Summer, with the rainbow of produce and borderline tropical climate it brings, is the best time to explore raw foods. Easier said than done in many cases, where recipes can drone on like novels and preparations easily stretch across numerous days, the whir of the dehydrator becoming white noise in the backdrop of every waking moment. It’s understandable why some people find raw “uncooking” intimidating, and given these serious hurdles to making a meal, I don’t blame them at all. It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be this way, though! Thank goodness Amber Shea Crawley finally broke out of her blog format and wrote us an all-inclusive book featuring her more flexible take on raw foods.
Practically Raw welcomes newcomers to this radical concept with open arms. Rather than drawing a line in the sand at 115 degrees, Amber invites us to do what makes sense, and even (gasp!) turn on the oven briefly if one desires. There’s no need to purchase new equipment or make insane investments in time- As promised, it is a very practical approach that leaves a cook feeling confident in their abilities to prepare health meals on the fly. The best part of all these tasty formulas is that they’re easy enough for the most cooking illiterate or harried housewife to muster.
A perfect example is the Mango Lassi (page 40.) Composed of only coconut meat, mango, and a dollop of agave, it’s so simple that it doesn’t truly need a precise recipe, but without one, you may not think to try it. This is just the push so many of us need to try something new, and take away the fear of exploring out into the vast unknown of culinary wilderness. Thick enough to eat with a spoon, it’s a far more satisfying drink than one might imagine, and the flavors couldn’t be fresher or brighter. Proof positive that nature needs only a little coaxing to yield something even more delicious than its original parts.
Almond Butter Sesame Noodles (page 141) are a foolproof dish any way you serve them, but I relish any opportunity to use kelp noodles. Adding in a handful of pea shoots for color and crunch, it couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes start to finish, washing and chopping included. Balanced beautifully between the salty, sweet, sour, and spicy ends of the spectrum, it made for an incredibly satisfying yet lightweight lunch.
Collard greens always score big points with me on restaurant menus, but whenever I get those giant paddle-like leaves home, my inspiration runs dry. Amber’s Athenian Deli Collard Wraps (page 139) finally gave me the push I needed to do more than just juice or blend those luscious greens. Creating a neat little parcel stuffed with zucchini-based hummus, nut cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and cucumber, those collard greens have finally found their true calling. Surprisingly cooperative, they were no more difficult to roll than the average flour tortilla. The richness of the “cheese” and hummus offset that inherently earthy essence, and the contrasting textures made each bite exciting. Though this particular bundle was a delightful snack, I can easily see the wraps cut into smaller pieces to become impressive party appetizers, too.
Craving sushi but not the labor involved in rolling up maki? Skip the hassle and just drop all the fillings into a dish with the Deconstructed Sushi Bowl (page 152)! Admittedly, I was highly skeptical of raw cauliflower-based rice, but this recipe truly impressed in the end. Lightly seasoned with rice vinegar, it really did have the flavor profile of sushi rice, but somehow managed to be much fluffier and lighter in texture. Nori adds that vital oceanic essence, so although it’s only written as an optional addition, I would insist that you make it mandatory in your own rendition.
With an eye towards both flavor and health, each recipe also includes nutritional information, so you know exactly what you’re getting with each meal or snack. Plus, Amber outlines about a thousand and one variations and alternate suggestions for switching things up. Instructions include both raw and cooked version of many dishes, plus different veggies that would work well for a change of pace, or substitutions in case of allergies or hard to find ingredients. Truly, Practically Raw is the raw cookbook that everyone can to enjoy.