Last winter, when I sat down to a meal at New York City’s gourmet raw, vegan restaurant, Pure Food and Wine, I took my first bite — and wept. I’d been juicing, eating salads and weird food processed cold soups for months, and to be able to eat raw lasagna (with basil pistachio pesto, sundried tomato marinara, and pumpkin seed ricotta) so delicately luscious that it brought tears to my eyes was one of the peak experiences of my food-enjoying career. Here I’d thought I had to trade deep foodie heaven moments for feeling vibrant and energetic and happy and all of that other raw happy-clappy-trappy stuff that is so darned true, when I could have my raw cake and eat it too.
I’ve since branched out to eating cooked foods along with my mostly raw meals, but fully support (and admire) those of you who are all raw, all the time — and would love to inspire those who have been thinking about it.
Given that it’s Thanksgiving week, what better time to demonstrate that eating raw foods deliciously all year round, especially on dominant paradigm turkey days, is not only possible, it’s downright orgasmic. (And check out our much more opportunivore Thanksgiving suggestions from last year.)
Sarma Melngailis, the uber-fetching (and not on our team, but we girls can dream) co-owner of Pure Food and Wine, was kind enough to share her Thanksgiving menu with us:
Marinated mushrooms, mashed root vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and Brussels sprouts, plus apple crumble and a pumpkin tart you’ll want to gay marry. The savory recipes and the apple crisp are all from Sarma’s cookbook Living Raw Food, (Harper Collins, 2005) and the pumpkin tart is from Raw Food Real World.
Even if the thought of an entire raw Thanksgiving recipe is far too-too for you, you can always pull in the cranberry sauce recipe, or the mashed root vegetables just to test the waters. Feel free to make them anytime — they’re that versatile and that good. And yes, hello, those “must” desserts.
Combine these dishes and you have all the comforting flavors of Thanksgiving. In addition to featuring them on our menu on Thanksgiving night, all the components were made available for special order, so people could take it home for their own Thanksgiving dinners. We could barely keep up! We even used portobello mushrooms to stand in as the dark meat and king oyster mushrooms for the white meat. As with any traditional Thanksgiving dinner, this makes a very filling feast. You can prepare all the parts of this meal one or two days in advance. Store everything in the refrigerator and warm it in the dehydrator for 30 to 40 minutes before serving.
High-speed blender, food processor, dehydrator, thermometer
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the mushrooms and whisk until well mixed.
Add the mushroom caps to the marinade and coat well. Set aside to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the mushrooms on a Teflex-lined sheet in the dehydrator and allow to dehydrate until the mushrooms become tender and look roasted, 1 to 2 hours.
Mashed Root Vegetables
In a high-speed blender, puree the pine nuts and water until very smooth and creamy.
Place the puree in a large bowl, add all the remaining ingredients, and mix well.
Pour 1 cup pine nut cream and 3 to 4 cups of the vegetable mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside in a large bowl and continue with the remaining pine nut cream and vegetable mixture.
Stir the mixture well and let sit for at least 2 hours to allow any liquid that forms to pool on top.
Pour off the liquid. If it’s still a bit runny, place the mixture on a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl and season with additional sea salt to taste.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oils, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
Remove any discolored outer leaves from a Brussels sprout and cut off the hard stem. Some leaves will separate from the core. Continue cutting away the hard interior until the sprout is entirely separated into individual leaves, placing the leaves into the oil mixture as you separate them. Repeat with the remaining Brussels sprouts.
Toss the Brussels sprouts mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, for more tender Brussels sprouts, place them on a Teflex-lined tray in the dehydrator for up to 45 minutes. You can also do this just before serving so that they will be warm.
Place the cauliflower in a food processor and process until it has a texture similar to sesame seeds, with no large pieces.
Add the olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and process just until mixed.
Spread the mixture on a Teflex sheet and dehydrate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, mix the other ingredients well in a large bowl.
Remove the cauliflower from the dehydrator, mix with the remaining ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a high speed blender, puree all the ingredients except the Irish moss until very smooth.
Add the Irish moss to the blender and mix at high speed until the mixture heats up to about 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour the mixture into a bowl or shallow pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
To serve, load up your plate in traditional Thanksgiving style.
Warm and comforting, apple crisp is ideal in the fall when apples are in their peak season. Unless you told your guests, they would have no idea this is a raw dessert. It’s a perfect recipe to bring to a holiday party (or any party), as it can be easily prepared in a baking pan or pie dish instead of individual ramekins, and can also be made ahead of time.
When this dessert is on the menu in the restaurant, we keep the crisps warming in the dehydrator during service. In the summertime, peaches or plums stand in perfectly for apples. Whatever fruit you use, it’s extra delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!
In a large bowl, toss the apples with the vanilla agave.
Spread the apples in a shallow pan and place it in the dehydrator. Dehydrate for about 4 hours, stirring once or twice.
Place half of the dehydrated apples in a food processor and blend. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water to achieve an applesauce-like consistency.
In a bowl, mix together the blended apples and the apple pieces.
4 cups pecans, preferably soaked and dehydrated
Place the pecans in a food processor and blend just until they begin to release their oils. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients.
Divide the crisp between 2 Teflex-lined dehydrator trays and spread it out. Dehydrate for 24 hours or more, until dried and crispy.
Combine ingredients and refrigerate overnight.
To Serve: Divide the filling among individual ramekins, or place it in a shallow baking dish. Top the filling with the crisp.
Before serving, place the apple crisp in the dehydrator for about 1 to 2 hours to warm it through.
Just before serving, drizzle with the vanilla agave.
This recipe makes enough crust for about 10 tarts if you are using 4 ½-inch shells. At the restaurant we use 3-inch shells, which are a nice size for a small dessert. Smooth-sided tart shells work best for this recipe, but any kind will do. If you try making a large tart, the crust should be a bit thicker to withstand the pressure of removing it from the shell or using a tart ring would work well too.
In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients until very thoroughly combined. Line ten 4 ½-inch or twenty 3-inch tart shells with squares of plastic wrap. Divide the dough between the shells and press evenly into the sides and bottom, to create an even thickness throughout. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or more, and keep refrigerated until ready to fill.
In a Vita-Mix or high-speed blender, blend all the filling ingredients until completely smooth. Fill the tart shells while the filling is still at room temperature. Place the tart shells in the refrigerator to set, about 1 hour or more. You may have extra filling, in which case simply chill it and eat it like pudding!
Carefully release the tarts from the shells and discard the plastic. Top each tart with a few candied pumpkin seeds (see recipe below). If not serving immediately, store in the refrigerator. Ideally, let the tarts sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before serving, so they are not too cold.
Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Drain the pumpkin seeds very well and place in a medium bowl with the remaining ingredients. Toss well to combine. Spread on a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 115° for 12 to 24 hours, or until dry and crisp.
Candace is the co-editor of Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010), and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (Seal Press, 2009). She is currently working on a memoir-with-recipes for Seal Press called Licking the Spoon. Candace is also the features editor at Mothering magazine, mama of two, and enamorata of smarty-pants Laura, her live-in recipe tester. Follow Candace on Twitter @candacewalsh.