocery stores, but of course I prefer the idea of growing it myself so I've got lots in the garden. Honestly, I couldn't begin to describe the flavor...you'll have to taste it for yourself sometime. Suffice to say, it is vibrant, green and unlike anything you've ever tasted. Worth pursuing, definitely, for those (like me!) who sometimes get into cooking ruts, or are constantly searching for new flavors.
1/2 pint chopped fresh strawberries
Mesclun mix (Amy's Garden sells great blends! I mix and wash them myself.)
3-4 shiso leaves
Chevre cheese (I have been getting mine from Lovingston Dairy, a new vendor at the South of the James market)
Herbs (anything goes here...basil, thyme, oregano)
Dollop of grainy mustard
Lemon juice or orange juice
Place mesclun mix in a bowl and top with other ingredients. Salad dressing should be a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar, then however much you want of the other ingredients. Shake well and drizzle over the top of the salad.
Norwood Cottage bread
Twin Oaks herbed tofu
This is just a good way to get some protein along with all the veggies. Ron is always focused on maintaining a good protein intake, so we always have some tofu hanging around, though I am a bit dubious about the hormonal effects of eating too much soy. I do love tofu though. My dad used to make it from scratch, and ever since then, I've been hooked. This herbed tofu from Twin Oaks is great sliced thin and served as-is on bread. If you haven't eaten uncooked tofu before, you should; it tastes amazingly fresh and clean.
Wine: Friuli Pino Grigio 2007. Some random Italian wine they had available for tasting at Once Upon a Vine that we ended up liking. It's cheap and I'm really into whites lately.