Montreal “Raw” Food Potluck, January 2011.
If you think “raw” food sounds complicated, well, it is, but the recipes themselves are usually ridiculously simple – Take a bunch of roughly chopped (or not at all) ingredients and blend. It’s the kitchen two-step. The tricky part is balancing the kinds of foods that go into you and the nutrients you’re getting. That’s why I by no means consider myself a raw foodist (well, that and I love hot, cooked things…and meat – a definite “raw” food ‘no-no’). Anyone can make this spread/dip, though, and you could serve it as anything from a vegan paté to a stuffing for sweet-savoury pasta, or just with bread (preferably dehydrated crackers if you really want the “raw” benefits of the dish…but I’m a carnivore so I’m not going to get all dogmatic on you).
“Raw” Cranberry-Pecan Spread
The picture above is not of the spread, but it is of the potluck. My favourite dish of the night was probably the salad in the bottom of the photo with pomegranate seeds that exploded in your mouth, but the pretty pink colour of this dish made it a big hit.
2 cups cranberries (not dried. Fresh or frozen. Definitely organic or at least pesticide-free)
4 cups pecans (soaked for at least 7 hours, or overnight, optionally with a sprinkle of sea salt. This releases the enzyme inhibitors that inhibit digestion and absorption of the nuts’ nutrients)
1 big squeeze raw agave nectar
1/2 tsp sea salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
I was so nervous about this potluck that I didn’t dare do any of my “not-quite-raw” cheats like use tamari (you’re supposed to use nama shoyu which is a “raw” soy-like liquid) and even dried ginger. Since I didn’t have fresh ginger, I just left it out. It was just fine. I also used real lemon juice instead of my very good bottled stuff (definitely not RealLemon).
So soak the nuts overnight (you don’t have to if you don’t mind a little bit of difficult digestion), drain them, and rinse with cold water. Now you can either throw them directly into the blender or food processor or dehydrate them (in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven on the lowest possible heat with the door slightly ajar) until dry (about half a day in the oven. Turn as necessary. They shouldn’t be crispy, but the insides shouldn’t be soft or translucent anymore either). Now you can freeze them and they keep up to 6 months (or until you’re ready to make the spread. You should soak them immediately after buying to preserve as much of the freshness as possible. Do not refrigerate nuts.
So you’re nuts can either be soft from the soaking water or dry from being in the freezer post-dehydration, so add about a quarter cup-1/2 cup of water to the blender with them so they’ll become creamy rather than small pieces. Zest and then juice the lemon (organic only since the pesticides will concentrate in the zest). Add to the blender with the salt and agave nectar.
Blend until smooth. Do not stick spoons or spatulae in the blender while it’s on. Do, instead, swear.
You can add more water if you need to. Taste the dip and add more lemon for puckering bitterness, more agave nectar for sweetness, more cranberries for colour or juiciness, more water if the flavour is right but it’s just too thick, and more salt if you have no idea what to add. It’s the not-so-great cook’s way out, but it works. Don’t add more than another 1/2 tsp, though, or you’ll be drinking water all night in an effort to feel like you didn’t just run a marathon or eat a plate of MSG-laced Chinese food.
Since it was a raw food potluck and dehydrating crackers in an oven is a lot tougher than nuts, I served the dip with carrot slices. It was not beautiful, but it was entirely raw, and that was the point.