Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday on Katie’s Green Recovery story!
It’s hard to think outside the box. It’s hard in life, and it’s also heard in the realm of food and cooking. This is never more true than in the raw foods world, where so many stark distinctions are drawn between what’s RAW and what’s NOT. To many raw foodists, raw foodism resides entirely in the distinction between foods heated above 115 degrees, and those below; you all know by now that this distinction doesn’t define my relationship with raw food, but even I tend to get overly simplistic in my thinking about raw food vs. cooked food, and how they can be integrated.
Case in point: yesterday, I returned to D.C. after a week out of town, and found my fridge to be a little threadbare. That said, I did have a large zucchini that had somehow survived the whole week while staying crisp, along with two red peppers and a box of plump cherry tomatoes. I had (as usual) tons of cashews, and so cashew alfredo seemed like the obvious dinner choice.
As I was peering into the back of my fridge to find a lemon, I noticed that I had a package of flax tempeh that I’d forgotten about. My immediate thought was, “nah, I’m making a raw dinner, so I’ll have it tomorrow.”
And then I thought, “Gena, what’s wrong with you?
My whole identity as a food lover is bound up in integrating raw and cooked foods; emphasizing raw ones, along with raw food preparation techniques (like spiralizing zucchini), but mixing and matching them with nutrient-dense cooked fare, like grains and legumes. Since when do I shy away from a nutritious addition to a meal, simply because it defies traditional raw vs. cooked dichotomies?
With that, I promptly got to chopping my tempeh into cubes and searing it in a tiny bit of coconut oil. I whipped up some of my cashew alfredo sauce, and spiralized my zucchini into lovely, long ribbons. And I took a moment to appreciate the wonderful recipes that can happen when you start to think outside of the box.
Raw Zucchini Alfredo with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Seared Tempeh (high raw, vegan, gluten free)
For the pasta:
Two spiralized zucchinis or summer squash (or use a peeler or mandolin to make ribbons)
3/4 cup baby tomatoes, halved (I used lots)
1/2 cup diced red or yellow bell pepper
A small handful of chopped basil or basil pesto
For the sauce:
1 ¼ cup cashews, soaked for a few hours (I just put them under water when I left for work in the morning)
¾ cup water
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp white miso (optional)
For the tempeh:
4 oz tempeh, cubed
Coconut oil spray (optional–you can also use vegetable broth)
Salt and pepper
1) Begin by turning the zucchini into pasta and tossing it with the veggies.
2) Heat a skillet or large pan and add a bit of coconut oil spray or broth. Sear tempeh, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper (or a little tamari). Set aside.
3) To make the sauce, put the soaked cashews in your Vita-Mix or food processor along with the nooch, lemon juice, sea salt, miso, and 1/3 cup water. Blend until it looks thick and creamy. With the motor running (in either the processor or the Vita), drizzle more water in until the sauce is totally smooth (if you’re using a food processor, you’ll have to stop and scrape sides occasionally) and the consistency you want.
4) Toss the veggies with the tempeh cubes, and then dress with the alfredo sauce. I used about 6 tbsp for 2 servings. Enjoy with a fresh, green salad!
Tempeh and raw zucchini pasta may not immediately seem like bedfellows, but they’re terrific together:
As you can imagine, the tempeh not only adds taste and texture to the dish, but also a generous dose of protein, which (along with the cashews and nutritional yeast) make this a higher protein meal than my traditional alfredo. You can use 8 oz. tempeh rather than 4 if you’d like the dish to be even more filling.
As I’ve said many times here on the blog, I don’t think that all food identity labels are inherently bad; I feel totally comfortable with the word “vegan,” and indeed, I use it proudly. That said, I’m a little more nuanced when I describe my attitude toward raw food, because my relationship with raw food is fairly nuanced; I usually say “raw foods lover,” “high raw eater,” “raw foods enthusiast” or the like, rather than “raw foodist.” It’s what works for me, and I think it’s honest. Raw food preparation techniques and dishes are the foundation of my diet, and I feel tremendously passionate about sharing them with others. But I do try to keep the line between raw and cooked fluid, if only so that I can create meals like this one, which showcase the best of fresh and nutrient dense raw and cooked foods.
Do you tend to separate—consciously or not—your raw and cooked dishes? Do you feel compelled to try experimenting with a more flexible approach, or do you enjoy the distinct feelings and tastes that come from each preparation method? Curious to know!