Not all raw food recipe books are created equally. This one in particular is a beauty to behold. Written by a couple of New York City restaurateurs, Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis, that opened a posh fine dining restaurant called Pure Food & Wine. The pages of this book dazzle with spectacular design, mouth-watering photos and an exclusive culinary education. The team of chefs that contributed are at the top of their game. This collection of recipes is perfect for when you are looking to impress guests with a tasty and fancy raw food experience. These recipes sing!
With a couple of big-time foodies like these two, you are looking at some pretty complex recipes. Home chefs should know that this book is a lesson in patience and diligence. With practice, the skills necessary to complete many of these dishes will slowly develop, and you'll be a better person after all that exercising of patience and positive self-talk.
Except in the many instances where coconut meat is used, the Shakes, Smoothies, Juices and Cocktail recipes are pretty straightforward. And though many of the Salads have peeled, husked, juiced, sectioned, sprouted or candied ingredients replete with multiple sub-recipes, they did manage to squeak in a few simple salads as well.
The Soups are mostly easy to prepare but the Starters are rather time-consuming with the Fava Bean Tarts have a startling 5 recipes!
It's no surprise that the main dishes are high maintenance. Of the 13 recipes in this section, only the first one doesn't have any sub-recipes in it. That would be the King Oyster Mushroom and Dried Cherry Tomato Fettuccine with Cuban Oregano (long name, simple recipe).
Some recipes, such as the granolas, cheeses and ice creams, seem intense but really just have long soaking, marinating or dehydrating times and/or involve a special appliance. Upon further investigation, the making of them is actually quite simple, if you have the tools and the time.
And though the desserts are undoubtedly epic, I find myself wondering why I would want to concoct an entire tart if I could just enjoy the Lime Mousse filling. There are, however, few better ways to spend a day.
The beverage chapter makes a creative base for your adventures into enzymatic uptake. Be willing to improvise, work with what you've got rather than adhering rigidly to the suggested ingredients. Almond milk doesn't need lecithin or almond extract, though those things will enhance its yumminess level.
You should pretty much try all of the salad dressing recipes since they are bound to delight the senses. The Sweet Miso Dressing makes the Sea Vegetable Salad come to life. The Arugula Salad is a taste sensation while the Red Grapefruit, Avocado and Fennel Salad is a work of divine simplicity.
The Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho is infamously tasty though I've personally only made variations of it. In hot weather, these fruity gazpachos are always a hit. The Jicama Rice sub-recipe within the much grander recipe for Sushi Rolls is versatile and delish.
I love the King Oyster Mushroom and Dried Cherry Tomato Fettucine. It's a fresh, satisfying Italian dish that is much simpler than the Lasagna. I find the Corn Tortillas are a fantastic and comforting staple to have around.
I must have looked wrong at the Pineapple Carpaccio because it didn't come out looking anything like the picture (queue 'practice makes perfect' motto, breathe, and move on).
I don't generally trust Juice recipes since I know that so much depends on constantly changing variables, but the Thai Green sounds like a great idea as does the Spicy Skin Saver. And I just have to love a woman who puts a recipe in her book called The Honeymoon Healer, designed to enhance urinary tract health.
Accessibility, Expense and Rawness of Ingredients
I love me some good food. I'm willing to pay for it, dedicate my time to it and stretch my boundaries with the myriad rules and skills involved in creating culinary treasures. Even so, this book pushes my limits. In order to have the breadth of ingredients needed on hand you'd have to either be a restaurant or a millionairess. In a large city one would probably have more access to ingredients like chat masala, preserved lemon powder, fermented black beans and za'atar. But most likely you'll be combing the internet to find such things. The authors have quite helpfully installed a resource guide in the back of the book but this doesn't exactly make it easy to whip something up, even within a few days.
A great many recipes use coconut meat or coconut water without offering any substitutions. In most home kitchens, the practice of hacking open coconuts, separating the water and collecting the meat gets old fast. Everyone should try it once though.
The authors also definitely stretch the boundaries of what is "raw". Pure raw foodists will find a landmine of non-raw ingredients peppered throughout the pages. From Mana Bread to maple syrup to miso, many of the most flavorful elements of the design are made from cooked foods. For some it is enough that the produce and major components stay raw while they give more leeway with some of the lesser ingredients.
And with great flavor can sometimes come great checkout totals! These authors spare no expense when creating edible heaven, but you may find that you need to. Look around, you can probably find reasonable substitutions.
Additional Content and Writing
The design of this book is crisp, bright, clean and vibrant. Much the same as the diet it espouses. The color coding really helps you feel comfortable as you navigate your way through a book that has a lot to teach you. Sprinkled throughout the book are various introductions to unfamiliar concepts, techniques or ingredients (amino acids, cracking coconuts, sea vegetables...). Probably the most adorable part is the way each of the authors leaves their own comments throughout the pages along with their initials. It reads like a behind-the-scenes transcript of a conversation between the authors, very adorable.
Thankfully they've included a plethora of highlighted ingredients with descriptive definitions as well as a full glossary and resource guide. The Afterword pages are filled with inspirational writings from the authors' experiences with the lifestyle as well as some educational material to reinforce your arsenal of statistics in order that you can face the masses with good humor but also solid facts.
My one design criticism is the lack of a recipe list in the Table of Contents. That sure would make life a bit easier.