Most of us have been raised on cooked food. My family always had a not only cooked but warm meal for lunch – the largest meal of the day in the culture I grew up in – and I don’t remember ever not having at least two courses, usually a soup to start with, followed by a main course accompanied with a salad. So, needless to say, my mind was pretty much conditioned to think that cooking food is essential and that even most vegetables have to be cooked first before you can eat them.
I’ve learned later, when I started making my own food and venturing out into new culinary areas, that you can actually eat most of the fruits and vegetables raw. That insight did not necessarily changed by cooking habits – I still use heat to prepare food I eat – but it did open me up to raw options. I am currently actively trying to get as much raw food into my diet as possible, mostly because raw food is extremely easy to make. You only have to peel a banana, or rinse some tomatoes, and bite in!
So, I was excited to receive a copy of a new cookbook called “Modern Raw” by Rachel Carr. Rachel has put together a great collection of recipes that provide options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert that require no cooking. And Rachel also provides some great practical advice for those of us for whom exclusively raw diet maybe a bit too much to handle. Her approach is down to earth and practical: try to incorporate as much raw food into your diet every day but don’t stress over it. Plus: be open to trying something new by exploring some old time favorites with a raw twist.
The recipe below is an example of that. It’s taking a lasagna recipe and making it raw – with fresh tomatoes, basil, zucchini and some rich cashew “ricotta”. This type of food pre and eating means that you are eating the freshest ingredients at their peak. So, in many ways eating raw is the celebration of farm-to-table culture and eating local.
One surprising thing I learned from Rachel is the idea of preparing some of the food at low temperatures, not higher than 118F (48C). I was not aware of this option – gently heating and softening some of the produce to make them more palatable or making “bread”-like things, like pizza crusts. Rachel uses a dehydrator for maintaining low temperature for hours, and although I have not tried this (and don’t currently own a dehydrator) it sounded like an interesting idea to me.
All in all, this is a useful cookbook for anyone interested in vegan raw, and simplifying some of their everyday cooking.
Layered dishes like lasagna make a stunning presentation perfect for entertaining but are actually quite easy and fast to make. This version of lasagna is simply made with a hearty cashew ricotta layered with fresh basil, sliced zucchini and tomato, plus a raw tomato sauce for a genuine Italian flavor. It just takes a few minutes to throw together if you have your sauce and cheese prepped in advance. Sometimes I like to add marinated kale and mushrooms to the dish in the wintertime, but you can stick with tomatoes and zucchini in the summer when they are at their seasonal best.
Serves 2 to 4
1½ medium vine-ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1½ tsp (4 g) nutritional yeast
⅛ tsp garlic powder
⅛ tsp onion powder
1½ tsp (2 g) chopped fresh parsley
½ sun-dried tomato
1 medium zucchini, washed and sliced lengthwise
1 cup (248 g) Cashew Ricotta (page 61)
1 cup (24 g) fresh basil leaves, washed and stemmed, plus more for garnish
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into ¼” (6-mm)-thick slices
1 cup (178 g) cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp (16 g) nutritional yeast, for garnish (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil, for garnish (optional)
To make the marinara sauce, wash and seed the vine-ripe tomatoes, chop them roughly and place in a food processor. Pulse until a chunky sauce is formed. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and pulse a few more times. Set aside until ready to use.
For the lasagna, wash and slice the zucchini lengthwise either on a mandoline slicer or very carefully by hand to make sure the slices are even thickness, less than ¼ inch (6 mm). Cut them into 4-inch (10-cm) lengths. Then, slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch (6-mm)-thick slices and set aside.
To build the lasagna, lay down 2 slices of the zucchini side by side on a plate. Spread some of the cashew ricotta onto the prepared zucchini slices. Top with some basil, sliced tomatoes and marinara. Lay another layer of zucchini on top and repeat with more cashew ricotta, basil, tomato slices and marinara. Top with a final layer of zucchini, marinara and some cherry tomatoes. Garnish with some pretty pieces of fresh basil and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, if using. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.
note: This dish should be served very soon after assembling, as it will start to get runny if left to sit for any length of time. Instead, try making the individual components ahead of time and building the lasagna right before serving.
Reprinted with permission from Modern Raw by Rachel Carr, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Rachel Carr.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Modern Raw via the publisher; however the opinions above are my own!