Living Raw with Recipes from Pure Food and Wine

October 14th, 2009 · Lisa · book review, Review, vegan mofo · Comments
Pure Food and Wine is well known as a Mecca for followers of the raw-food lifestyle. This New York restaurant obtained celebrity status when it made an appearance on Sex and the City (do you remember the raw restaurant where Samantha and Smith met? That’s the one!). Sarma MeInglailis and Matthew Kenney successfully elevated raw foods to gourmet status. The last time I was in New York I visit the Take-Out counter and enjoyed the most deliciously rich vegan ice cream I have ever experienced. But since we don’t all live in New York and those who do probably can’t afford to become regular diners at Pure Food & Wine, Sarma and Matthew published Raw Food Real World. It is an amazing tome, full of fabulous recipes that will impress your guests if you’re willing to invest your time and specially sourced ingredients.

After years of counting on the recipes in Raw Food Real World for special occasions I was thrilled when I was alerted to the fact that Sarma was working on a second book (Living Raw Food). I began excitedly checking my mailbox as the publication date approached. When it arrived, I was impressed by the range of recipes, the beautiful photography and Sarma’s open discussion of many of the issues debated in the “movement”.

Before I tackled any of the recipes, I spent a few days just enjoying the sleek design. It looks just like the funky little sister of Sarma’s previous cookbook. Once again you will be enticed by photography that highlights the vibrancy of the ingredients in these recipes. There is an intimacy to this book. Sarma takes you on a back-stage tour of the restaurant by introducing her staff, sharing basic techniques and providing a chapter of “Family Meal” recipes. These entrees, shared at staff meals, are complemented by a chapter of Simple Sweets and one on Milks, Shakes and Juices. These chapters form the first section of the book “Quick and Easy Raw Foods”. If Sarma had only published these recipes, it would still be a remarkable resource of satisfying raw foods. These are the recipes that I find myself returning to for inspiration on weeknights.

The rest of Living Raw Food is dedicated to sharing the phenomenal dishes that have been features on the menu at Pure Food and Wine. If you know the reputation of this restaurant you won’t be surprised by the complex flavour combinations and the artful plating. As Sarma suggests, don’t be intimidated, make components of the recipes that entice you or create a special dining experience at home to celebrate the pleasures of life with family and friends.

So far, I have tried six recipes from this book and have yet to be disappointed. Some of the recipes took less than a minute to create, others required some preplanning, soaking and dehydrating to get the desired result.

I started my journey through the pages with the Bangkok Baby. I have never been to Thailand but this combination of pears, ginger, cilantro, lime and cayenne has the perfect sweet/spicy balance. I love the boldness of this smoothie. I felt quite energized after just a few sips.

The Plain Chia Puddingreally surprised me. It is so simple to create, just stir and set aside for 30 minutes. I fell in love with the texture and subtle vanilla flavour. I added a tablespoon of raw nuts and seeds to make this breakfast a fine-dining experience.

The Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber and Herb Salad was my favourite discoveryof the summer season. Next August (when these ingredients are ripe) I plan to enjoy this combination at least once a week. Until you try it, you can’t quite imagine how well mint, watermelon, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno complement each other.

The Pear Sorbet and Apricot Caramel was a simple way to enjoy the flavours of fruits I harvested in Toronto. The sorbet starts with pears tossed in agave and dehydrated to intensify their sweetness. It is a lovely, sophisticated end to a summer meal.

Pure Food and Wine is quite celebrated for the decadent desserts they have created. Raw foodist have moved past desserts comprised of bowls of mixed fruit. Pastry chefs have turned their talents to crafting culinary masterpieces with raw ingredients.
I used Sarma’s Milk-Chocolate Mousse recipe in a layered cake I created. It was unbelievable. Seriously, I have not experienced that rich, creamy mouth feelsince becoming vegan (25 years ago).

Finally, I prepared a batch of the oatmeal raisin cookies. These treats are seriously sweet. They use a flour created by soaking and dehydrating oat groats, which is great to have on hand so make a big batch. I would probably reduce the sweetener next time I make these treats…but there will certainly be a next time.
After the success of all the recipes I attempted I have a number of post-it notes decorating my copy of Living Raw Foods, indicating all the future culinary adventures I plan to experience. Maybe next year I’ll create a feast using the recipes for a raw Thanksgiving dinner that includes Marinated Mushrooms, Mashed Root Vegetables, Stuffing, Cranberry and Brussels Sprouts. In the meantime I’m looking forward to an excuse to prepare the Biryani with Coconut-Curry Sauce or the raw Falafel and Tabouleh.
Since acquiring this book I have already learned a number of new techniques, enjoyed the discovery of new flavours and experienced the satisfaction of creating something truly memorable with raw ingredients.

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