Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Joy of Not Cooking

I'm starting this blog with entries about what led up to me wanting to keep it. This post is backdated to approximately the date it happened.

The two fabulous people my friends and I threw that shower for got married. It was lovely and I had no idea what to give them. I wanted it to be something special that showed I truly care. Something that was both very "them" and very "me", not just another set of cutlery.

Neither of them are vegetarians or vegans, but they recently decided to explore the raw food lifestyle. They left for their honeymoon right after the wedding and I was pretty sure that after being abroad for two weeks, the last thing they'd want to do when they got home would be prepare food. The only thing that might have sucked as much would be going out to eat again. So I decided to make a raw vegan dinner and some snacks, load it all up in a superhero cooler and leave it on their doorstep for when they got home.

I wasn't sure what to make, but Italian seemed like a pretty safe bet (who doesn't love Italian?), so I ended up with Dole Italian Salad with Pine Nut Basil Dressing (scroll down to last recipe), Italian Wild Rice Pilaf, and Raw Lasagna for dinner, Raw Apple Pie for dessert and Buckwheat Crackers with Veggie Mac Cheese Spread (second recipe) and freshly dried fruits and vegetables to snack on.

Most of what I made had at least one element that needed to be soaked in advance. Some for one half hour, some for five days. I started dehydrating the fruits and vegetables about a week before they needed to be ready so I could make enough. My family absolutely loved having the dehydrator and soak bowls sitting around for a week...only not really. Despite all the advance prep, I ended up staying up all night making the food to take them (I blame my sleeplessness for forgetting to photograph some of the food). I know that sounds awful, but it was actually fun; the time flew by, but I certainly felt it at work after dropping off the cooler! And, of course, the irony was I still wasn't eating and had to go by scent to decide whether or not it seemed palatable enough to give people.

Basil Pine Nut Dressing: Could not have been easier to make, smelled fabulous (though I have a weakness for basil) and made quite a bit. It made enough to fill the dressing bottle I bought them and leave some over for my family to try. It's very similar to pesto sauce (which I love), but smoother and milder. It also stores well. Definitely something I'd make again.

Italian Wild Rice Pilaf: The rice had to soak for five days to soften and the water had to be changed twice per day, which isn't that big of a deal, but between that and making the lemonade for the Master Cleanse, I felt like I was moving in to the kitchen. I didn't use the flax oil, but did everything else according to the recipe. Again, I don't know how it tasted, but it looked beautiful. I loved the colors and hope to make it again for myself.

Raw Lasagna: The recipe says it makes 1-2 servings of lasagna and four of marinara sauce, but that's nonsense. I used 3/4 zucchini instead of 1/2, all the marinara and the whole avocado and still kind of felt like I was skimping, but I didn't have enough ingredients (or time) to make more. Beyond that, I really don't think I could have messed it up, aside from not being very good at the thin slices yet. I'm working on it!

Raw Apple Pie: This was significant because I goofed and I improvised, but one was not relevant to the other. I remembered to soak the (poorly sliced) apples in the lemon juice/cinnamon solution, adding it to the growing collection on the soak table, but didn't realize I was supposed to make and refrigerate the crust the night before too. Not only did I make it that night, but it was also one of the last things I made. I made it, filled it and only got to refrigerate it for a couple of hours before moving it to the cooler. However, as far as I know, that was all right. No one has told me the pie fell apart or anything. My big improvisation was adding some of the golden raisins I had left over from the stew to the pie. I saved the best apple slices for the top and arranged them as a pretty feeble flower, then drizzled the excess lemon juice/cinnamon sauce over them. The pie still looked kind of plain so I tossed some raisins around it and arranged a few in the center of the "flower". I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I like the whole apple/cinnamon/raisin combination. Don't you?

Buckwheat Crackers: This was another recipe that required two days of soaking, for the buckwheat groats. Then the crackers themselves spent about a day in the dehydrator. I went according to the recipe, but I omitted the carrot pulp. The recipe says to coat the dehydrator tray with a small amount of olive oil, but the instructions for my dehydrator specifically say not to, so I didn't. I regret that now. The crackers stuck both when I tried to flip them and when they were done, so they came out in all sorts of crazy shapes. I hope they tasted better than they looked. The batter was about the consistency of babaganoush and had a lovely, garlic scent that made me want to dive right into it without even drying it out. I definitely want to make these again, but I think I'll double the recipe: I'll dehydrate half on oiled trays and use the other half as a dip with carrots (it'd be way to carb-heavy to put in pita like real babaganoush).

Veggie Mac Cheese Spread: I did everything according to the recipe, using sea salt instead of vinegar. It was more nights blending and draining, but well worth it. I used two pint containers of macadamia nuts and it made enough cheese to give my friends a container of it and keep a container for my family, who LOVED it. It has a nice bite to it from the garlic and onions without being too overpowering. My other family members are all omnis, so they're kind of freaked out by the idea of cheese made out of nuts, but they adore the cheese. My mother (who initially didn't even want to taste it) craves it. Victory for the veggies!

Dried Fruits and Vegetables: I included sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, pluots, celery, apples, pears, peaches and kiwis. I tried skinning the kiwis before drying them, but the ones I bought were stubborn, so I decided to wait until after they were dehydrated, hoping the fruit would pull away from the skin as it shrank. No such luck. The skin ended up totally stuck to the fruit, so I gave it to them with the skin on. I wonder how that turned out for them.

Overall, it was quite a bit of work, but very much worth it. The bride called me when they got home and she seemed very excited because they hadn't eaten and neither of them wanted to cook. The crackers, rice and pie were all successes but eating lasagna cold seemed kind of weird. I can't say I blame them.

No comments: