Roxy Reviews: Raw by Charlie Trotter & Roxanne Klein
I have recently gotten into raw foods and was nothing less than thrilled to find this beautiful gem of a book at my local library. Filled with stunning photos and exctiting, complex gourmet recipes, this book would appeal to any raw foodist, foodie or vegan.
The first several pages of Raw are photos of sparkling farm scenes: rows and rows of greens growing in the ground, a close-up of a bushel of grapes, rainbow chard stems emerging from the earth, and a farmer's hands cradling cut yellow blossoms. The authors' introduction follows and explains how they made the shift to raw vegan foods.
The recipes start off with appetizers, naturally. The Three Peppercorn-Crusted Cashew Cheese with Honeycomb and Balsamic Vinegar sounds amazing, looks amazing, and seems quite do-able, although I would leave off the honeycomb and add some figs. There's literally not a dish in this section (or the entire book, for that matter) that does not make my mouth water.
The soups section contains dishes like Heirloom Tomato Soup with Arbequina Olives and Shaved Fennel, Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Spaghetti Squash, and (my personal favorite) Red Bell Pepper Soup with Mango and Meyer Lemon which seems to be the least complex and easiest to prepare of all the soups.
If you think a salad is just a bunch of greens slapped on a plate with a bottled dressing poured on top, take a look at the salads in this book and you'll think twice about what a salad could be. The Greek Salad, although seemingly simple, has 30 ingredients and many components. The Morel Mushrooms and Lotus Root with Beets and Fermented Black Beans sounds to me more like an entree than a salad. The photo for this dish is probably one of my favorites: the dark brown of the whole mushrooms pops against the bright red-pink beet foam and clean white of the sliced lotus root. The Mediterranean Cheese Salad with Dragon Crackers looks amazingly delicious and makes me want to lick the page.
I will admit, if you had asked me what I thought about "raw foods" 6 months ago, I would have conjured images of plain old salads and fruit bowls, lacking any depth of flavor. Take a gander at the entrees section of Raw and this belief changes completely. Rich dishes of mushrooms, walnuts, avocado, artichokes, and peppers dance on the pages with their lush and varied textures and colors. The Stuffed Anaheim Chiles with Mole and Jicama and Baby Corn Salad sounds and looks so delightful, you don't even stop to think that its completely raw. Tacos Three Ways is a surprise...who knew you could make taco shells in a dehydrator? Lasagna is as elegant and fancy and lasagna gets--layered in a terrine and cut crosswise to reveal all the colorful layers.
Finally, we come to the most lucsious and hunger-inducing chapter: dessert. Tropical Fruit Spring Rolls with Coconut Sorbet is wildly creative as it is beautiful. The "spring roll" wrapper is actually made of paper-thin sliced of pineapple! Indian Red Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream and Pecan Praline needs no further explanation--I can almost taste it just looking at the picture! Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Truffles (some rolled in curry powder and some in lemon zest) makes me wonder: "where's the button that I push to make this appear before me?" The good news about the truffles is that they seem fairly simple and easy.
There is also a beverages section which includes drinks (non-alcoholic) just as gourmet as the recipes in the previous chapters. My personal favorite is the Cucumber Lime Water.
If you only buy this book to have something beautiful to look at, it will be money well-spent. But, I think if you are an intermediate-to-advanced skill level in the kitchen and can get your hands on some of the gourmet, exotic ingredients (or decent alternatives) as well as a dehydrator, Vita-Mix blender, and juicer, you can pull off these recipes. I have already picked out several recipes, adapted them to my skill level and what ingredients are available in my area, and am planning a fancy dinner for my family and friends. I think with a little preparation and effort, beautiful food can be within most people's reach.